My name is Matt Riepert and I recently completed a co-op work term with UHN. From April to August 2017, I was able to fulfill the Sustainability Intern role for the Research Facilities Planning and Safety Department (RFPS). I am a student at the University of Waterloo in my 3rd year of undergraduate studies in the Environment and Business Honours Co-operative program. Overall, my program aims to teach students how to bridge the gap between environmental expertise and business savvy, showing how organizations can be both sustainable and profitable.
Given my personal interests and specializations in school, I was very excited to join the RFPS team to learn more about how to change human behaviour to lessen the impact on the natural environment. I was excited to see how sustainability can be integrated within a diverse organization, like UHN, and how medical research and clinical work can be tied to environmental protection.
As part of the role, I worked to help promote environmental sustainability in the Princess Margaret Cancer Research Tower (PMCRT) and Krembil Discovery Tower (KDT), given the high environmental footprints generated from operating both facilities on a continuous basis. While working with the Senior Director and RFPS team, I was able to promote a variety of sustainability initiatives within the office areas and laboratories of these buildings. Some of the projects I worked on included coordinating the Shut the Sash program (reducing energy demands from chemical fume hoods) and managing with the Research Green Team, a recent initiative working with Lab Managers.
During my co-op, I was also able to focus on a few key projects including:
- Sustainability Guide for Researchers: Working with the RFPS team to develop a guide for staff in PMCRT and KDT to recognize the role staff play in creating a sustainable work environment and share what tools and resources are available to them in order to contribute to those efforts.
- Events: While working with the Research Green Team, the Stop, Drop and Swap event was created to celebrate World Environment Day and UHN’s environmental commitments. Staff were able to bring in gently used or new items from home to either swap them for others or have them donated to the Canadian Diabetes Association. As well, through Smart Commute Toronto and the Energy and Environment Department, a bike maintenance event was offered to staff at PMCRT in June that I was able to engage in.
- Chill-Out Program: This program seeks to improve energy conservation in laboratory areas by focusing on -80 Ultra-Low Freezers. This initiative has been introduced to Lab Managers in PMCRT and KDT in an effort to save energy drawn by the units on an annual basis while promoting equipment protection, workplace safety and improved purchasing.
In early September I will be returning to the University of Waterloo to continue taking classes. It’s been a very fast term for me, but I am extremely grateful for the time I did have with UHN. I want to thank the RFPS staff for welcoming me to the team and allowing me to explore my interests and passions and apply them during my work term. Also, thank you to the Energy and Environment team for allowing to participate in a variety of sustainability efforts at UHN while gaining further workplace experience. I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to support UHN’s commitment to environmental sustainability and I am excited to see how the organization continues to grow in this area!