Hello! My name is Lauren and I am a fourth-year undergrad student at U of T, studying in Environmental Ethics, Environmental Studies, and Philosophy. I have been working as a placement student with the Energy and Environment team since September, and now that my placement is coming to an end, I thought I would reflect on some of the wonderful and important things I have learned over the past few months at UHN.
Know thy surroundings: Having grown up in a small town where you must carefully study and separate each #1 & #2 plastic bottle from your paper products from your canned goods…recycling can seem like a chore. Upon arriving in Toronto, I was taken aback by the ways my roommates mindlessly tossed almost every kind of plastic into the recycle. “Toronto takes practically anything”, they would tell me, but my fear of misplacing a recyclable still surfaces each time I toss a Styrofoam container into the blue bin. My point is, Torontonians have it pretty good with mixed recycling.
But, there are a few exceptions on what you can recycle depending where you are within the city. For example, coffee cups are not recyclable by the City of Toronto, but are recyclable at UHN and on the U of T campus. Styrofoam is recyclable in City of Toronto Municipal collection, but not at UHN. Confused? Try here. By knowing what you can recycle based on your surroundings, you can maximize the recycle programs we have in Toronto, which are by comparison to many others (or at least the one where I come from), quite good. Also, if you find you’re noticing one too many Tim’s cups in the garbage by your desk lately, or are unsure about what can and cannot be recycled at your work location, talk to us about giving you and your fellow staff a quick refresher on waste disposal.
Turn off the lights: This one is pretty self-explanatory, but throughout my time at UHN, I have realized just how important this is in a hospital setting. A large portion of my placement was dedicated to determining where we could potentially implement motion sensors and switch over to LED lighting at Toronto Western Hospital, and after tallying up hundreds of fluorescent fixtures, I can now say that I have a much deeper appreciation for the little “be bright, turn off the lights!” stickers you see above light switches. Some common offenders are: kitchens, empty conference rooms, and storage rooms. And, I can honestly say it has made me even more cautious with turning off the lights in my own home.
The importance of staff engagement: One things I have noticed is that the Energy and Environment team is really great at staff engagement, and I’ve been consistently impressed at how passionate all UHN staff are about reducing their environmental footprint. But, it’s 2017, and as far as I am aware, the technology which would allow me to be in more than one place at once does not yet exist… Yet. This means that the Green Team isn’t always there to make sure everything is being recycled or that all the lights are turned off, etc. Because of this, UHN staff participation is key, so keep up the good work! Also, do get in touch with us if you have any questions, or would like to be more involved in keeping UHN green!