With Earth Week(s) here at the UHN completed, we can definitely say it was a success, with over 350 ballots filled and even more visitors! We travelled with our Earth Week Booth all over UHN, with Toronto General Hospital, Princess Margaret Centre Research Tower, and OPG boasting the highest volumes of engaged booth visitors. Lots of employees walked away with more knowledge and a pack of seeds to help get their garden started! The graph below shows the engagement at the various sites in comparison to each other.

Graph depicts the engagement at the various sites visited

Our Earth Week booth was a means to educate others about UHN environmental practises, raise awareness about issues & solutions, have meaningful discussions about the future and get UHN employees engaged on what they can do to help! Our Earth Week Booth focused on three areas:

  1. some of the many departmental green teams across UHN,
  2. common items and whether they are garbage, recycling or compost, and
  3. 24 ways on how to help combat climate change.

This year we were able to engage over 350 employees across the 9 UHN sites visited while also gaining 8 new green team members! Check out a blog post that talks about the earth week booth experience at Princess Margaret!

A huge shout out to the Bickle Grow Garden Green Team for holding the most votes as UHN’s most favourite departmental green team of 2019. This green team was one of the first to create a food garden that was wheelchair accessible, making it easy for patients to use!  

There were a few surprising facts that stood out when it came to recycling, garbage and compost. That coffee cups, coffee pods, and black plastic go in the garbage surprised most people, with over one third of the votes. The new waste contract being implemented comes with some changing rules – coffee cups are now to be placed in the garbage, as well as black plastic. The challenge with black plastic is the robotic eye in recycling facilities is not able to differentiate between it and the colour of the conveyor belt.  

Our last area of focus was 24 ways we can help combat climate change and reduce our carbon footprint. These facts were broken down into categories: social, transportation, energy, food, waste and buy/build. Food and transportation were huge hits among the booth visitors.

When it comes to food, following Canada’s Food Guide has more benefits of helping climate change than many may realize. We encourage everyone to be more conscious of their intake of meat as the production of meat takes a huge toll on the environment, specifically beef.

Why beef, you may ask? Large swaths of land are cleared to raise the animals, a top cause of deforestation. Large amounts of fertilizer and water are also used to raise the animals. The process of producing the meat produces an enormous amount of greenhouse gas emissions. For example, cows naturally produce methane, one of the strongest greenhouse gases (GHG). Transporting the livestock/meat, processing the meat, and any waste disposal also produces GHG emissions. This may come as a shock, but the process of making meat leaves a very negative impact on climate change and the environment.  

Transportation was also talked about very often as it is something that is a part of our day-to-day activities. Transportation is pretty important as “the biggest cause of climate change is us humans burning fossil fuels. And the biggest burn source in Ontario comes from transportation.”. We can all fix this by driving/flying less while walking/biking more! Especially with Bike Month coming up, we  encourage everyone to use more environmentally friendly means of transportation to help reduce emissions.

This was my very first time getting so involved in earth week. It was truly motivating to see that I could play a role in inspiring and educating others on what I have come to learn over the past few months with the Energy and Environment department. Spreading the word is the start to helping provide not only patient centered care at the UHN, but planet centred care as well!