8 months here has now come to a close, and wow have I learned a lot. This really wasn’t how I was expecting to spend the last month and half of my co-op, but all I can say is it really made me appreciate all the wonderful people I worked with day-to-day and I plan to make one last appearance once all of this is over to say goodbye to everyone.
Before recounting what working here has been like for the last 8 months, lets star with some updates. After years of discussion, we have officially finished the development of combining multiple initiatives for the Shut the Sash app. This includes Shut the Sash/Door, Ice Pack Recycling, Waste Sorting, and joining the Green Team. When these acts are completed properly, they are weighted out and the top 10 labs with the highest score get put into a raffle to win a pizza lunch. We are very excited to start this once COVID-19 is over!
In addition to the above, we are also on track to over doubling our collection for Operation Green. This is a program where we collect research and medical supplies monthly that can no longer be used for various reasons and send them to communities in need around the world, as well as, provide teaching supplies for Michener Institute.
With those updates covered, I can start to discuss some of the best parts of my role. My favourite part of this job was doing presentations, especially re-education sessions. I loved being able to educate people and when people actively made changes it was extremely rewarding. The most memorable was a lab that had about 12 fume hoods, which consistently had a compliance rate between 50-75%. Despite repeatedly talking to the research staff and sending emails to the lab managers little changes were made, but after a re-education session their total compliance average went from 77% to 96%.
One of my biggest achievements was greatly increasing our Ice Pack Recycling program. Thousands of ice packs go through UHN per year. Before this, ice packs were thrown out after a single use. Now through FREE vendor take-back programs, we can reuse them until they break, saving thousands of ice packs from landfill per year. Since I started, we have had over 10 new locations join on the 2nd, 5th, 9th and 10th floor of PMCRT, and in Max Bell doubling our highest recorded diversion since the program started!
Above all, what makes this job so pivotal is importance of sustainability in research. If every lab achieved more sustainable practices in Canada alone, we would save hundreds of millions in costs every year, funding would go further, research could grow and our impact upon the environment would be reduced. Currently in Canada, the health care sector, which includes research creates about 4-10% of all greenhouse gas emissions. This does not include the secondary pollution of products we have shipped into Canada.
None of these things accomplishments over the last 8 months would have been possible without a fantastic team of individuals that truly make patient-planet centered care a reality. A really special shout out to Lisa Vanlint and Jenn Crosthwaite for mentoring and putting up with my constant questions. They not only helped me grow professionally, but inspired me to work hard and smile everyday. I am really going to miss this team and know they will achieve great things. Also welcome Meghan Paleolog, she is the new Sustainability Coordinator, and I cannot wait to see what brilliant things she will bring to the table.