Talkin' Trash With UHN

Freerange, organic, green healthcare ideas

Kady Cowan

All About Kady in just 15 Questions…

(Scroll down for a more formal version)

What got you interested in environment issues, and specifically working within health care?

I was inspired to study the environment by people I met along the way. My mentor Henry Kock was an avid eco-activist and naturalist who was known as the foremost expert on cultivating trees from seed in Canada.  He passed away in 2005 at age 53 from brain cancer.  You could not find a garbage can at Henry’s house because he did not produce any waste.  I have been known to smuggle granola bar wrappers out of Henry’s house to throw away in street side municipal bins.

Another women I met named Lisa was a PhD in marine biology.  When she invited me to her ocean side shack in Eureka California she showed me more life in one tide pool then I had ever seen.  Her trained eye could see things that were “invisible” to me.  She inspired me to learn to see.

Health Care came naturally to me.  I have also been I bit of a health nut – but never having the patience for clinical work I came to it from a back door.

What is the part of your work that’s most misunderstood?

That I don’t actually make change happen, I create programs and tools for others to make change happen.

What’s the thing about your job that drives you crazy?

People concentrating on what is not being done instead of what is being done.

What keeps you going and motivated to do this work?

So many issues… so many connections to everyday life. I like the challenges and finding the appropriate solutions

Can you describe a typical day?

I spend about 30% of my time doing research and keeping up to date with issues internal and external to UHN. I spend about 30% of my time meeting people to collect their insights, bring concerns forward and work through problems. And I spend 40% of my time translating all of that information into programs that make sense for a wide variety of audiences.  I like to use innovative methods to engage and motivate individuals and organizations to be the environmental stewards they want to be.

Mountain bike or cruiser?

Hybrid, of course.

What do you read/watch/listen to in order to stay current in your field?

Lots of online media and newsletters keep me current about issues related to the environment, health, and environmental health. I also participate in listserves where practitioners can exchange information through  organizations like the Canadian Coalition for Green Health Care and Practice Green Health.

What are you most proud of in your career?

Bringing the issues of sustainable transportation to the forefront at UHN. As well as making meaningful connections with staff across the orgnaization at every level.

Any advice for someone who wants to do this type of work?

Do lots and lots and lots of volunteer work and when you are done doing that do more volunteer work.

Do you ever just want to walk away from it?


If you were in charge of the world for 24 hours, what would you do?

Take away everyone’s personal cars and encourage them to try other ways of getting around.

Would you rather be invisible or be able to fly?

Able to fly

If you weren’t doing this job, what would you be doing?

I would open a small hotel on a beach somewhere

What do you do in your spare time (do you have spare time)?

· Busy with a preschooler and toddler
· Going on hikes
· Checking out organic markets and rummage sales in the summer
· Checking out craft fairs in the winter
· I used to like to sew and read but now I do puzzles and build block towers instead

The More Formal Version…

Kady Cowan is the Energy Steward at UHN. Kady received a BSc in earth and environmental science; she also did a self-directed study in physical geography and ethno-biogeography at the University of the South Pacific (Fiji). Kady coordinates the implementation of energy and environmental management, pollution prevention, and toxics and waste reduction at University Health Network.  Kady tackles the complexity of greening healthcare through a three pronged approach including technical, process and behaviour change.   This approach includes translating complex environmental messages to appropriately engage and motivate individuals and organizations to achieve sustainability.  Before coming to UHN, she worked in the not-for-profit sector doing research and knowledge translation, as well as environmental research for provincial policy. Kady is chair of the Canadian Coalition for Green Health Care and she speaks fluent Spanish.

3 thoughts on “Kady Cowan

  1. What a great article, Kady. You have accomplished so much and seem destined to keep on accomplishing. I am so proud of you.



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