Co-op Tales from UHN

Posted on behalf of Alondra

Hi everyone! My name is Alondra Garcia, a fourth-year student at the University of Toronto in the Environmental Sciences program, and for the last four months I was the sustainability intern here at UHN. As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end and so does my placement here. Before saying my goodbye, I’d like to tell you a little bit about what I have been doing and what I have learnt during my time working with the Energy and Environment Department at UHN.

Waste and Recycling

In my opinion, recycling and reduction of waste is one the biggest challenges towards a greener future, simply because it depends on the collaboration and change of behavior of all who consume, basically, all of us. My first surprise while doing waste audits in the hospitals and rehabilitation centers was that most departments recycle and were doing it well. Keep it up people! However, there is still A LOT to do to divert waste from landfills and our oceans. For recycling to be efficient, it needs to be 90% uncontaminated or it will go to the garbage. Therefore, we need to avoid “wish-cycle”, hoping that what we throw in the recycle bin is actually recyclable. For this is necessary to be informed of the local rules and be aware that UHN has different recycling rules from the city of Toronto.

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Here are a few reminders on common items that CANNOT be recycled:

  • Straws, stand up pouches, chip bags and candy bar wraps are NOT recyclable. They go in the garbage bin.
  • Napkins, tissues and paper towels goes in the compost bin. If compost is not available, throw them in the garbage bin.
  • Masks and gloves are NOT recyclable. They go in the garbage bin.
  • Containers still covered in food, contaminate the whole recycle bag. Rinse out that container before recycling it.

Also, don’t forget that there are new recycling rules in place at UHN with a few important changes:

  • Soft plastics and black plastics are no longer recyclable. They must be thrown in the trash.
  • Coffee cups are no longer recyclable either. Coffee cups must be thrown in the garbage, but lids and sleeves go in the recycle bin. To avoid all the trouble in remembering all this, I strongly recommend you shifting to reusable coffee mugs. They even have some perks when you take them to your favorite coffee shop such as discounts or extra coffee. There is a new and updated list of green vendors at UHN coming in the following weeks.

Operation Green

This summer I was the coordinator of Operation Green, a student-run initiative that collects unused medical supplies and donate them to communities in need around the world. They have been working in collaboration with UHN staff, medical students from the University of Toronto, and humanitarian organizations since 2011 to reduce the environmental impact of the healthcare field while increasing social responsibility.

Our next collection is happening on August 21st, so if you have any medical supplies that you would like to donate or if you have any questions, kindly contact us by email to operationgreen@uhn.ca.

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Transportation

This year, our department installed 36 new Electric Vehicles stations at UHN and it is so nice to see that people are already using them! If you ever think about changing your car for an electric/hybrid vehicle, here is some extra motivation. Reducing carbon emissions not only helps our fight against drastic climate change but reduces the pollution that causes respiratory illness. Now, you can come to work, get a convenient spot, and charge your car zero emission car for free.

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More details on the EV chargers here: https://talkintrashwithuhn.com/2019/05/21/i-wanna-walk-down-to-electric-avenue/

For this to be efficient, you must know that these parking spots are exclusively for electric/hybrid vehicles, if your car isn’t either of them you are risking being fined for parking here.

Another even better option to reduce your impact while commuting to work is to use your bike. Summer is ending but it doesn’t mean you can’t start now! If you missed any of the sessions offered during this summer regarding cycling in Toronto, here is a summary of the main things to know.

Link to Lessons of Road Rules 101 https://talkintrashwithuhn.com/2019/06/18/lessons-from-road-rules-101/

Lastly, I want to thank the amazing team of the Energy and Environment department for being so welcoming and giving me the opportunity to learn from them. To get an idea of the great job they are doing, let me tell you that they received a very well-deserved recognition in the Local Impact Awards at UHN, about month ago. Congratulations!

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Benefits of Climate Action

Apocalyptic future scenarios, crushing costs of adaptation, sacrifices required – this is the typical framing of the climate crisis discussion. What if I told you it’s not all doom and gloom? This article is about the benefits of taking meaningful climate action.

First off, why is it important for UHNers to take action against climate change? As we know, climate change is a serious issue for healthcare and taking action will be mandatory to maintain a livable world for ourselves in the future as well as our kids. In a previous blog, Talkin’ Trash looked at the actions individuals can take to fight the climate crisis. Many analyses tend to focus on the up front financial costs of climate action, however these often don’t take into account the full life-cycle benefits. So, what are some of the benefits of climate action?

Reduction in Air Pollution

In Toronto I find myself holding my breath sometimes as I walk through clouds of diesel exhaust from buses, trucks, and construction sites. Converting these vehicles to electric power will not only reduce CO2 emissions, but also prevent many people from inhaling toxic and carcinogenic exhaust fumes. With every diesel and gas vehicle removed by active transport or switched to electric we are reducing the amount of air pollution in populated areas. This could have a positive impact on urban health.

As Lisa mentioned, since Ontario eliminated coal power from the utility grid, we have also virtually eliminated smog days. This project was also the largest single climate action taken so far in North America (even larger than BC implementing a province-wide carbon tax).

Reduction in Noise

Electric vehicles are well known for being extremely quiet compared to their fossil fueled counterparts. Streets are much more pleasant and healthy places without the sounds of engines screaming by. Reducing CO2 emissions by reducing personal vehicle travel and by converting necessary vehicles to electric will have a side benefit of noise reduction.

traffic noise

I can almost hear this image

Active Transportation May Cause Weight Loss

Perhaps one of the ways you can cut CO2 emissions is by driving less and walking/biking more? Well, good news! Instead of sitting in traffic, you are getting free exercise, potentially losing weight, and potentially feeling better. You might not even need that expensive gym membership any more.

More Jobs

With so much air being taken up in the media arguing about pipelines and oil, it often gets missed that the clean tech industry in Canada actually employs more people than the fossil fuel industry and is growing faster than the overall economy. Encouraging CO2 reduction and becoming technology leaders should continue to boost the economy and increase job numbers.

Solar

Cost Savings

Although emission reduction measures often have an upfront cost, there is typically a reduction in energy consumption and related cost savings. An analysis from the website Cleantechnica shows that under certain driving assumptions, a Tesla Model 3 can have a lower 5 year cost of ownership than a Toyota Corolla. Check out this presentation from Mark Perez of Clean Power Research, which analyzes the utility grid in Minnesota and demonstrates through modeling that a renewable (wind and solar) grid with battery storage and small amount of gas backup can provide firm power supply at extremely low cost (even in a cold northern climate like Minnesota).

There are many many examples on this very blog of UHN projects that cut emissions while simultaneously saving huge on utilities. Just one example, last year’s deep lake cooling project at Toronto General Hospital cut CO2 emissions by 269 tons per year. This project is also saving UHN $22M over 20 years with a 4.2 year payback on our capital investment, so don’t let the naysayers tell you that cutting CO2 emissions always costs a lot of money!

By focusing on all these benefits to cutting CO2 emissions, perhaps we can overcome some of the institutional inertia holding back necessary actions to stabilize our climate. Leadership is all that is needed to overcome this issue. Luckily, there are plenty of leaders calling for action. Greta Thunberg is my favorite!

This blog post reminds me of an old cartoon by Joel Pett:

Comic

OK fine, just a little doom and gloom: All-time temperature records tumble again as heatwave sears Europe

Climate Change is a Health Care Issue

A lack of progress in reducing emissions and building adaptive capacity threatens both human lives and the viability of the national health systems they depend on, with the potential to disrupt core public health infrastructure and overwhelm health services.

This is not a quote from Greenpeace, Al Gore, or David Suzuki. It is from The Lancet, one of the most prestigious medical journals in the world. More and more health organizations are recognizing climate change as the biggest global health threat of the 21st century. Canadian health organizations, such as the Canadian Medical Association, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, and others are urging decisive action from political and business leaders, institutions, and individuals to reign in CO2 emissions that are causing climate change.

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Flash Flooding in Toronto. Photo Source

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UHN’s CEAL Lab Installs New Lighting System

An innovative new LED lighting system has been installed at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute’s CEAL lab (Challenging Environment Assessment Lab). Researchers in this lab conduct world class experiments to advance knowledge in mobility, aging, accessibility, design safety, and much more. The lab itself is a unique space with high ceilings located in the basement of TRI’s University Centre. Feel free to read more about the exciting research conducted at CEAL and throughout TRI at this link.

Before taking a deeper dive into the project, here are some quick energy savings numbers:

  • Electricity Savings: 88,000 kWh
  • Cost Savings: $12,300
  • Payback: 1.8 years
  • Additional benefits: Reliability

The before and after photos below demonstrate how LED lights can improve performance while saving energy at the same time.

Before and after

Left hand picture shows original fluorescent lighting, right hand picture shows new LED lighting

Background:

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Huge Savings from Ongoing LED Retrofits

As I mentioned in my Terminator themed T8 blog, I’ll be back. And now I’m back to let you know how the roll out of our T8 retrofit program is going. Since that original blog *checks watch* three years ago (!) we have replaced huge numbers of lamps throughout UHN, so this is a story that all sites can celebrate! Here are some quick numbers for lamps retrofitted at each site:

  • TGH – 5,500
  • TWH – 6,000
  • PMH – 6,500
  • TRI – 2,000

Total UHN: 20,000 lamps!

For those that are wondering what I’m talking about when I say “LED T8 tube” check the image below. The 8 refers to the diameter of the lamp in eighths of an inch (eight eighths is one inch).

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This is an LED T8 tube

Energy Savings

So far, we have primarily installed new LED tubes in 24 hour applications, such as lobbies, hallways, stairwells, mechanical spaces, etc. The long run hours of these lamps mean that we are savings lots of energy and getting a faster payback.

UHN-wide savings total almost 1,500,000 kWh based on the 20,000 T8 lamps replaced. This is equivalent to the electricity consumption of 155 houses in Ontario!

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Other Benefits of LED

Light Levels: In certain hallways at TGH, people were asking if the walls had been painted. This is because the LED lamps produce slightly more light than the old fluorescent lamps, enhancing hallway appearance and safety in previously under lit areas. We recognize that higher light output is not always desired and are also purchasing lower wattage T8s for sensitive areas.

Shatterproof: The LED lamps are made of a shatterproof plastic material, meaning they are safer to install and service than glass fluorescent tubes.

No Mercury: Old fluorescent lamps use mercury, a highly toxic substance, as a key component to make the lamp function. If a fluorescent lamp were to break, the mercury would escape and risk exposure to building occupants. LEDs have no mercury or any materials that can be released into the air. They are considered to be electronic waste, however, and must still be disposed of appropriately.

Longer service life: Fluorescent lamps have a typical service life of 20,000 hours and tend to degrade in performance and colour throughout their life. The LEDs installed have 50,000 hour life and new ones we are now purchasing have 70,000 hour lifespans. This extended life will free up some of our maintenance staff time that is spent changing light bulbs so that they can work on important tasks, such as preventive maintenance.

Ongoing Project

Since our original T8 supply contract, costs of LEDs have dropped almost in half and we have a new contract in place. Additionally, the LED lamps are now only 15W instead of the original 18W, while maintaining the exact same light output. With the lower cost of purchase and increased energy savings, it is now very cost effective to replace lamps not only in 24 hour areas, but in all areas. We are aggressively pursuing more replacements across UHN, including the following projects that are underway:

  • TRI: 2,100 lamps (including relamping all T8s in Lyndurst and Rumsey Centre)
  • TGH: 5,000 lamps
  • KDT: 9,000 lamps (relamping the entire building)

I would like to thank the facilities teams who have worked hard to make these projects a success, especially at TRI and TGH, where facilities staff have done all the relamping work in house. Bravo!

I’se the B’y That Went to CHES

UHN had major representation at this year’s national CHES (Canadian Healthcare Engineering Society) conference, which was hosted in St. John’s Newfoundland (hence, the blog title). I was honoured to speak at the conference discussing some preliminary energy results of TGH’s new central cooling plant. I was lucky to share the stage with our former colleague, Chad Berndt, who was the mastermind behind the project. Chad is now working with the company that delivered the project, Enwave Energy Corp.

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UHN Cost Savings Analysizer

First off, congrats to the energy team Ed, Lisa, Songyang, Allan, and the recently departed Chad on saving almost $14M cumulatively since the start of the energy manager program at UHN! And now, some background information on how I came up with this number. It started with a question:

“If we are doing so much energy management, why are the bills still higher!?” Continue reading