Looking at the Past and Future: A Student’s Present to You

Hello everyone! My name is Kyle and I am a fourth year student at UofT, studying Environmental Health, Environmental Ethics, and Bioethics. Now that my time working as a student intern with the Energy and Environment team is coming to a close, I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve learned over the past few months, as well as provide suggestions for making the most out of the final weeks of summer.

Looking at the past:Image result for recycling coffee pods
Putting Garbage in the Right Place: During my internship, I worked on different projects, such as the new employee orientation pages for the energy and environment team. This helped me brush up on what exactly goes into green bins, blue bins, and garbage bins. Now on the outside this may seem fairly simple, but there can be times when we just aren’t completely sure if something can be recycled or thrown in the garbage. For instance, while coffee pods may appear to be recyclable if cleaned properly, the City of Toronto considers them to be garbage since not enough people properly clean the pods before recycling (More here). So if you want to be a coffee eco-hero and make a difference, try using compostable coffee pods, or reusable coffee pods. It’s a little thing that can make a big difference in the long run.

Products and Their Safety: I also worked on completing the pollution prevention plan. Essentially, I looked at the chemical components of products that departments would use, and determined if any of the components of the products were potentially hazardous by looking at five different policies. These polices cover the national level, provincial level, municipal level, polices at UHN, and even a policy from California (Proposition 65). It was a tedious (but no where near as tedious as writing a 20 page report for school) but rewarding job that could be related to personal life. We use various products every day for various things, but we don’t always check to see if it is truly safe or environmentally friendly (at least it’s not something I typically lose sleep over). So while you may not want to look over five different policies to determine if your general purpose cleaner is safe, it may be worth looking over at least one or two, just make sure you’re not using anything that could be hazardous. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

Looking into the future:
With only one more month of summer left, I thought it would be helpful to suggest a few things we all can do to enjoy the final weeks of summer and keep the environment in mind.

Get out and enjoy Toronto! 
In such a busy city, there’s no shortage of things that you can do. Allan Gardens Conservatory is a wonderful spot to spend with family and friends when the weather is too hot or too rainy (and lately we’ve had a lot of those days). You’ll get to see plant life that you may have never seen before, which may just inspire you to get a plant for yourself. For the days with perfect weather, Toronto has many parks, such as High Park, to enjoy a nice relaxing picnic. There’s nothing like a little green and sunlight to brighten up your day!

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Plant life at Allan Gardens Conservatory

 

UHN also has many gardens that we all can take advantage of before the cold weather comes. There’s a beautiful rooftop garden at TRI – University Centre, a wheelchair accessible garden at TRI – Bickle Centre, and the UHN Real Food Garden. (Read more here!)

Bike or walk when you can! 
The good weather will only stick around for so long before we (and by we I definitely mean me) start complaining about the cold temperatures and snow. I for one enjoy not having to wear a winter jacket wherever I go. There’s so much to see and enjoy in a big city like Toronto, so walking and biking around Toronto will not only allow you to see what Toronto has to offer, but will also provide you with some free exercise. It’s a win win situation! (Want to see more about biking? Read more here! Read even more here!)

Toronto, Bike, Flatiron, Street, Snow, Winter, Sky

And with that, my time with the Energy and Environment team has come to an end. It’s been a fantastic experience the last few months, and I’m grateful I got the opportunity to work with such a wonderful group of people!