Last Straw = First Move

image credit madasdfs

It started with an image of a turtle and a straw (and the turtle was definitely NOT enjoying a salted caramel frappuccino). The image enraged millions to just say no to straws or BYO reusable ones. That energy inspired many businesses to do the same, with some removing them entirely, some switching to paper or compostable, or some redesigning products so they did not need them. A few governments have even promised to ban them in the near future.

Though the straw is just one small part of the massive plague of single-use plastic … think styrofoam containers, soda cups, plastic cutlery, padded envelopes and plastic bags … all in all, this is good move. Actually, it’s great! It shows what individuals, businesses and governments can do when they see a problem, understand it, emotionally connect to it, and then (the biggie) act on it.

So let’s make the last straw the first move to sustainable living. There’s so much more to tackle, and now we know that if we care, we can.

If this is your jam, you may be interested in the next Carbon Conversations TO group coming up in October. This six-week series helps you understand and overcome the overwhelming emotions around climate change, and gives practical tools to reduce your carbon footprint.

Until then, have another look at our “24 ways to act on climate”, with a great section on waste (scroll down to 17 through 20) …

24 ways to act on Climate

We know that 24 is just the start. Feel free to suggest more in the comments section.


Moving right along

As you’ve probably noticed, our shared home has been having a rough time of late. Climate change is looming large, and many of us don’t know where to start. Mike’s post showed how it’s not all doom and gloom with many benefits to climate action.

That reminded me of our list of 24 ways you can act on climate right now. 24 may seem like a lot to digest all at once, so let’s break it down. Today, let’s focus just on transportation. We hope you find this moving 😉 …


Why transportation? Livin’ the COG-life (Coal, Oil & Gas) creates the emissions that cause and worsen climate change. When Ontario closed coal plants 5 years ago, that took a big juicy chunk out of our emissions (and out of our smog days). You can see below that cleaning up transportation could be huge!

Climate change - 1 page - eco


To take a deeper dive in clean transportation, have a look…

I wanna walk down to Electric Avenue

Carbon Footprint

Lessons from “Road Rules 101”

TTC VIP CHANGES – and the big picture

Ride on!

Hot enough for ya?

Today, Ontario and parts of the USA brace for the hottest day of 2019 so far. The “so far” part makes it even more frightening, like the twist ending of a horror movie just gunning for a sequel. We know that climate change, or the climate crisis (climate change’s newer name, now with added urgency), is behind these crazy heat domes.

image credit: CBC and NOAA

The irony here is that heat domes and heat waves are worsened by the climate crisis, while people burning fossil fuels cause the climate crisis, and people will burn more fossil fuels to keep air conditioners running full tilt because of the heat, which makes the climate crisis worse and intolerable heat more frequent. “Yikes!” doesn’t quite cover it.

So how do we keep cool without making the climate crisis worse?

How we power our air conditioners makes a difference. Here in Ontario, we phased out coal plants way back in 2013.

Nov 2013: Al Gore talks climate after Premier Kathleen Wynne announced Ontario closing all coal plants. Almost no smog days since they closed.

Since kicking coal to the can, Ontario has seen almost no smog days! We still have natural gas but most of our electricity does not give off unfriendly emissions. More good news … “in 2018, the Government of Canada announced final regulations to phase-out traditional coal-fired electricity by 2030″. These are reasons to be cheerful.

Our recent Deep Lake Cooling project at Toronto General Hospital, Toronto Rehab Institute, and coming soon to Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, shows an even lower carbon way of cooling, and one that also saves a ton of water too! For a liveable future, the answer is transitioning to sustainable energy like wind, solar, hydroelectric, tidal, geothermal, or something not yet invented.

How much we power our air conditioners also makes a difference. Have you ever wandered into a building in summertime, maybe your own office, only to find the AC cranked so high you need a sweater? Does your spouse or someone in your house create an arctic habitat in your living room so you need to throw on a blanket and fuzzy socks?

image credit:

Fun fact: many commercial buildings still use a formula from the 1960’s designed to keep 40 year old men in suits and ties comfortable, though times, office gender makeup, and fashions have changed.

This one is easy … change the setpoint on the AC 2, 3 or even 4 degrees higher (find the sweet spot), or talk to building management to complain. The squeaky wheel gets the AC changed. Get comfortable doing it by dressing accordingly for the warmer temps and maybe save the jacket and tie for fall fashions.

Those programmable thermostats are also fantastic for letting our houses warm up while we’re away, then cool again when we need it. The smart ones even let you change it up from your phone. We were lucky enough to get one for free from the former GreenON rebate program, and enjoy setting the AC back to occupancy levels when we’re 15 minutes from home.

Another way to keep cool while easing the pressure on the AC is right in your window. This may seem too simple, but it works … keep blinds and curtains closed during the day so the sun doesn’t heat up your space (the opposite is true in winter).

image credit: zebra blinds

This and 24 other climate friendly ideas can help you and the planet stay cool and be well.


We are the Champions!

The battle was hard fought, nail-biting, and ended in sweet victory. There was partying in the streets as an entire nation celebrated!

Yes, it’s true! Our own Energy & Environment department won a Local Impact Award at UHN! And a basketball team called the Raptors may have made a little history too ;).

Congratulations to all, and see you at the parade (walking, low-carbon style, natch).

For more on the Local Impact Awards, see the UHN News Article:



I wanna walk down to Electric Avenue

20190523_113302-copy2Or drive it in an electric car, natch. We’re having some pretty major electric dreams right now as (drum-roll please)…

We just installed 36 new Electric Vehicle (EV) charging stations at UHN!  We have Tesla wall connectors and Universal (J1772 Connector) charging stations so they can be used by all kinds of EVs. Best part? There is no extra cost to charge your car. Just pay for parking, and power up.


Toronto General Hospital: Elizabeth Street Lot:

  • 16 Tesla Vehicle charging stations
  • 8 Universal (J1772 Connector) charging stations for other EVs

Toronto Western Hospital: Leonard Street Lot:

  • 8 Tesla Vehicle charging stations (Tesla Wall Connectors)
  • 4 Universal (J1772 Connector) charging stations for other EVs


Though all charging stations have been manufactured by Tesla, you can distinguish the universal charging stations by the much longer cord and by generic EV signage. These charging stations are split between staff and patient/visitor parking so everyone can benefit.

GenericEV and sign

Generic EV signage denotes the universal charging stations. Note the longer cord.


These signs will help prevent ICEing. ICE=Internal Combustion Engines parking in these spots and blocking EVs from charging there. ICEing wastes a valuable resource.

As we know from Mike’s post, climate change is a health care issue. In Ontario, gas-powered transportation is responsible for the most Green House Gas (GHG) emissions that cause climate change, not to mention, the pollution that causes asthma, lung cancer and other respiratory illness. Yikes! Switching to clean-air transportation heals patients and planet simultaneously, right up our alley.

A top reason I’ve heard people pause before transitioning to electric is range anxiety. This surge in EV charging infrastructure really breaks that down. Staff know they can charge their cars at work (and make their home electric bills even smaller), and visitors know that not only are they brightening a patient’s day, they are powering up while they visit. Let’s not forget the added convenience of not having to go to a glamorous gas station anymore.

A recent look at Plugshare, the google maps of EV charging stations, shows there are lots of charging options now (though the yellow highlighted ones are particularly sweet :).


There is more good news. Not only can you charge up in UHN garages, the Canadian Federal Government will give you $5,000 cash back if you buy a reasonable electric car or other zero-emissions vehicle. Sweet!!! This breaks down the other barrier to EVs, the higher up-front costs. Good to note that EVs pay for themselves sooner than you’d think; no gas and far lower maintenance costs, plus a super peppy and quiet ride. I’ll stop gushing now :).

This was one of my favorite projects to work on yet! It is the culmination of an amazing collaboration between UHN’s FM-PRO team (which houses us in Energy & Environment) and Tesla Motors Canada ULC as part of the Tesla Destination Charging Program. A big thank you to all of the people involved, including Ron Swail, Susan Grove, John Latam, Roula Boultadakis, Tameru Tesfaye, Stewart Dankner, Karl Karvonen, John Soares, Chris Read, Brent Kurliak, Eusra Amin, Joe Lopes, Emily Martins, Todd Milne, Carl Valentine, Perry Ross, Ed Rubinstein, Mike Kurz, Mehdi Motakefpour, Robert Reti, Angela Elia, Liliana Vilela-Andre, Tony Letterio, Daniel Valadares and the JML team.


P.S. Here is the official website for the Government of Canada $5,000 Zero Emissions Vehicle Rebate. Or you can skip straight to the list of eligible vehicles

P.P.S: Misheard song lyrics alert:  Eddy Grant’s song is actually “We gonna rock down to Electric Avenue”. Not walk :). Thank you, helpful readers!   


A Deeply Cool Year in Energy & Environment

A Deeply Cool Year in Energy & Environment

Energy & Environment … two great concepts and the department that makes up our Talkin’ Trash with UHN team. Our 2018 annual report infographic is a vibrant look at how we support patient care through a sustainable environment. Enjoy the scroll …



Earth Week(s) Climate Challenge

Spring has (finally) sprung, and guess what’s coming? Hint: what’s even better than a 4-day weekend? Earth Week, of course!

click here for the earth week calendar

Now, our guest of honour has been having a rough time of late. Climate change is looming large, and many of us don’t know where to start. Luckily, we got your back and have put together a solid list of 24 ways you can act on climate right now.

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