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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Don’t Stop Thinkin’ About Tomorrow – Talkin’ Trash New Year 2019

One of the great things about Homo sapiens is our ability to make whatever is happening to us right here, right now The. Most. Important. Thing. Ever.  Doesn’t matter if it’s a recreational hockey game for middle-aged (though still spry and youthful in appearance) Homo sapiens, waiting for one’s reusable travel mug to be filled with a free-range soypuccino, or a bunch of somewhat random Homo sapiens converging for the sole purpose of singing together…it’s the ability to prioritize what’s happening in the present above all else that sets people apart from the rest of this world’s inhabitants.

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Putting The Habit In Habitat Protection since 1999 – Talkin’ Trash, October 2018

In the ever-changing mental list of “things good and bad” that most us keep, “tension” usually ends up on the not-so-good column…which is unfair because, in reality, there are many good things about tension.  Tension keeps bridges bridging,  and raindrops dropping…not to mention it’s what had you on the edge of your seat when Obi Wan Kenobi dueled Darth Vader as Luke and Co. tri to escape (yah, dating myself here), it kept you from going to the bathroom for all seven-minutes and forty-seconds of the 2010 Winter Olympics men’s hockey gold medal game overtime period, and it makes resolution of the slightly out-of-sync background rhythm and wandering time signatures in Coffee (of the Sylvan Esso, not the free-range organic soypuccino, kind) oh so satisfying.

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It’s a Great Time to be an Energy Saving Sports Fan In Toronto – Talkin’ Trash, April 2018

(apologies to Argonaut, Rock, Wolfpack and sports fanatics everywhere)

According to a random GoogleTM search (because, you know…the internet never lies), the average “top” ice hockey slap shot contains around 163 joules of energy.  Which (because, you know…energy is energy is energy) is the same as around 0.0454 watt-hours.  And because nobody, even long time energy type people, really knows exactly what a watt-hour is, is enough to keep one of those high-falutin’, energy efficient LED tubes we’ve put in all-over UHN going for around 9 seconds.

Put another way, that means accidently leaving just one of those high-falutin’ lights on overnight is the same as wasting over 5,000 Auston Matthews slap shots…Which. Can. Not. Be. Allowed. To. Happen (because, you know…if the Leafs are gonna go deep, we need more Auston).

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