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.


Can We Talk?

Can We Talk?

On this sweltering September day, with Florence and Mangkhut lashing their paths of destruction, I can’t help but think about the hot and steamy elephant in the room … climate change. The scary thing we all talked about “in the future” is here, clearly. There are so many ways I could do something about it, but sometimes I don’t know where to start.

I am not alone, and as luck would have it, neither are you.

We are incredibly psyched and proud to bring Carbon Conversations TO to UHN!


What’s it all about? Taking Climate Action this Fall

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It’s like you were there the whole time

If you were super excited about the Climate Change Resiliency Webinar, but work/life/stuff got in the way of actually attending it, we have good news for you! All of the wonderful presentations are here for you to absorb and share, almost like you were there the whole time.

The recording (with visuals) can be found here: Continue reading

Climate … my, how you’ve changed


Right now, a glance at your newsfeed may not resemble sunshine and lollipops and rainbows everywhere. You may feel a little helpless, a little hopeless and a lot humourless (unless you’re Alec Baldwin … then you milk this for comedy gold!).

The non-alternative fact is, Continue reading

Climate Change Resiliency: Preparing for THE emergency

The February Issue of Hospital News features an article by yours truly which we’ll share with you, our lovely Talkin’ Trash readers. In our entirely unbiased opinion, this is the publication’s best month as it focuses on green healthcare … also infection control, facilities management & design, and health technology, (hospitals are busy places, dontchya know). Without further ado…


Click here to read on the Hospital News site, or read the full text below, including images that weren’t fit to print (there’s nothing actually wrong with the images, they just literally didn’t fit on the page).

Climate Change Resiliency: Preparing For THE Emergency

By: Lisa Vanlint

With critically important and life-saving organization like healthcare, it is vital to stay up and running, especially during Mother Nature’s most extreme weather events. How well an organization can bounce back from major challenges like floods, droughts & extreme heat shows their level of resilience. According to Natural Resources Canada, “The impacts of changing climate are already evident in every region of Canada”. With visible patterns of Climate Change emerging, as opposed to some remote concept for future generations, hospitals must be prepared now.

What is Climate Change?

Climate Change refers to a shift in global or regional climate patterns (temperature, precipitation, and wind), particularly in this last century. Though there is a natural level of climate variability, human activity gets the credit for the majority of this change. By burning fossils fuels, people increase the levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (e.g. methane). These gases “blanket” the planet so when the sun’s rays hit, they cannot bounce back out into space as easily.

According to Environment Canada “Over the period 1948 to 2010, the average annual temperature in Canada has warmed by 1.6 °C, a higher rate of warming than in most other regions of the world.”. Warming is one very large part of climate change, nodding to the earlier term “Global Warming”, though changes to precipitation, wind and extreme weather events are also factors.

Image credit:

Image credit:

What Can We Expect From Climate Change?

The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported: “A warmer and more variable climate threatens to lead to higher levels of some air pollutants, increase transmission of diseases through unclean water and through contaminated food, compromise agricultural production in some of the least developed countries, and increase the hazards of extreme weather… like floods and droughts will have a dramatic impact on health.” To sum it up, climate change can bring:

  • Rising sea levels with infrastructure impacts to coastal or low-lying settlement
  • Heat related illness & death
  • Changes in drinking water quality and quantity
  • Food security impacts due to changing animal distributions & crop failures
  • Health & infrastructure impacts from more severe storms
  • Psychosocial impacts from harsher conditions
  • Droughts affecting crops
  • Water-borne diseases from floods
  • Respiratory illness from pollutants like coal plants, forest fires
  • Expansion of disease vectors e.g. Lyme Disease, Malaria, Dengue Fever (and yes, the Zika virus too)
  • Permafrost melt damaging infrastructures
  • Increased international conflict & security implications
Image credit: IPCC-Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, WHO, UNEP

Image credit: IPCC-Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, WHO, UNEP


Is Anyone Doing Something About it?

Just this past December, leaders of the world gathered in Paris for COP21 to hammer out an historic climate agreement. Getting 195 countries to agree on anything is a challenge … doing it while the city still reeled from a major terrorist attack was especially miraculous.  The conference was extended until every country agreed to the plan. Whether or not it is strong enough, that there is an agreement is a major accomplishment!

COP21 agreement in a nutshell:

  • cap the global temperature rise at 1.5 C
  • cut greenhouse gas emissions
  • help poorer nations reduce their emissions and adapt to climate change(caused largely by wealthier nations like ours)
  • become carbon-neutral by 2050
  • check in every 5 years (much like a group weigh-in)
  • start NOW!
image credit:

Canadian leaders work with the rest of the globe at COP21 in Paris. image credit:

What Can Your Organization Do To Be Prepared?

Fortunately, the Canadian Coalition for Green Healthcare, with support from the Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Health Canada, has co-developed a “Health Care Facility Climate Change Resiliency Toolkit”. This toolkit can help health care facilities great and small become more resilient to climate-related risks.

Canadian Coalition for Green Health Care Toolkit

Canadian Coalition for Green Health Care Toolkit

Reasons for why your organization should use the tool can be found on the Coalition’s Website, including:

  • Identify your facility’s current climate change related risks & state of preparedness
  • Learn what other facilities are doing
  • Help your facility become better prepared
  • Benchmark your progress over time and compared to other facilities
  • Help start the conversation on climate change-resiliency with hospitals across Canada

On the more worldwide scale, Global Green and Healthy Hospitals is organizing the 2020 Healthcare Climate Challenge. This goal is to mobilize health care around the world to protect public health from climate change, using three main principles:

  • Mitigation – by reducing our own organization’s carbon footprint, using less energy, creating less waste
  • Resilience – preparing for the impacts
  • Leadership – Educating and promoting good public health policies protect public health from climate change

At the recent UN Climate Summit in Paris, Global Green and Healthy Hospitals announced the winners in the 1st annual Climate Champion Awards of the 2020 Health Care Climate Challenge.  These awards focused on moving towards low-carbon healthcare by 2020. University Health Network, where I am privileged to work, received Silver in Energy Efficiency, Gold in Climate Resiliency and Silver in Climate Leadership. From our CEO, Peter Pisters:

 This work has never been more important, given Canada’s commitment to create a healthier and sustainable environment at the recent Climate Change summit.

Global Green & Healthy Hospitals 2020 Challenge

Global Green & Healthy Hospitals 2020 Challenge

The 2020 Challenge currently has 69 participants, representing more than 8,900 hospitals and health centers in 20 countries. To participate, see the Global Green & Healthy Hospitals website.

Famous Last Words

From the Lancet Commission:

Tackling climate change could be the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century. Many mitigation and adaptation responses to climate change are “no-regret” options, which lead to direct reductions in the burden of ill-health, enhance community resilience, alleviate poverty, and address global inequity.

Let us all work together to make it so.

How have you bean?

To bean or not to bean? That is the question…. While occidental culture has not made us big fans of beans, chickpeas and lentils, some international experts have crunched some numbers and confirmed what Jack knew from the start:  those are quite magical.

Indeed, pulse-based proteins are one of the most efficient, sustainable and scalable sources of protein we have to meet increasing demand from our growing population. As a result, the UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon has officially named 2016 the International Year of Pulses (#IYP2016).


Pulses are a subcategory of legumes and include dried peas, beans, chickpeas and lentils – Photo credits: CIAT International Center for Tropical Agriculture

Here is why I love pulses so much Continue reading

20/20 vision for our 2020 Challenge


Hospitals are busy places full of life-and-death situations … a natural setting for dramas like House, ER, Grey’s Anatomy, and the old classic, St. Elsewhere. In the real world (or IRL, as the kids say), Paris was the epicenter of decidedly more drama. The leaders of the world gathered there for Continue reading