Dear Colleagues,

As three hospitals with approximately 11,000 staff, we have a responsibility to examine our practices at UHN and how these practices impact the environment. Consider this:

  • Every year, UHN uses almost 46 million sheets of paper - that’s equivalent to over 14,000 trees. By focusing on recycling opportunities, we saved $750,000 (between 2000-2007) and reduced the amount of pollution created by making paper.
  • Each year, we consume around 120 million kWh in electricity, which is enough to keep a single 15W compact fluorescent bulb burning for almost a million years. We have implemented a number of energy saving projects, including the retrofitting of various lights with motion sensors at the R. Fraser Elliott Building. This initiative saved 588,000 kWh and $50,000 in cost per year.

Each decision to go “green” is evaluated against many factors, including infection control and patient and staff safety. With the support of the Senior Management Team, we are launching a series of new green initiative to reduce waste and energy consumption. Under the leadership of Ed Rubinstein, Manager of Energy and Environment, we are implementing the following:

Composting - Several staff have recommended that we bring the green bin program from our homes into the workplace. At UHN, 20-30 percent of our food waste was ending up in the garbage. Composting is a terrific way to divert material from landfills with the added bonus of gaining rich soil for gardening. For at least 10 years we have been composting in our Nutrition Services department. Now, more than 55,000 kg of food waste from the kitchen is being composted. We are in the process of expanding our composting efforts to include bins in the Toronto General and Toronto Western food court and at the Princess Margaret staff lounge. We are also looking at introducing composting bins in staff lunchrooms. Feed the bins just as you do at home and we can divert more material from landfill.

Bottled Water - We are eliminating bottled water from our catering service through Eat-iquette by the end of November. Staff are encouraged to bring their own glass or jug of water to meetings and to choose tap water - “Toronto’s finest” - which must meet stringent requirements set by the City. By eliminating bottled water from our events and meetings, this will mean reducing at least 32,117 plastic bottles per year, which often end up in landfills rather than being captured through recycling. This will also mean that departments will not be paying a 1,500 percent markup on water for the “privilege” of having it packaged in plastic. If you have any questions about UHN’s tap water, feel free to contact Ed Rubinstein, Manager of Energy and Environment at edward.rubinstein@uhn.on.ca​

Water Coolers - All areas and departments are strongly encouraged to eliminate bottled water service for water coolers. A quick search by Finance revealed that UHN pays $127,000 each year to one company which supplies water coolers. There are no requirements or standards for this water, compared with Toronto’s tap water which is checked for purity every few hours. If staff prefer, departments can install a water filter system or use a filtered water jug (for example Brita) if a fridge is available. Ed also advises that some filters will also cool tap water.

Biking - UHN’s Wellness initiative “Beat the Bus” coupled with The Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation’s (PMHF) “Ride to Conquer Cancer” brought cycling to the forefront at UHN. Today, more than 1,500 staff cycle to work. In the New Year, thanks to the generous support of the PMHF, we will be improving and expanding our bike-lockup facilities at all sites to encourage more cyclists. What a great way to stay fit and to reduce gas emissions from cars. And, if you want to join me on the Ride to Conquer Cancer, check out www.conquercancer.ca​​​

Thermostats, Lights and Controls - We are expanding our “TLC” - Conserve to Care pilot program which began in 2008 at Toronto Western, across UHN to encourage everyone to turn out lights and electronic devices when not in use and to opt for rooms a few degrees warmer in the summer and a few degrees cooler in the winter. Within six months, we saved $65,000 and reduced our CO2 emissions by over 5,600 tonnes. Extrapolated across UHN, this works out to annual savings of around $1-million dollars in energy costs.

I encourage you to think twice before “trashing” a leftover sandwich, leaving your computer idle and on all night and buying bottled water. Every green act has a positive effect on the environment. Our green efforts also mean savings that can be reinvested into patient care. If you have ideas to expand our green efforts at UHN, I encourage you to contact Ed at edward.rubinstein@uhn.on.ca​

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