Bickle Garden
One of the reasons UHN was selected for Canada’s Greenest Employer is its community gardens, such as this wheelchair accessible garden at Toronto Rehab, Bickle Centre. (Photo: UHN)

UHN is one of the country's greenest employers.

Canada's Greenest Employers – an editorial competition organized by Canada's Top 100 Employers project – released its annual list on Monday, with UHN among just 85 organizations worthy of the sought-after title.

According to the competition editors, UHN was selected as a leader in creating a culture of environmental awareness. Among the examples cited are its strong support and advocacy of sustainable transportation such providing more than 1,000 bicycle parking spots across its campuses, community gardens, including a fully wheelchair accessible vegetable garden at Toronto Rehab's Bickle Centre, and its regular energy and waste audits across the organization.

Ed Rubinstein, Director of Energy & Environment with the Facilities Management – Planning, Redevelopment & Operations (FM-PRO) department, shares the achievement with all UHN employees.

"The title is really a reflection of how everyone has made sustainability part of their jobs," he says, adding that he'd also like to highlight Energy Steward Lisa Vanlint's efforts in pulling together the Canada's Greenest Employer application.

Ed started at UHN in 1999 as a team of one: a lone Environmental Coordinator. Today, he has a staff of seven and more than 700 Green Team volunteers, who are made up of UHN staff who help make their departments more sustainable. The team has taken on projects from recycling and saving paper through double-sided printing, to switching to reusable cups, organizing used battery collections and launching an ice-pack reuse program to reduce landfill waste.

"When I started 22 years ago, people were really just thinking about recycling," says Ed. "Today, people come to work and they want sustainability initiatives from their employer – the attitudes have changed a lot."

The Executive Team across UHN also supports sustainability, which has allowed Ed and his team to take on more than 300 energy projects over the past decade, resulting in a 25 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

2 smiling people in lab
The Research Green Team created more sustainable labs with its Shut the Sash program, which saves up to 60 per cent of energy. (Photo: UHN)

Examples include the announcement last Friday of the world's largest raw wastewater energy transfer project, which will heat and cool Toronto Western Hospital by harvesting thermal energy from a nearby municipal sewer – reducing UHN's carbon footprint by 60 per cent. There's also the Deep Lake Water Cooling Project, which uses cold water from Lake Ontario to provide air conditioning at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and Research Tower, Toronto Rehab Institute – University Centre and Toronto General Hospital, saving 65 million litres of water each year.

Green projects such as these have achieved more than $30 million in utility savings in the past decade.

FM-PRO Vice President Ron Swail says he knew about UHN's impressive sustainability reputation before he started working at the organization in 2018.

"Ed's team – and everyone across UHN – has done tremendous work in bringing a green lens to everything we do," says Ron. "Our collaboration and leadership on healthcare environmental sustainability locally, nationally and around the globe, has already been recognized with multiple awards.

"Adding Canada's Greenest Employer to the list is a well-deserved honour for UHN."

Other notable initiatives from the Energy & Environment team include working with every Nursing Council across UHN to remove straws from patient meals, creating a medical supplies collection to donate to communities in need (saving several tonnes of equipment from landfills), installing 42 electric vehicle charging stations and replacing more than 30,000 lamps with LEDs.

"A healthy environment is an important part of healthcare," says Ed. "In this business, we are definitely one of the more robust hospitals doing such things in Canada."

Being named one of Canada's Greenest Employers is an opportunity to congratulate UHN for its sustainability efforts, but "there's still a lot more we can do," adds Ed.

"We've got to keep going."

Learn more about UHN's Energy & Environment department and renewable energy projects by visiting the team's blog Talkin' Trash.

Did you know?

  • April is Earth Month! April 22 is Earth Day, but UHN's Energy & Environment Department celebrates all month long. Join in the green fun by participating in Earth Month Bingo for your chance to win a Fresh City Farms gift card.
  • You can help create a sustainable UHN by joining the Green Team. Get in touch at green@uhn.ca

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