Green Holidays: 2020 Edition

Clara Phillips, Dec. 22, 2020

‘Tis the season when West Park Healthcare Centre would usually be gearing up for the annual West Park Holiday Market, which has been a great success in the past, however, due to COVID-19, we are missing the market this year, but that doesn’t mean we have to skip out on the festivities. It’ll just have to be done (like everything else this year) through physically distant or virtual platforms. It can also be done with safe and earth-friendly practices, to help us enter 2021 with a mindset centered on sustainability.

Promoting green practices during the holidays is extremely important, especially when it comes to waste generation. Zero Waste Canada estimates that Canadians generate about 25% more trash from mid-November to mid-January than they do the remainder of the year. This waste is a consequence of consumerism and includes packaging from new purchases, food waste, and old items that were replaced with newer gifted versions. Energy usage increases due to holiday lights and increased travel boosts greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, although we likely won’t see as much of an impact from the latter this year. While West Park will not be hosting any in-person holiday celebrations this year, we hope you continue to use the adaptability and resiliency we’ve all shown this year to celebrate festivities in a new, creative and virtual way! Here is a list of tips and tricks you can use to make your holiday safe and green this year.

Purchase ingredients for your holiday cooking and baking from local markets, or if it’s accessible to you, check out the Unboxed Market, Toronto’s first zero-waste grocery store. Try to reduce your meat and dairy use in the kitchen this year with these 30 festive ideas. Challenge another family, friend, or-household to try a new plant-based recipe with you, and trial your creations over video chat!

A lot more time will be spent using digital devices this year to connect with family and friends For safety’s sake, may we suggest taking advantage of Zoom’s unlimited call times to enable and encourage these virtual gatherings? Offset this increased electricity use by choosing LED lights around your home and using a timer so your lights are only on when needed. Also, try to offset screen time with some additional time spent outdoors. Take a physically-distanced hike or build a snowman in your backyard with your kids.

Still looking for last-minute gifts? Give practical gift cards from a local business. Many businesses now offer electronic gift cards as well, further reducing waste and allowing you to purchase and send these gifts from the safety of your home. Gift an experience, such as tickets to a virtual concert, cooking class or another online event that aligns with their interests.

How about giving a gift that gives back? Giving to charities like the West Park Foundation is a great way to give. West Park even has a Matching Gift campaign for the holidays that doubles the size of your gift (until December 31, 2020). Or, consider purchasing a gift that gives proceeds to environmental causes, such as Tentree or Reunion Island Coffee.

If you’re still shopping online, you may consider sending the gift directly to your loved one (eliminating the need for wrapping paper as well!) to limit your contact with others. You can also send e-cards to save paper and postage. But, if you’d prefer to hand-deliver the gift yourself, perhaps walk rather than drive, make sure you practice proper hand hygiene before and after delivery, wear a mask and maintain a 2-metre distance!

Include a gift receipt with your present. It implies that it’s ok for them to exchange it for something that’ll be more useful to them, so it doesn’t go wasted. Many of us are financially set-back this year, and that’s okay. Your loved ones understand. So, you may consider this year to send them a note that lets them know you’re thinking of them, and if you’d like, add an “IOU” note to promise a small gift next year if you’re able.

Gifts still need to be wrapped? Wrapping paper can only be recycled if it’s not glossy or glittery and all tape has been removed. Try looking for non-laminated paper-based or pre-recycled wrapping paper, or try these very simple and effective options:

  • Make your own gift wrap with old magazines or newspapers. Not only does this idea save money and reduce your environmental impact, but you can show off your creativity by selecting colourful magazine pages, or the comic or puzzle section from the newspaper.
  • Use reusable gift wrap by BOBO or DIY.
  • Mark your gifts with tags made from plantable seed paper that will bloom once planted after use! Search Etsy to find a whole selection of styles and shapes.

Most importantly, please remember that one of the best gifts you can give to your loved ones is to consider their health by avoiding gatherings, wearing a mask, practicing good hand hygiene and maintaining a 2-metre distance from others. But that doesn’t mean the festivities have to stop! With these simple ideas, you can enjoy your holidays in a safe and environmentally friendly way, and maybe even be lighter on your wallet.

Stay safe, stay well, stay green, and happy holidays!

West Park Holiday Market – With a Green Twist

Mark Palmer

This year on December 12, West Park presented a festive, fun, green holiday event for staff and patients – the West Park Holiday Market.

Due to the current campus construction, the hospital’s perennial Winterfest is hibernating for the next few years, but West Park partnered with the hospital’s Environmental Committee to offer a unique holiday experience inspired by the many holiday markets that happen every year in Toronto.

West Park’s Holiday Market included several vendors, including local environmentally sustainable companies and the Rotary Club’s holiday cake, cookie, and gingerbread house sale, as well as Recreation Therapy’s Helping Hands Beeswax Paper and Gemstone Bracelet sale. The Holiday Market also featured a food drive collection for the Daily Bread Food Bank, a holiday photo-booth, and travelling carolers to visit patients on their units. Staff members and patients experienced a traditionally decorated market with holiday music, while having their chance to buy unique gifts and win prizes!

Busy As Bees for Sustainability

Patients from West Park’s Recreation Therapy were busy as bees leading up to the holidays, working away in their workshop to make specialty gifts that give back.

Introducing their creations at the West Park Holiday Market on Dec. 12, Recreation Therapy sold handmade beeswax food wraps along with handcrafted gemstone bracelets, with 100 per cent of proceeds going to the West Park Foundation.

“Our patients were adamant about wanting all of the money made from the sale to go to the Foundation,” says Naomi Max, a recreation therapy assistant, who says the patients wanted to use their Helping Hands program budget towards the cost of materials to accomplish their fundraising efforts.

The project was decided upon back in September, and patients were working almost every week to achieve their goal of making at least 100 beeswax food wraps. The extensive process included cutting up fabric – which took three weeks alone – smashing pine nuts to create resin, melting the ingredients, coating the fabric, and baking and drying the fabric.

The food wraps are 100 per cent organic, food safe, and environmentally friendly, consisting only of fabric, organic beeswax, organic pine resin, and organic jojoba oil. The food wraps were available in various sizes, colours and patterns, with each sheet selling for $5 or three sheets for $12.

The gift that keeps on giving, the food wraps should last up to a year, with the donated cost going much further towards the new hospital build. Gemstone bracelets, made from high-quality stones and beads, varied in price – depending on the beads used – from $10 to $20. They also included messages of motivation and aspiration, each one a unique representation of the patient who made it. 

Recreation Therapy is Helping West Park to Keep it GREEN!

Mark Palmer, August 7, 2019

View this story and more at westpark.org.

Recreation Therapy has been making a conscious effort to monitor the resources used during programs to ensure the department is operating in an environmentally responsible manner. “We are all conscious of environmentally sustainable operations,” says Naomi Max, Environmental Committee member and Recreation Therapy Assistant. “Over the last few months the Recreation Therapy team has worked to reduce, reuse and recycle resources in programming in many creative ways to eliminate unnecessary waste” says Naomi.  

The most environmentally sustainable option is to reduce and reuse where possible. One resource all West Park team members are actively trying to use less of is: paper. The recreation therapy team significantly decreased their paper usage by reducing the amount of Program Calendars printed at the Centre. Formerly, 260 legal-sized Program Calendars were printed and distributed to clinical areas and patients each month. Now patients receive the calendar in an electronic format by e-mail and only one paper copy is distributed per unit. In addition to the positive environmental impact, the patient feedback was that the electronic text is much larger and more accessible to read for all.  

Recreation therapy is even greening the garden program with an in-house curricular economy supported by cross-programming. In the gardening program, patients grow vegetables and herbs on site. Later, they will be harvested and used for cooking programs in recreation therapy. “We grow everything, from cucumbers, to peppers and herbs!” says Naomi. This eliminates the need for vegetables to be transported or purchased for certain programs and reduces packaging purchased that comes with most grocery store veggies.  It doesn’t get fresher that that!

Pub night has even gone green! Pub night is a weekly social event enjoyed by many West Park patients but the Recreation team couldn’t help but notice how many styrofoam and plastic cups are being generated at each event. So the team made the switch to eco stripe compostable cups and ordered a composting bin to dispose of all waste generated in an environmentally responsible way.

In addition to these great greening strategies, Recreation Therapy is constantly monitoring their craft supply inventory to eliminate unnecessary purchases and reduce waste. One craft allowed West Park patients to unleash their inner artist while painting. Their canvas? Empty wine bottles from pub night!

In another program patients designed succulent terrariums. These low-maintenance terrarium arrangements are now used as beautiful living centerpieces at other Recreation Therapy events.

But the greening doesn’t stop there… this last green craft is sure to melt your dog-goneheart!

Recreation Therapy participates in a community program they call ‘Helping Hands’ where patients craft materials or items that can be used by those in need within our community. Using only a recent donation of clean mix-matched colorful socks, several yards of scrap material and of course, a lot of love – the West Park Recreation therapy team and patients are making hundreds of 100% recycled puppy and dog toys for all of our four-legged friends in need at the Toronto Humane Society. What a treat!

Pictured below are Naomi Max’s dogs, Cashew and Bam Bam, happily testing the product prototypes!

Please join the Environmental Committee in acknowledging the West Park Healthcare Centre Recreation Therapy team in their continuous effort and dedication to support Sustainable Healthcare Operations every day!

Does your department or program make efforts to keep it green during operations? Let us know! Email Kendra.rainford@westpark.org to share your tips and tricks with the Centre!

2019 Environmental Fair & Eco Market

Kendra Rainford

On April 25th, The Environmental Committee was excited to present the 2nd Annual West Park Healthcare Centre Environmental Fair. The Eco Market featured local and environmentally sustainable vendors:

Cool Straw was on site selling savvy solutions for a sustainable home. Such items for sale included: reusable straws and bamboo dental and kitchen products. Starter kits were available at the fair for $20 to help eliminate over 1000 pieces of plastic/year in your household! 

Click here to view the Cool Straw website.

The Bee Shop was selling various honey products, including items such as raw honey, creamed honey, lip balms and honey comb. The Bee Shop has supported urban bee keeping in Toronto for over 16 years!

Click here to view The Bee Shop website.

Unboxed Market had set up a pop-up farm market and sold fresh and local produce. Unboxed Market is Toronto’s first ever zero waste grocery store. Shop fresh, local produce including: apples, oranges, potatoes, peppers and even reusable produce bags. 

Click here to view the Unboxed Market website.


PRIZES WON & E-WASTE RECYCLED! 

Informative sustainability-related stands were available to learn how wekeep it GREEN at West Park. You could receive tickets for every stand visited for a chance to win gift cards and green prizes!

Also, the fair was collecting electronic waste from home, including unwanted computers, laptop, printers and cellphones, to be recycled with the ERA. All those who donated e-waste were entered into a draw for a chance to win a prize!

We hope to see you at our next annual Environmental Fair – more info and dates to come!