West Park takes home top prize from Canadian Coalition of Green Health Care

Samantha Pender, March 4, 2021

With West Park well on its way to becoming a new integrated campus of care, continuing to minimize the environmental impact in the future has been one of the top priorities. And The Canadian Coalition for Green Health Care has taken notice.

At the end of 2020, West Park’s sustainability efforts were recognized with one prestigious award and two honourable mentions. The Centre won the Green Leadership award for the Year of 2019, and received honourable mentions in the Pollution Prevention category and the Green Hospital of the Year category.

The Green Hospital Scorecard is a comprehensive health care benchmarking tool that measures energy and water conservation, waste management and recycling, corporate commitment, and pollution prevention. Participating hospitals report on their environmental and sustainability initiatives through an online questionnaire and the resulting Scorecard summarizes their environmental performance relative to their peers. 

Kendra Rainford, Operational Readiness Coordinator for Campus Development and Sustainability Coordinator, has been leading West Park’s sustainability efforts as chair of the Environmental Sustainability Committee for four years, and is looking forward to supporting the planning of an environmentally sustainable future at the Centre.

“It’s really great to have our sustainability efforts for West Park recognized by The Canadian Coalition for Green Health Care, and I’m really proud of the work our committee has accomplished so far,” Rainford says. “But we have big plans going forward, and I’m hoping these aren’t the last of our awards.”

This is West Park’s second consecutive year taking home a top award, and third award from The Canadian Coalition for Green Health Care overall. West Park has a long-standing history of environmental awards that can be found here: https://www.westpark.org/AboutUs/AwardsandHonours.

While the work accomplished by the Environmental Sustainability Committee so far has captured the attention of many, the committee is forging onward to make a greener and brighter future for West Park’s new hospital, honouring West Park’s longstanding green legacy and commitment to environmentally sustainable healthcare operations.

West Park’s award was presented at the Coalition’s virtual awards ceremony in December 2020 by Executive Director Neil Ritchie.

The Canadian Coalition for Green Health Care is recognized as Canada’s premier, integrated green resource network driving leadership in environmentally-sustainable health care practices and a catalyst for environmental change by encouraging the adoption of multiple environmental principles and practices to reduce the Canadian health care sector’s ecological impact while protecting human health.

“The healthcare industry has a huge environmental footprint, and we really want West Park to be at the forefront of trying to reduce that,” Rainford explains. “It’s incredibly important to us that our future operations and practices align with our new state-of-the-art, energy efficient infrastructure in the new hospital.”

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!

The COVID-19 ‘Green’ Lining

Kendra Rainford, August 27, 2020

How the Shift to Virtual Care has Impacted the Environment

As a direct result of the ongoing Pandemic, healthcare organizations (among other industries) have been forced to rapidly and drastically shift the way that they communicate with their stakeholders. While this challenging and unprecedented response has been a demanding task for all who are tirelessly responding, perhaps a source of motivation has been the silver (or green) lining stemming from the positive environmental impacts associated with delivering services virtually.

With so many people staying home, there has been a downward plunge in carbon emissions associated with a significant reduction in transportation. At West Park, many patient care delivery and operational activities were quickly shifted to a virtual platform to ensure continuation of services and excellent care, thus reducing transportation to and from the Centre.

Liz Udler, a physiotherapist in West Park Healthcare Centre’s Rehab Plus describes her experience using virtual care during the COVID-19 Pandemic: “It is reassuring to know that offering virtual care to patients is an evidence based way to achieve similar rehabilitation outcomes when compared to face-to-face appointments” said Liz.  “In the outpatient department, my colleagues and I tried to accommodate our patients by offering various ways to interact, including; phone, email, and video. My patients have reported high levels of satisfaction and it has been an interesting learning opportunity to adapt our practice in a virtual environment”, Liz concludes.

The University of Toronto (U of T) has recently implemented a Centre for Sustainable Health Systems, of which West Park’s President and CEO, Anne-Marie Malek, is a member of stewardship. The U of T Centre for Sustainable Health Systems recently partnered with Canada Health Infoway to host a virtual seminar to showcase the environmental benefits associated with virtual care. During this session, the Centre for Sustainable Health Systems demonstrates that virtual care is carbon cost effective if there is a need for a patient to travel at least 3.6 km for a 1 hour appointment. They also describe the positive feedback loop connected to virtual care. Reduced carbon emissions results in mitigation of climate change associated impacts, which is demonstrated in the included graphic.

While the virtual response required for COVID-19 has been paramount, it has illustrated opportunities for alternative and innovative methods of care that have positive environmental benefits. These lessons learned could help inform the future of virtual care operations at West Park Healthcare Centre and within the Canadian healthcare system overall.

The Environmental Committee is Keeping It Green – Virtually!

The Environmental Sustainability Committee has reconvened using a virtual platform and is diligently monitoring the environmental impacts associated with the response to the COVID-19 Pandemic at the Centre. Members are actively evaluating opportunities to improve the Centre’s response to COVID-19 by identifying opportunities to continuously Reduce, Reuse & Recycle where safe and appropriate to do so.

Stay tuned for exciting initiatives underway and for updates on how you can help West Park ‘Keep It Green’ during these unusual times.

Happy World Environment Day!

Clara Phillips, June 5, 2020

World Environment Day was established by the United Nations in 1974, and is celebrated every year on June 5 to engage governments, business, celebrities and citizens to focus their efforts on environmental issues. The theme for 2020 is Biodiversity. The interdependence of humans and the ecosystems and species in which we coexist is essential to our existence. Climate change is threatening biodiversity globally, and its fragility is clearly seen with recent events such as uncontrollable wildfires, locust infestations across East Africa, clear-cutting for palm oil production, and collection of animals for wildlife markets. Experts believe this type of destruction of natural habitats increases the likelihood of infectious diseases like COVID-19. By distressing wildlife, reducing genetic diversity within animal and plant populations, and causing climate change, humans have created ideal conditions for the spread of viruses. To truly achieve a healthy planet and restore biodiversity, we must first understand the network of living systems and appreciate that it can only work sustainably if it functions coherently a whole.

Canada’s Biodiversity

The second-largest nation in the world, and bordered by three oceans, Canada’s abundant space and beauty makes this country unique. While we are a nation of rich biodiversity, we depend on it for survival, and thus we are responsible for the sustainable use of our biological resources. The Canadian Nature Survey, conducted in 2012, found that almost 70% of Canadian adults choose to spend time outdoors in order to experience nature, and that 13% of Canadian adults volunteered in nature conservation away from their home during an average of 31 days per year. Awareness of the terms “species at risk”, “biodiversity”, and “ecosystem services” was also consistently high in every province and territory. While it seems that Canadians may, in general, appreciate and take the time to enjoy their country’s outdoors, there is still more we can do, and must do, to protect our biodiversity.

Canada’s 6th National Report to the Convention on Biological Diversity highlights our conservation plans for biodiversity by protecting fragile areas. In 2018, Canada reported it was on track to meet its target of conserving 10% of coastal and marine areas by 2020. However, progress has been slower in areas of terrestrial land conservation, recovery of species at risk, ecosystem-based management of fisheries, and reducing pollution levels in Canadian waters. These will be continued areas of focus moving forward, as some of our ecosystems are showing signs of stress.

How to Get Involved

Biodiversity education begins with learning. Discover the names of trees, birds, insects and native plants in your area. Once you know a little more, get out and experience the joys of your diverse environment. However, please be cautious of health officials’ pandemic safety guidelines at this time, and if you are looking to visit a recently opened provincial or national park, be prepared before you go with these tips! There are also many ways to get involved without going out into your community: increase biodiversity in your backyard and in your home!

See how West Park is combating climate change with sustainable practices and how we’re leveraging the benefits of nature for therapy in our design of the new hospital coming in 2024.

Thank you for your commitment to the environment. Stay Safe, Flatten the Curve, and Keep It Green!

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!