Take a deep breath… It’s Clean Air Day!

Clara Phillips, June 3, 2020

Did you know it’s Canadian Environment Week? Canadian Environment Week, established in 1971, is celebrated every year during the week of June 5 to coincide with UN World Environment Day, and this year it also includes Clean Air Day Canada (today!). Take this week to appreciate our beautiful country, and to learn more about our unique and diverse habitats. But first, what is Clean Air Day?

About Clean Air Day

Good air is vital to good health. In 1999, Canada declared Clean Air Day an annual celebration as part of the federal government’s commitment to prioritizing clean air for the physical, social  and economic well-being of all Canadians and their environment.

Environment Canada states that air pollution is one of the most significant environmental challenges that affects public health, yet is also one of the most avoidable causes of death and disease. During this concerning time of COVID-19, the importance of clean air has an even greater influence. Exposure to air pollution increases susceptibility to respiratory viral infections and pneumonia, suggesting that people exposed to higher levels of air pollution may be at greater risk of becoming ill with COVID-19.

How West Park is Taking Action

In the healthcare field, facilities are now challenged by environmental interference as a result of rising temperatures, humidity advisories and poor air quality. West Park, as a leading healthcare facility with a tenacious focus specializing in respiratory rehabilitation, has recognized how the detrimental effects on air quality predisposes our vulnerable patient population to additional injury or illnesses.

Therefore, West Park has established additional precautions and corresponding procedures to ensure the respiratory safety and well-being of staff, physicians, volunteers, students, and patients by operating in accordance with the Government of Canada Air Quality Health Index report. Each year, West Park also voluntarily completes the Green Hospital Scorecard to help us improve our pollution prevention, as well as other climate factors such as energy and water conservation, waste management and recycling, and corporate commitment. Click here to read more about how we are tackling climate resiliency.

As West Park is currently undergoing the largest redevelopment in its history with the construction of a new six-story hospital, we are continuing to uphold our roots of integrating nature into therapy. The design of the new hospital features bringing elements of nature indoors and extending the therapeutic environment to the outdoors. With trails dispersed throughout the 10,000 square feet of outdoor space, respiratory patients, in particular, can use these trails to improve lung capacity in an environment supported with clean, fresh air supplied by surrounding trees. In fact, for every tree removed during construction, three new trees will be planted in their place. Read the full article about West Park’s campus development, “Nature is Nurture”, in the Canadian Healthcare Facilities Winter 2018/2019 issue here, on page 18.

What You Can Do

Wondering what you can do to help reduce your impact on air pollution? Here is a list put together by Air Quality Ontario:

  • Reduce your car use: walk, cycle or take public transit. Leave your car at home, if possible, or be efficient by doing all your errands at once. Hold a teleconference (something we’ve become accustom to during COVID-19) instead of travelling to meetings.
  • Drive clean: try carpooling and join the commuter challenge. Keep your car well maintained to ensure it runs its best, which will help limit its pollutants. If it’s in your means, purchase an electric or hybrid vehicle.
  • Turn off the lights: generating electricity contributes to smog, so remember to turn off the lights whenever you don’t need them!
  • Reduce hydro usage: air conditioning uses up energy which emits pollutants that contribute to smog. Set your air conditioning temperature a few degrees higher to help improve air quality.
  • Use air-friendly products: avoid using aerosol sprays and cleaners, oil-based paints and other chemical products that contribute to poor air quality indoors and outdoors. Use latex and water-based paints, and try a recipe for a DIY chemical-free cleaner.
  • Limit use of small engine tools: small gasoline engines in mowers, chain saws and leaf blowers emit high levels of pollutants that cause smog. Did you know that gasoline-powered lawn mower pollutes 3-4 times as much per hour as your car? Use electric-powered or, even better, manual tools which don’t produce any pollution. Use a push lawn mower to burn calories and protect the atmosphere, and don’t blow your leaves – rake them!

To learn more about the importance of clean air at home and how to protect yourself against air pollution, check out these online resources.

Stay Tuned

This year, the UN’s theme for World Environment Day is Biodiversity. Stay tuned for our upcoming post this Friday, June 5, to shine a light on this special day, and what it means for Canada.


Happy Earth Day!

Clara Phillips, April 22, 2020

Most of our efforts have been devoted to frontline efforts to care for our patients during the current COVID-19 pandemic. There are few, if any, silver linings to a pandemic, but one has been the impressive resiliency, strength and positivity shown by our staff and other essential workers around the world to get through this time of uncertainty.

Even during these busy times, West Park has always proudly acknowledged the inherent connection of a healthy environment to the health of people, and continuously look for ways to decrease our carbon footprint. We’d like you to join us this Earth Day to celebrate our planet and West Park’s environmental sustainability efforts. From recycling to reducing energy consumption, we’ve now also utilized technology to allow staff who can work from home, to do so effectively, thus not only limiting the risk of viral transmission, but also ensuing a  reduction of emissions from commuting, something that has benefitted the environment on a global scale.

We wish nothing more that you stay safe and healthy during these unprecedented times. Read on for some tips to help you stay green while keeping within our health officials’ pandemic safety guidelines.


With recommendations to go out less frequently, or self-isolation requirements, you may have to be more creative with the food in your kitchen and your “pandemic pantry”. This gives us the opportunity to practice reducing food waste – a significant way to lower your carbon footprint (and your grocery bill!). The best way to reduce food waste is to cook with ingredients you already have at home. Look here for a list of simple and delicious meals you can make using common staple ingredients, and try this challenge:

Prepare a menu for the week with your family using as many close-to-expiring ingredients as you can. Get in the habit of rotating older food to the front of your fridge so you can see what you should be using first (this goes for your freezer and pantry as well!).


If you’re now spending significantly more time at home, make it a point to step away from any screens and streaming. Turn off the television, and do an electricity-free activity: read, work on a puzzle or a craft with your family, or practice an instrument.

Clean out your closet: mend, repurpose or donate old items instead of tossing them in the trash. Check with your local donation centre if they are currently accepting donations, and remember to practice physical distancing measures if you do go out to donate items.

Learn how to plant your garden with native species to protect our natural habitats, grow a small herb or vegetable garden, and click here to see how to grow ingredients on an apartment balcony.Read this article for more creative tips.


Join the Canadian Club Toronto and Thomas Mulcair, chairman of the board of directors at Earth Day Canada, through this virtual event on April 22!

Become an Earth Day digital volunteer, join a digital activity, or find a digital event near you.

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

February 27: Celebrating International Polar Bear Day 2020

Organized by Polar Bears International, International Polar Bear Day is celebrated on February 27, drawing attention to the challenges that polar bears face in a warming Arctic.

Polar bears are magnificent creatures, making it all that much more devastating when we see images of horrifically thin bears stranded on melting ice caps. This rapid loss of sea ice from climate warming triggered by human activity is the single biggest threat to polar bears. Polar bears rely on sea ice to travel, find mates and hunt seals, and less time on ice leads to weight loss and physical deterioration. Therefore, slowing (or, ideally, stopping) climate warming is critical to minimizing dramatic declines in polar bear numbers. It has been shown that one of the most effective ways to slow global warming is to reduce the use of fossil fuels and shift to renewables for our energy needs. Not only will this be good for the polar bears, but it will also help lessen the associated detrimental impact to human health.

International Polar Bear Day aims to enlighten people around the world to evaluate their impact on the environment, take steps to reduce their carbon output, and exercise voting rights to elect leaders who support a rapid transition from fossil fuels to renewables.

Want to know what YOU can do TODAY to help save the polar bears? Read this, donate here, adopt a bear, or join a challenge, such as the Thermostat Challenge, the Power Down Challenge, the No Idling Challenge, or the Pedal for Polar Bears Challenge!

West Park also takes this day to reflect on the importance of our commitment to a healthy environment. We continually strive to minimize our overall ecological impact and are resilient to the emerging challenges of climate change. One of our major commitments to reduce energy and resources was recently awarded with the Green Hospital of the Year (non-acute) by the Canadian Coalition for Green Health Care, and we were proudly able to report our 3rd consecutive year of below average energy-use intensity. By improving our efforts to promote and develop new environmental programs in 2020, we are aiming to minimize our carbon footprint even further and defend our title as Green Hospital of the Year.

Power to the plants! Embracing the International Year of Plant Health

Clara Phillips, January 30, 2020

The United Nations General Assembly has named 2020 the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH). Plant health has been defined by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations as “the discipline that uses a range of measures to control and prevent pests, weeds and disease causing organisms to spread into new areas, especially through human interaction such as international trade.”

When we think of plants and the environment, we typically tend to think of plant-based diets, tree-planting and protecting rainforests. But, benefits go much further than this. What gets forgotten is the fact that protecting plant health can help end hunger, reduce poverty, protect biodiversity and boost economic development.

As the source of all life on Earth, we must do more to protect plants from pests and diseases. As a society we must take action to protect the environment. Climate change is no longer a threat of which the effects are distant and intangible to us. The last time you drove a car, threw a plastic wrapper in the garbage, or used a non-environmentally friendly chemical cleaner at home, the world didn’t come crumbling around you, did it? However, we are starting to feel these effects in many parts of the world. Devastating wildfires, rising ocean levels, melting ice caps, droughts and hurricanes. Without drastic action, these disastrous events will only increase in frequency and intensity.

How can we as a society do more to protect plants from pests and diseases? People generally have a lack of knowledge of the importance of plant health; thus, one of the main goals of the IYPH campaign is to inspire people to learn more about plant health and take concrete action. The FAO estimates that agricultural production must rise about 60% by 2050 to feed the world’s growing population, and with plant pests responsible for killing up to 40% of food crops globally, not to mention the reduced quantity and diminished nutrients of plants from climate change, it is critical, now more than ever, to educate and act on protecting plant health.

A blog post about plant health cannot go without recognizing the amount of tree removal across West Park’s campus for construction of the new hospital. The sacrifice of the campus’ trees was commemorated in September 2018 with an unforgettable Tree and Land Blessing Ceremony presided by First Nations Elder Shannon Thunderbird, who led a traditional aboriginal drumming ritual to honour the trees and land.

For every tree taken down during construction, West Park will plant three in its place. Our tree count will almost double with more than 1,200 trees on campus, offering comfort and therapeutic benefits and contributing to a healthy ecosystem.

Want to get involved or learn more about protecting plant health in your community? Join the IYPH 2020 photo contest, or check out the resources below:

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. 

Pumpkin Pick-Up Day is Here

Mark Palmer, October 10, 2019

Pumpkin Spice season was alive at West Park Healthcare Centre, and the Foundation was certainly Farm Market ready!

Jay Vagh, Environmental Committee Champion with the massive Centre delivery.

You’re thinking ORANGE – but Keep it GREEN:

Pumpkins make a great addition to Thanksgiving and Halloween décor and the best part is – they are 100% compostable! When the Fall season comes around, remember – pumpkins can be collected curbside with your green bin – but there are also many other ways you can reuse and recycle the festive fruit in your yard.

  1. Add it to Your Own Backyard Compost Pile: Pumpkins are primarily composed of water. Because of this, they decompose quickly and make a great addition to any backyard compost pile.
  2. Make a Snack-O-Lantern: Feeling creative? Use your old pumpkin as a pumpkin feeder for birds and other small wildlife in your yard by filling your carved pumpkin with seeds. NOTE: Make sure the pumpkin is free of mold and only place a few seeds as the pumpkin will naturally decompose quickly.
  3. Harvest the Seeds for Wildlife to Enjoy: Remove the seeds from your pumpkin before composting and allow to dry – do not add seasoning. Place the seeds with existing bird feed in your yard or place in a shallow dish for birds to enjoy!

Interested in more information on recycling your pumpkins into your yard?

Click here for additional information from the National Wildlife Federation!

Life is Better at the Lake…

Kendra Rainford, September 16, 2019

Hats off to our Environmental Committee as they helped clean up Sunnyside Beach on Saturday, September 14, 2019. The external event facilitated by Parley for the Oceans, is one of the 50 beach clean-ups happening coast to coast throughout the summer. Alongside dozens of other community members, a group from our very own Environmental Committee spent the morning retrieving everything from beads of Styrofoam scattered in the sand, to plastic straws and bottle caps lodged in driftwood. The plastic retrieved from the now-much-cleaner shoreline has been given a second chance to be upcycled and (more importantly) kept out of our beautiful Lake Ontario.

Kudos to West Park Environmental Committee members Clara Phillips, Jay Vagh and John Richmond for their participation. Thank you for making a difference!

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!

Help West Park Eliminate Plastic Water Bottles

Mark Palmer, July 29, 2019

View this story and more at westpark.org.

Did you know?

Less than 11% of plastic in Canada is recycled.

Approximately 90% of all plastic used in Canada finds its way to landfills, green spaces, communities and water posing threat to the environment. 

The Environmental Committee is currently reviewing all plastic waste being generated in the Centre and creating a plan of action to reduce, reuse and recycle anywhere possible! Stay tuned for more updates on exciting environmental projects taking place!

Helping to Eliminate Plastic!

West Park Healthcare Centre employees, physicians and volunteers are helping eliminate single-use plastics by committing to the use a reusable water bottle. On July 25 all were encouraged to bring their own reusable water bottles to the  Environmental Committee display outside the Cafeteria to fill their reusable water bottle with free refreashments. As well, Cool straw was on location selling reusable stainless steel cups, water bottles and other eco-products to help eliminate single-use plastics.


References:

Environmental Defence Canada. Canada’s Plastic Problem. https://environmentaldefence.ca/canadas-plastic-pollution-problem/. 2019

Alliance for the Great Lakes. 5 Ways Plastic Pollutions is Different in the Great Lakes. https://greatlakes.org/2018/06/5-ways-plastic-pollution-is-different-in-the-great-lakes/.  2019

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!