As you reach for the bottle of medication to help make you feel better faster, you realize it is expired. What to do? Did you know that expired medication — both over-the-counter and prescription — should be returned to your pharmacy or brought to the Household Hazardous Waste Depot for proper disposal? Used facial tissues go in the GreenCart.
If you are unfortunate enough to have to visit a hospital due to your illness, many health care facilities are doing their part to minimize their environmental impacts.
In 2003, the Toronto and Region Conservation launched a Greening Health Care program. This program focuses on maximizing energy savings as well as improvements in environmental performance.
Halton Healthcare Services (Milton District Hospital, Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital and Georgetown Hospital) are part of the Greening Health Care program. In 2010, Halton Health Care Services received an honourable mention for individual leadership in green health care.
Also in 2010, the Recycling Council of Ontario recognized all three hospitals of the Halton Healthcare Services with Ontario Waste Minimization Awards for their commitment to waste reduction and recycling.
At each of the three Halton Healthcare Services hospitals, Green Teams help coordinate various environmental programs. The individuals that make up the teams are volunteers within the hospitals. The Green Team hosts a number of events to educate and energize staff to think differently about their waste and what they can do to minimize impacts on the environment. Most of the funding for these programs is generated from public electronic waste drop-off events hosted by the hospitals and any other electronic waste collected throughout the year for recycling.
Another thing the hospitals are doing to reduce waste going to landfill is to find ways to reuse or repurpose healthcare items. In many instances, useable equipment and sterile dressings, surgical instruments, crutches, walkers, etc., so this equipment is donated to developing countries through a partnership with Canadian Food for Children. Old beds are also donated to developing countries, but there are challenges with finding funding to ship the beds.
The new Oakville Hospital currently being constructed at Third Line and Dundas Street in Oakville is built on a green field. This could mean that the project could be very environmentally disruptive. However, this is not the case. The design of the hospital was designed with substantial environmental considerations. This means that principles found in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) guidelines were used to achieve a LEED silver certification. Considerations has been given to site selection, water efficiency and storm water management, energy consumption reduction, materials and resources as well as indoor and outdoor environmental quality. Once the project is completed it will complement the surrounding environment and be a positive healing place for patients.
Hospitals and other healthcare centres can help keep people healthy. But they also have the ability to make the planet healthy through effective environmental programs including waste diversion and minimization.