Greening St. Michael's Hospital Waste Management System and the University of Toronto: Research projects conducted by senior undergraduates in ENV420Y and ENV421H

Friday, September 5, 2008 3:16:00 AM

Students News


ENV 421H Environmental Literacy Group members Ana Tinta, Leya Barry-Zachary, Addie North, Alan Cooper   ENV 421H Green Roof Group members Gustavo Oliveira, Raluca Hlevca, Ann Marie Jesupillai, Zhanna Marushchak ENV 421H Paper Procurement Group members Emmanuel Mabe, Nora Saks, Youri Lee, Allison Chiu
Photos: ENV 421H students present their group research projects on Greening the University of Toronto at a public poster session. (Photos courtesy of Emma Thacker.) 
TOP LEFT: Environmental Literacy Group members Ana Tinta, Leya Barry-Zachary, Addie North, Alan Cooper (not shown: Emma Saltmarche).
TOP RIGHT: Green Roof Group members Gustavo Oliveira, Raluca Hlevca, Ann Marie Jesupillai, Zhanna Marushchak.
BOTTOM:Paper Procurement Group members Emmanuel Mabe, Nora Saks, Youri Lee, Allison Chiu.


GREENING ST. MICHAEL'S HOSPITAL WASTE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM

ENV420Y Environmental Research
Instructors: Karen Ing, Doug Macdonald, Senior Lecturers, Centre for Environment

By Doug Macdonald

In 2007-08, ENV420Y students carried out two coordinated research projects intended to contribute to the St. Michael's Hospital Greening Initiative: 1) a world-wide project to identify and study leading health-care facility waste management practices; and 2) a pilot project done on two floors of the St. Michael's Health Centre in Toronto, to test staff education and physical modifications as a means of increasing solid waste diversion.

The first project examined solid, hazardous and biomedical waste streams, and policies for hospital purchasing and staff education. Thirty-seven hospitals in North America and Europe were reviewed based on website documents. Detailed information was obtained from 11 hospitals through surveys and semi-structured interviews. It was found that the essential first step for St. Michael's is to give priority to environmental protection amongst its strategic objectives. Secondly, staff commitment and involvement, at all levels, is essential. Other recommendations include waste management practices to reduce and recycle solid waste and improve segregation of biomedical wastes.

Staff involvement and training were also central elements in the second research effort. A base-line audit was done of solid waste generated on two floors of the Health Centre. Staff were invited to a waste reduction training seminar and changes were made to signage and placement of recycling bins. A second audit found a decline in the average waste generated per person over a three-day period. Other data on reduction of recyclable material in disposal waste also indicated the efficacy of education and physical methods tested.

Findings and analyses were presented to St. Michael's officials in a verbal presentation and written report. Students participating in the research were: Abdifatah Abdi, Jason Aslandis, Suganya Balachandran, Amina Lang-Bismillah, Earlyn Etienne, Lawrie Gluck, Marcie Lariviere and Alexandra Palazzolo.

Doug Macdonald is a Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Environment and Co-Instructor of ENV 420Y and ENV 421H. Email: douglas.macdonald@utoronto.ca


GREENING THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO

ENV421H Environmental Research
Instructors: Karen Ing, Doug Macdonald, Senior Lecturers, Centre for Environment

By Ana Tinta

In their book Planet U: Sustaining the World, Reinventing the University (2006, New Society Publishers), Michael M'Gonigle and Justine Starke advocate the reinvention of the university as a sustainability leader while challenging its members to take action, not only in their own energy use and waste management, but in their teaching, research, land development and community relations. Using this as inspiration in the ENV 421H course in 2007-08, students undertook four specific projects themed around "Greening the University of Toronto": 1) improving water practices at Sidney Smith Hall, 2) installation of green roofs, 3) sustainable paper procurement, and 4) encouraging environmental literacy.

A variety of methodologies were used by the students to acquire data, namely observations of bathroom usage, interviews with key personnel, reviews of primary documents, in person questionnaires, case study analyses, an online survey and focus group sessions.

It was found that although U of T has started to move toward the "Planet U" vision, it still lags behind the leading North American universities. Further, students identified that the university is currently facing two main barriers: the need to spend money on sustainability initiatives during a time of fiscal restraint and the need to codify the vision in policy and organization. Selected recommendations for U of T include:
1) in Sidney Smith Hall, non-porous asphalt should be replaced with permeable material and the replacement of high maintenance water fixtures should be prioritised;
2) a green roof should be installed on the Athletic Centre;
3) sustainability should be formally adopted as a university objective and be put into the purchasing policy; the 1994 Environmental Policy should also be updated to incorporate sustainability;
4) environmental issues should be integrated into the arts and science curriculum;
5) the university should accept that it may cost more to be sustainable; and
6) the challenge of its decentralized structure should be addressed.

For more information, please contact Karen Ing, karen.ing@utoronto.ca, or Doug Macdonald, douglas.macdonald@utoronto.ca.

Ana Tinta is a recent Honours B.Sc. graduate in the Centre for Environment's Environment and Health specialist program, with minors in Geography and Environmental Policy and Practice.