Sharing knowledge with humour and passion to reduce healthcare facility waste—employees get involved with the UNH Talkin’ Trash blogging team

CRS    February 28, 2015

talkin' trash image

Organisation name: Talkin’ Trash with UHN

Industry: Healthcare

Name of contact if available:

Lisa Vanlint, Energy Steward, University Health Network (UHN) and Talkin’ Trash blog moderator

About the University Health Network Talkin’ Trash initiative:

The University Health Network is a collaborative of The Toronto General Hospital, The Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, The Toronto Western Hospital and The Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. With 1227 beds and 110354 emergency visits in 2013-14, the combined environmental impact of operational practices for UHN facilities  is significant. Subsequently, efforts to reduce energy use and waste, to find greener transportation and cleaning alternatives, to integrate environmentally-beneficial building practices, and to lower the environmental impact of food services  have the potential to make a huge difference. An additional benefit is the financial payoff– nearly one million dollars in 2013 and potentially two-and-a-half million for the coming year.

How is social media used by the UHN Talkin’ Trash team to accelerate the “greening” of healthcare:

According to Lisa Vanlint,  “We use Social Media Sites to broadcast, amplify and echo our green stories so they may be repeated. They are also great warehouses of information for our team to reference on the fly. The goal of communication is not an end to itself, but to start the conversation that leads to engagement and action. By hosting outward facing sites we engage our core UHN community as well as a global one.”  Lisa goes on to say that the UHN Energy and Environment “communication strategy has relied heavily on Community Based Social Marketing, and social media is a natural extension of that. By participating in Social Media, we adapt our communication methodology to best match the changing ways that individuals access and play with information.”

At UHN, greening efforts have won the attention of colleagues and earned awards. Social media tools engage employees and allow them work to achieve organizational goals to bring about process, behavioural, and technical changes all at the same time. Staff at UHN make use of You Tube, a regularly-maintained blog, a twitter feed, and a facebook account to share information, research studies, examples of success, internal initiatives, celebrations and related tidbits of information.


Employees can join the Green Team

Through membership in the UHN Green Team, employees can incorporate environmentally responsible practices and make sustainable suggestions based upon day-to-day experiences. A nurse explains in the above video how she created a “wall of waste” to demonstrate the cost of individual supplies and to encourage waste reduction.

Green Team members share successes and new ideas through social media channels such as You Tube, twitter, or the Talkin’ Trash blog.


TLC and the Golden Light Switch Award

UHN staff created a TLC energy management framework to encourage employees to turn off lights and computers. Departments and individual employees get involved in the TLC initiative and can even earn awards such as the Golden Light Switch , the #WasteFreeUHN contest, or external award programs–achievements that are celebrated over social media.

Conversation Cafes

Social media posts act as conversation starters. As employees continue to interact over social media, ideas like paper towel composting or recycling programs will come to life, evolve, and expand. To further the conversation off-line, UNH has established Conversation Cafes to bring employees together to stimulate new ideas. As Ed Rubenstein said in a Talkin’ Trash blog “To do nothing is to accept, and to accept is to support (and it’s easy being green).”

Benefits of green healthcare practices

Not only do efforts to green healthcare practices act to prevent avoidable harm to human health, they also produce substantial financial savings. According to Kathy Gerwig, author of Greening Health Care: How Hospitals Can Heal the Planet, “…if the health care industry conserved energy, reduced waste, and more efficiently purchased operating supplies, it could save more than $15 billion over 10 years”.

Web references:

Greening at UHN

Talkin’ Trash with UHN

UHN You Tube channel

Talkin’ Trash twitter

Talkin’ Trash facebook

Greening Health Care: How Hospitals Can Heal the Planet

Healthcare Without Harm

Lessons for others:

-Identify a mission (in this case “Patient and Planet Centered Care”) for a campaign and it will take on a life of its own as employees get involved.

-Create fun events such as contests and recognition opportunities.

-Encourage employees to determine how campaign objectives can be met based upon individual day-to-day experiences.

Submitted By: Aileen MacMillan, SMBP Student, University of Waterloo

If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Programme Director, Social Media for Business Performance