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Recycling Champion: Miranda Doherty

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Meet Miranda Doherty, an occupational therapist at the provincial ADHD clinic located at BC Children’s Hospital.

Miranda has been with PHSA as an occupational therapist for the past five years and with the ADHD clinic for two years. She was chosen by her colleagues to take on the role of Recycling Champion in her department. Find out why.

Q. What is your story with recycling?

“I was asked to take on the role of Recycling Champion in the outpatient psychiatry department. I was nominated because I think people saw me being environmentally responsible in the workplace.

“At home, we use cloth napkins, so I bring my own cloth napkins to work with me. When I use a paper towel to dry my hands, I put it in a zip-lock bag and compost it when I get home. I just made it a habit for myself – instead of putting it the garbage, I put it in a bag in my office.”

Q. Have you been recycling for a while?

“Since 2000. We lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where green bin compost collection was already a part of the city’s weekly collections and waste management. Compost and recyclables were collected weekly. Garbage was collected every second week. The structure was in place to ensure that recycling and composting was a success.

“When we moved back to B.C. in 2008, I was surprised that there were no green bins for composting. This has only recently been put in place in Delta. Delta now has a composting program, as do many other cities and municipalities. Vancouver now has compost bins (for food scraps and yard waste), and here is a link to a City of Vancouver Resource that I found useful, which has a list of acceptable/non-acceptable items for recycling.

“Once you start thinking about things like recycling or composting, it starts a different way of looking at things. When the city you live in sets the standard for managing its waste, it makes a statement about how important it is for everyone.

“At home, we produce very little garbage by being strict with contaminants and selective about what we buy at the store; we try to limit buying products which are over-packaged, to reduce our recycling and waste. We try to reuse things that we can before they go into the recycling bins.

“I believe that we should think of responsibility past our own individual households. What goes to the landfill is still ours, but we have passed it on to someone else. The things I “throw away” are still my responsibility – I just remember to be responsible for thinking twice about what I put there.”

Q. How do you share your passion and knowledge with others?

“My perspective is that people should be proud of what they can do and not compare themselves to other people. We can compare ourselves with our own behaviours and do as much as we can. We can all choose one thing to do better or change, such as:

  • Take the bus once a week, instead of the car.
  • Bring a cloth napkin to work.
  • Use a travel mug.
  • Walk or bike.
  • Line-dry your clothes.
  • Use real dishes instead of disposable ones.
  • Use food containers, instead of plastic food wrap.

“​I would love to hear what actions and habits other people have in terms of living a little lighter.”

Q. Tell us about your role as the Recycling Champion in your department.

“There are 40-50 staff in the outpatient psychiatry department at BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services. I share information through sending emails, posting signs and presenting information at our outpatient psychiatry meetings.

“For a while, I was doing a quiz, which I would roll out over several weeks. It was pretty simple — just three questions and answers. It started because I noticed contaminant items in the recycling bins, and I saw an opportunity for more information sharing. A quiz with prizes felt like a good way to do it.”

Q. A recycling quiz?

“Yes! For extra incentive, I had prizes that linked to that weeks quiz. I asked, “Where do you dispose of paper napkins?” and then presented a pair of cloth napkins as the prize, which was connected with that question. I bought reusable water tumblers and portable coffee mugs as the prizes for questions about water bottles and one-use coffee cups. After each quiz, I would choose a correct response, and the prize presented would offer a solution to help reduce waste.”

Q. Has your quiz helped with people’s knowledge of where to recycle?

“Yes, I think it has helped in our department, but even more memorable was having a hands-on demonstration. If we can keep it interesting, then people are going to be more engaged.

“A little while ago, I presented the recycling information at one of the staff meetings. As a way to demonstrate, I grabbed one of the bins and a team member, and we sorted through what was in the bins. We put on gloves and went through the bins in front of all the other staff. It was a platform to open up a discussion and ask questions/find answers about the recycling program. Recycling shouldn’t just be something we talk about, it is something we do. So, having a hands-on activity helped people to remember to do it. Having the recycling program at our site, with the labeled bins around, has been really good — definitely a step in the right direction.”