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Teeming With Sustainability Ideas

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A New Environmental Stewardship Team at Providence Health Care Leads the Way in Workplace Sustainability

More and more, the healthcare industry is taking note of its role in climate change and expanding the notion of health to include the Earth’s natural systems on which individual and community wellbeing depend. That’s why Providence Health Care (PHC) established the Environmental Stewardship Team (ESTeam) as part of its larger mission to become a leader in sustainability in the BC public health sector.

The ESTeam, which got its start in mid-2022, consists of four working groups that focus on waste management, sustainable food practices, awareness through communication and education, and measurement and evaluation. The groups’ objectives are to identify projects and initiatives that will reduce carbon footprint in the workplace.

Any staff and medical staff can join. Members meet once a month and can participate in multiple working groups, with variable time commitments, or ad hoc by volunteering to support individual projects.  One of the main reasons Cardiology Technologist Karmen Wong joined the ESTeam was for the community.

I knew that I would meet a group of passionate individuals and be able to learn from them as we collaborate together,” she says. Similarly, Ramses Prado Mares, a Performance Improvement Consultant shares Karmen’s enthusiasm about the project: “As soon as I saw that there was a team aimed at decreasing the environmental impacts of health care, I felt compelled to join.”

The ESTeam currently has multiple projects underway, with waste being a key focus area. (In 2022, PHC dumped 1,618 metric tons of garbage into landfills–that’s equivalent to covering nine football fields with two inches of garbage!)

The ESTeamWaste Working Group is looking at ways to reduce the number of disposable gloves used in in-patient settings, starting with the Cardiac Surgical Intensive Care Unit, with the goal of expanding this initiative to the rest of the hospital.

Leyla Khosrovpour, an Emergency Department RN & ESTeam Member, sees more room for improvement:

I work in the ER and every day I see so many opportunities where we could just avoid using the extra IV bags, or the second dressing package, or the syringes…there are so many ways we can think about and reinforce reducing waste as individuals.”

Other exciting projects include advocating for a shift to reusable PPE and implementing recycling bins for masks, switching to 100% recycled paper to save over seven acres of forest per year, and moving away from Styrofoam cups in beverage and food settings.

“We are facing a climate crisis. We all have a responsibility to protect our planet for future generations,” notes Karmen. The efforts of PHC and the ESTeam’s advocacy and innovation show us that a better future is possible. The ESTeam is always open to new members, and expanding its reach, offering all PHC staff ways to get involved with changing their environment at work.