Small changes can make an Earth Day impact

The College of Medicine is making both big, and small, steps towards helping our environment

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It’s not just the big, obvious, lifestyle changes that can make a difference in terms of creating a greener Saskatoon – like taking public transportation or bicycling – but the little things we take for granted can add up quickly.

And in the College of Medicine, the little things don’t escape the attention of Kayla Langer.

Langer, who works as the receptionist in the Dean’s Office, is also the College of Medicine’s Work Green representative, and as such is responsible for helping manage ongoing campaigns and keeping staff and faculty aware of the ways they can help.

“The main thing we’re doing to go green is to educate,” Langer explained. “Give (staff) easy tips of what they can do in the office or the labs. Things like not leaving devices plugged in – even a charger plugged in by itself is using energy – or using sleep settings for your computers, turning off monitors if you’re going for lunch. Even turning off your computer and lights at the end of the day.”

Langer was asked if she would be interested in taking on the role as Work Green representative when she joined the CoM in 2015, and it’s a role she’s taken to with enthusiasm. And one of the new programs she’s helping to get off the ground is believed to be a first for a Canadian medical school – a nitrile lab glove recycling program.

While still in the early stages, the change could have quite a large effect considering it’s estimated that 600,000 of these gloves are sent to the landfill every year from the U of S alone.

“The labs you work in requires you to wear gloves at all times, and every time you switch between work you’re changing out your gloves,” Langer continued. “If it has any sort of medical waste on it, it obviously can’t be recycled. But if it’s from a dry lab, or when they’re not working with chemicals, we’re encouraging researchers to recycle them – and we’re the first university in Canada to institute such a program.”

The Office of Sustainability is managing the pilot project, but for those faculty and staff who don’t work in the labs, Langer has a few tips that can help us to make a difference:

  • Plants can not only add to the aesthetics of your office, but they help to remove Co2 from the air, helping to reduce stress and stimulate productivity.
  • Carpooling, busing, walking, or biking to and from work can make a big difference – 20 pounds of carbon emissions a day actually for the average driver!
  • Packing a waste-free lunch can reduce the trash sent to landfills, and of course save you money
  • Bring a reusable mug or cup to enjoy your daily coffee/tea, or a water bottle to refill
  • Print a lot at work? Switch to double-sided printing to halve your paper usage
  • A US study in 2009 showed that nearly half of office employees didn’t turn their computers off at night, and that can be costly! Shutting off your computer saves energy, and in doing so save your office money

Commit to a change today, since it’s Earth Day, and maybe that change will become a habit that can make a longe-term difference.