Cleaning product sales has Guelph St. Joseph’s team in the green

A few committed individuals, given the chance, can change their environment for the better. And like many green things, it can start small, take root and grow.

Or so the Green Team at. St. Joseph’s Health Centre Guelph, has found. The brainchild of Human Resources Assistant Jane Cabral, the group was founded in 2008 and has since initiated a variety of successful measures to get the Centre thinking and acting green.

“I’ve been interested in environmental issues since a representative from Green Peace came to speak at my high school back in 1990,” says Cabral. “It really made me think about the impact I have on the planet and what I can do to make it a good one.”

To get started she put an ad in St. Joseph’s internal newsletter to see who else was interested in trying out some green ideas. From that modest start the Green Team was formed.

“We meet at lunch time and use minimal resources,” says Cabral. “We have good support from management – they covered the cost of coffee and cake for our staff celebrations of Earth Day. They’re very good about supporting the Green Team and our efforts to improve the quality of life here at St. Joseph’s. It makes you feel like your ideas are appreciated and that what we do and think matters. Change doesn’t happen overnight and much of it is a matter of letting people know that many small changes can make a big difference.”

One of the first projects the group undertook was to make top-of-the-line, hospital-grade, green, cleaning products – a disinfectant, a glass cleaner, a bathroom cleaner and a carpet cleaner – available to staff. Thanks to the Centre’s bulk purchasing power, the products can be sold at reduced prices – $5 for the bottle and product, and $2 for a refill – prices that compare very favourably with brand name, non-green or green cleaners available through discount, retail chains.

Thanks to the work of Environmental Services Supervisor, Cindy Griffin, a distributor of green-certified, cleaning products, donated one-litre spray bottles and dispensers to the project. With product included, staff can purchase the cleaners for $5 and refill their bottles for $2. Green team member and Manager of Food and Nutrition Services, Leslie Carson, made space available in the cafeteria for staff to display the product and her staff handles the sales.

“Everyone wins,” says Griffin. “Staff can buy high-quality cleaning products at a great price. And they can be confident the products are truly green because they are environmentally-certified. At the same time, the Green Team makes a small profit that we use to help fund new projects here at St. Joseph’s.”

The group has an impressive portfolio of successful green projects accomplished already. They have sponsored the sale of stainless steel water bottles at reduced prices that staff can fill from the special drinking-water tap they had installed in the cafeteria. They promote energy-saving ideas and other tips in the Centre’s internal newsletter, maintain a bulletin board full of news and good ideas on living green, show films, and promote Earth Day. To raise awareness, they also sponsor a day each year in which all disposable products like paper cups, paper napkins and plastic utensils are removed from the cafeteria.

Team member Cabral is part of the Canadian Coalition of Green Health Care (CCGHC) – a national network of people working in health care who share her passion for finding green strategies that work. “We were able to arrange an energy audit of the facility last fall through our connections with the CCGHC and with the help of our Environmental Services team,” she says. “The audit would normally cost $26 000 but we were able to get it done for free because we participated in a pilot project that the Ontario Hospital Association was offering last year. The audit identified some great ideas for environmental projects for the future.”

Green team member Carson, in partnership with Wellington County’s Buy Local! Buy Fresh! Initiative, introduced the Garden Fresh Box Program. Each month staff and family members can purchase a box of in-season, locally-grown produce which is conveniently delivered right to St. Joseph’s. Participants in Guelph’s Meals on Wheels program can also participate, purchasing a bag of locally grown, fresh fruit each month at a very reasonable cost and have it delivered to their door along with their hot meal – food that is prepared in St. Joseph’s kitchen. Each year, Carson also hosts a lunch-and-learn session in the cafeteria with a local chef who shows interested staff how to cook delicious recipes using locally-produced food.

What’s next on the agenda? The Green Team’s current project is to find a way to help St. Joseph’s become Styrofoam-free, a conundrum since greener alternatives can be more expensive. But the team is not bothered by the challenge. “What I’ve learned is that we can all do amazing things by being creative and persistent,” says Cabral. “We just concentrate on doing what we can where we are.”