Getting to Green: Sustainable health care training

Canada’s first sustainable health care training workshop was successfully launched recently at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital thanks to funding support from Johnson & Johnson Medical Companies (JJMC) and the Canadian Coalition for Green Health Care which provided workshop development and delivery.

Getting to Green is the first workshop of its kind in Canada. It was designed for health care staff and suppliers that embrace sustainability and demonstrate, through goal-oriented programs, their commitment to achieve long-term results and savings for the health care system as well as the broader communities and eco-systems in which they reside.

With nearly two dozen participants, the workshop has been considered a tremendous success by organizers as confirmed by Coalition Director Linda Varangu. “We were extremely pleased with the turnout for the inaugural delivery of our new workshop. Participants brought with them highly varied backgrounds which made for some very spirited dialogue and shared learning opportunities. It brought together green health care champions from housekeeping and food service, engineering and nursing, emergency preparedness and the vendor community, all of whom share a common passion for sound environmental stewardship.”

“I would highly recommend this training workshop to all my colleagues,” says one participant. “The focus on health care impacts on the environment, with appropriate stakeholder concerns, made the content relevant and timely to the needs of our organization,” claims another. “Excellent pilot! I am leaving this workshop wanting more and eager to move forward. Wonderful ideas were provided and the links included in the presentation will likely generate more ideas to forge ahead with,” boasts a third.

Facilitated by Coalition Stewardship Council volunteer Aura Rose, principal of Healthwise Communications of Kelowna (BC), the workshop helped participants better understand the linkages between health and environment; the impact health care facilities have on our ecosystems, and created a vision for sustainable healthcare going forward.

More importantly, the workshop began to instil the knowledge and behaviours required to develop sustainable initiatives required at health care institutions across Canada if we are to move to a sustainable health delivery system.

Workshop curriculum included an introduction to the definition of sustainability, taking action, local healthy foods for healthcare, energy, waste management, and environmentally–preferred purchasing, delivered through facilitator and guest speaker presentations, discussions, and a hands-on waste auditing exercise.

“St Mikes was honoured to host the pilot of Getting to Green, the Canadian Coalition for Green Health Care’s inaugural Sustainable Health Care Training workshop, held in our new Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute,” says John King, St. Mike’s Executive VP. “It was a perfect opportunity for us to support the Coalition in fostering a greater understanding of not only the challenges but the growing opportunities open to those working to make health service delivery more sustainable. This also supports St. Mike’s in furthering our mission of innovation and education that improves lives and builds a more caring and thoughtful society.”

Catering was provided by St. Mike’s food service department personnel with special mention to Head Chef Jean Luc Touchard who has committed to including local food in patient menus as frequently as possible. Participants were treated to Ontario zucchini stuffed with Ontario mushrooms, and vegetable-stuffed mushroom caps, roasted Parisienne-style Ontario potatoes, and Ontario chicken sautéed with herbs, all of which drew accolades from many in attendance.

Kady Cowan, Coalition Chair and Energy Steward at University Health Network, says “There is no denying the inextricable link between our health, the delivery of health care, and the environment, and we are thrilled to be working with a company like Johnson and Johnson that shares our understanding of the many interconnected environmental issues faced by our colleagues in healthcare. The new workshops create opportunities to share resources with an increased number of green champions across Canada and to better equip them with the tools they need to improve the sustainability of their health care organizations.”

“This partnership will help us bring sustainable healthcare to the right audiences across Canada.  Individuals and institutions that have the imagination and capacity to make the process, technical and behaviour changes that will save money, increase safety and help protect the environment,” concludes Kady.

Teri Lawver, President of Johnson & Johnson Medical Companies explains, “We have a strong responsibility to the communities in which we live and work. The overall health of our communities is a critical component of improving the sustainability of Canadian healthcare. We are extending the principles behind the Johnson & Johnson Healthy Futures goals to aid our Community partners to improve their environmental performance. At Johnson & Johnson we aim to make the world a better and healthier place through everything we do.  The partnerships we develop, the way we conduct business every day, and the programs and alliances we support define who we are.”

Given the success of the pilot, the Coalition is now looking forward to rolling out Getting to Green across Canada, including in Quebéc where it is working with its Montréal partners, Synergie Santé Environnement (

Anyone interested in knowing more about Getting to Green, or having the workshop come to your facility is encouraged to contact Linda Varangu at or visit