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TORONTO – For over a decade, UHN’s Energy and Environment department has been aggressively pursuing environmental initiatives on several fronts. From energy awareness and management, waste diversion, and biomedical waste management to implementing water efficiency projects and developing sustainable commuting options for staff. UHN has developed a robust and holistic approach to mitigate the negative environmental impacts of climate change that arise from the day-to-day operations of the three hospitals – Toronto General Hospital, Toronto Western Hospital and Princess Margaret Hospital – that form UHN.

The sustainable transportation initiative is just one of the success stories of UHN.

In November 2009, UHN was named “Employer of the Year” for Smart Commute Toronto-Central, thanks to environmentally conscious staff. UHN was selected by an independent panel of community members from various sectors across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. Nominations were evaluated on the employer’s commitment to the program, leadership in their communities, innovation and results.

Smart Commute, a joint venture between Metrolinx and area municipalities, presented the award to UHN for its proactive approach in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and providing healthy transportation choices to staff. These include programs in place to help employees carpool, take transit, cycle and flexible work arrangements.

UHN was credited with having the highest percentage of staff (in companies with 500-plus employees) who cycle (6.1%) and walk (12.9%) to work in all Smart Commute regions throughout the GTA. This past summer, UHN’s annual Clean Air Commute event for staff saw 659 staff participate and saved approximately 30 tonnes of smog-causing pollutants from going into the atmosphere. UHN has been participating in this event since 2002 and the number of participants have doubled over the years.

Sustainable Commuting: Workplace Options for Employees

UHN’s Sustainable Transportation Group, comprised of Business Operations, Human Resources and the Energy & Environment department, is looking at ways to promote and support “clean commuting” among UHN staff. The Group is in the feasibility stage of expanding the current shuttle service to pick up staff from GO/Union station. The goal of this project is twofold: to encourage single occupant motorists to switch to taking transit and eliminate the double-fare of riding two transit systems.

UHN’s Cycling Advisory Committee includes representatives from across UHN as well as cycling and transportation experts from the community. This committee also developed a Cycling Master Plan in 2008 and is advocating for this plan to facilitate the development of a bicycle friendly infrastructure at UHN. The Cycling@UHN website hosted by UHN’s Wellness office offers information on the health and environmental benefits of cycling, parking options and cycling tips.

At Toronto General there are 80 bike rack spaces, including 50 secure and covered bike spaces. At Toronto Western there are over 160 bike rack spaces, including over 50 secure bike cage spaces and another 60 secure and covered spaces. With the construction of the new Krembil Discovery Centre (KDC) at the Toronto Western, it is expected that the total number of secure and covered bike parking spaces will increase. Shower and change facilities are also part of this new construction. In the near future, the Princess Margaret Hospital will have more bicycle parking spots for its staff on University Avenue. These programs, once fully implemented, will help staff save money and also reduce smog and climate change pollutants going into the atmosphere.

The Sustainable Transportation Group is also exploring the possibility of replacing the current gasoline shuttle with an energy efficient hybrid shuttle for transporting staff between Toronto General Hospital and Toronto Western Hospital.

Carpooling at UHN

UHN has had an online, proprietary carpool database for staff since 2002. After partnering with Smart Commute Toronto-Central, UHN migrated onto Smart Commute’s Carpool Zone in 2009.

At UHN’s Wellness Fair, a staff event organized by UHN’s Wellness Office in October 2009, the Energy and Environment department showcased UHN’s sustainable transportation initiatives. UHN’s Carpool Zone subgroup was launched during this event across the three hospital sites. Furthermore, a carpool promotion consisted of the interactive Smart Commute Limited Expo, iPod draws for the first 50 people to register on UHN’s Carpool Zone, and a separate prize draw for successfully formed carpools. The UHN sub group grew by 30% (new users).

The Wellness Fair allowed for great outreach with employees to discuss their commuting challenges and solutions like Carpool Zone, and several volunteers offered to assist in the development of the program. The ongoing promotion of UHN’s Carpool Zone is available to all staff, with additional resources, via an easy to access intranet site hosted by the Energy and Environment department. This site is updated regularly with commuter news, testimonials, achievements and prize draws.

UHN Carpooling: Next Frontier
Planning is now underway to enhance the existing carpool programs at UHN by introducing preferential carpool parking. The program endeavours to provide strong incentives (i.e. discounted carpool parking, monthly prize draws) as encouragement to join Carpool Zone and form carpools with colleagues. A procedures document, rules and expectations of carpools and an employee agreement form the policy backbone for this program. This new program will rely on the backend data of Carpool Zone and is expected to be launched some time in 2010.

Meet other businesses benefitting from their own Smart Commute program.