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Hospital's waste reduction to be highlighted

Hospitals can be incredibly wasteful, and the 15 people on Mercy Medical Center Merced’s “Green Team” are the first to admit it.

Their goal is to stop the waste, to put the phrase “reduce, recycle and reuse” — especially “reuse”— to work.

The group will present a project it has offered on campus each year since the Green Team’s start in 2001, said Syd Ayotte, director of surgical services and chairwoman of the group.

It’s the hospital’s own Earth Day — and the facility does realize it’s about a month late.

“We’ve never actually had it on Earth Day, the weather never cooperates,” Ayotte said.

So her team also calls the event Environmental Awareness Day. But whatever it’s called, the message is the same: Keep your world clean and conserve resources for the future.

Educational booths and demonstrations for employees and the general public will be found Thursday at the hospital’s Community Campus cafeteria and Palms Court. Vendors will discuss such topics as recycled materials and the proper disposal of hospital supplies.

Finding alternative methods of transportation will be encouraged with the presentations of a Tesla electric car and a Segway scooter.

And visitors can expect goodies. In addition to a bake sale and raffle, the Green Team gives away something living to its guests each year.

This year the gift of oak tree seedlings will encourage its guests to plant native plants.

But this is only a small piece of the work being done on the hospital’s campus, Ayotte said. Reuse of materials has been a large focus of the Green Team. It even reuses previous years’ posters — adding different dates, of course — to advertise its Environmental Awareness Day.

Blue Ice cooler is a popular product used in the hospital to ship medications. People also use it to cool home goods. And because Blue Ice remains clean after its hospital use, it can be passed along to staff to take home, Ayotte said.

The hospital also sends its old electronics to the prison to be stripped for copper, wiring and other valuables.

Lynn Sanders, director of the hospital’s Environmentally Services, collects aluminum cans for recycling — helping the hospital meet the state’s requirement to divert 50 percent of its waste from landfills. Lightbulbs are also recycled, and kitchen staff even ships off their grease to a biofuels dealer.

“We are probably one of the biggest abusers of the landfill — people here generate a lot of waste,” said Carol Slovak, inventory control coordinator.

That’s why it’s rewarding to get a hospital staff excited about diminishing their carbon footprint, she added.

Even small things, like using a large water pitcher at meetings instead of passing out water bottles, or replacing incandescent lightbulbs with fluorescents make a difference.

Darby Minturn, director of nutritional services, knows this well.

The Green Team member was surprised to learn recently from Pacific Gas & Electric that she saved 20 percent of her energy usage by switching out her light bulbs at home. Extending sustainable practices from the workplace to the home is another benefit to this program.

“We find after people know how invested their organization is in recycling, they are proud,” Ayotte said.

What: Environmental Awareness Day (Earth Day at Mercy)

When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday

Where: Cafeteria and Palms Court of the Community Campus, Mercy Medical Center Merced, 301 E. 13th St., Merced.

Admission: Free