Health care heroes: Reducing waste and helping animals at the same time

Health care heroes: Reducing waste and helping animals at the same time

In one recent day, more than 500 pounds of unused medical supplies that would have been thrown in the landfill were sent to an organization that cares for animals.

And that happens multiple times per week now at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, thanks to a team that is carrying on the tradition of the nurse who thought of the idea.

Former Christ nurse Michelle Meiner first started collecting leftover supplies for the Animal Welfare League, a local animal shelther, after she took a family pet there years ago and noticed they were scrambling for supplies. After that, she found unused supplies from surgical cases that the hospital was planning to throw away and took them to the organization.

Meiner passed away from cancer about five years ago. But the staff at Christ kept up in her place, and the AWL sends vans to the hospital several times per week to pick up multiple tons worth of unneeded supplies from surgeries, including nonbiodegradable blue wrap that can be used to line cages.

“Her passion spread,” says Michelle Bouchard, the sustainability specialist at Christ that leads the health care sustainability efforts at the hospital. “They were getting more and more bags and filling up more and more cars.”

The small idea led to a big change.

“They are desperate for supplies, so they really appreciate this,” Bouchard said. “I think it’s a win-win-win.”

And while the donations help the animals and staff who benefit from them, of course it also cuts the waste generated by the hospital.

That’s why the Christ surgical and sterile processing team received a Live Green, Live Well Award from Advocate Aurora Health this year. The awards recognize team members who are working hard to create healthier people and a cleaner Earth.

“Today’s purpose of helping people live well includes minimizing waste, avoiding harmful chemicals and reducing energy use,” says Mary Larsen, Advocate Aurora Health director of environmental affairs and sustainability.

Glenda Dietzel, Geralyn Gay and Renee Wozniak join several other Advocate Aurora team members who won the award in Illinois for various projects, including Dina Areola at Condell Medical Center, Violet Barrett at Lutheran General, Laure Donati with Advocate Medical Group, Ruth Durband with Good Shepherd, Rosalind Espinoza with Illinois Masonic, Nicole Fritz with South Suburban, Tony Hampton with Advocate Medical Group, Dona Hoffman with Good Shepherd, Lillian Jensen with Heil Center, Linnea Rehnke at the support center and Larissa Saucedo at Condell.

Learn more about all the winners here.

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About the Author

Mike Riopell
Mike Riopell

Mike Riopell, health enews contributor, is a media relations coordinator with Advocate Aurora Health. He previously worked as a reporter and editor covering politics and government for the Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald and Bloomington Pantagraph, among others. He enjoys bicycles, home repair, flannel shirts and being outside.