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Tertiary Mental Health client inspires with self-initiated recycling program


At Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), many staff members understand the satisfaction of making a difference. Now, a client in the Tertiary Mental Health Program at Willow Pavilion on the Vancouver General Hospital campus is expressing that satisfaction as she makes a difference and inspires others to live more sustainably.

In early 2022, Anna noticed many recyclable items ended up in the garbage and she brought up the issue at a weekly meeting of clients and staff.

She began to tackle the problem by posting simple signs that explained what type of containers go in each type of bin. But even with this, Anna still noticed too many recyclables in the trash. Julie Braun, Anna's recreational therapist recalls problem solving together. “We said, 'what if we made this into a program, maybe collecting and sorting recyclables on the unit a couple of nights a week. This could encourage other clients to get involved,'" Julie explains.

Anna began collecting recyclables from the garbage bins in her unit with the support of staff, and encouraged other clients to join. She rinsed each item, and in May, made her first trip to a bottle depot with Julie.

Anna was shocked and proud to leave the depot with a refund of $118. Her intentions were to have the money used in a way that would benefit both clients and staff. The unit named Anna “environmental ambassador".

“With the money, we decided to host a Mexican Fiesta-themed lunch for clients and staff," she explains.

In late July, Anna, Julie and two other helpers delivered nearly 2,000 aluminum cans, drink boxes, glass bottles, and plastic containers. Throughout the last two months, other clients increasingly embraced the program, becoming keen, consistent helpers.

The program has now raised more than $500. All funding raised by clients is reinvested into client-directed activities within the Tertiary community. Clients recently enjoyed their third unit meal, and it looks as if those meals will continue on a monthly basis.

Julie says actions like rinsing containers are now automatic for many clients and staff. “It shows what people are prepared to do when given the right resources, support, and a keen leader like Anna. Imagine if every unit did this." She says word about the program is spreading to other units.

“It's a project I enjoy," Anna says. “There are so many benefits – for the environment and for the community on our unit."

Anna and Julie wish to recognize Kristine Goldberg, Program Coordinator, for her support of the program throughout the last several months.

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SOURCE: Tertiary Mental Health client inspires with self-initiated recycling program ( )
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