UCSF Sustainability Stories

Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact, October 2013

Spotlight on Remedy at UCSF:  2013 Sustainability Team Award Winner

Group photo

Hospitals generate millions of tons of waste each year, discarding annually over $200 million worth of perfectly usable medical equipment and costing millions in disposal fees.  Remedy at UCSF, a student-run organization that “recycles” castoff medical supplies into global aid, was honored with a 2013 Team Sustainability Award for donating 26,000 pounds of medical supplies to 70 countries, reducing unnecessary medical waste and providing much-needed supplies to under-served areas.

Congratulations to the Remedy at UCSF team for its important work.

Remedy at UCSF:  Overview of the Program

U.S. regulations often deem perfectly useable medical items, those not used nor contaminated, as medical waste.  For example, items part of a prepackaged OR packet that are not used in surgery, or spare gloves and instruments on surgical trays that are perfectly reusable, must be thrown out.  While U.S. regulations deem such supplies unusable, the UCSF program donates the equipment to partners in the developing world, where the equipment can be lifesaving.

BinsRemedy at UCSF has placed bins throughout UCSF’s Moffitt-Long Hospital where donated supplied are sorted, inventoried and stored.  Students and hospital staff work collaboratively to constantly monitor which materials can be safely recycled from unused surplus.

DRFirst priority goes to UCSF medical professionals and students willing to take supplies to clinics when they do volunteer missions abroad. Over the past year, the program has fielded a record number of requests for Remedy supplies for UCSF projects.  Remedy has helped out projects traveling to Haiti, Ethiopia, the Philippines, Dominican Republic and El Salvador. 

TruckAny remaining supplies are donated to MedShare, a nonprofit organizations that specializes in supplying medical relief materials to the developing world. In the aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti, MedShare sent planes to Haiti with shipments of supplies; many were provided by Remedy.  To learn more, check out its Website.

The Winning Team Answers a Few Questions

We had the opportunity to ask the Remedy at UCSF team a few questions after winning its award. 

Why do you think sustainability is important for UCSF?

As a well-respected and regarded institution, UCSF has an opportunity to be a international leader in sustainability.  Traditionally, hospitals have been sites of high volume waste because the priority rightly lies in quality patient care.  However, as the sustainability movement gains momentum internationally, people will be looking for solutions where patient care and protecting the environment become a both/and proposition.  By adopting and expanding the Remedy model, UCSF is well-situated to be an international leader in sustainability. 

What accomplishment are you most proud of around promoting LiveGreen at UCSF?

Remedy is proud to support the LiveGreen goal of zero waste.  In the past four years, Remedy helped to recover 26,000 pounds of discarded but reusable medical supplies and equipment and redistribute it to global communities in need.

What is one action you would like to see your fellow staff/students take?

One of the greatest strengths of Remedy is that getting involved is easy and does not require a big time investment.  Students can get involved by transporting supplies from hospital bins to the storage closet.  Then, when they graduate and become health care providers, they can stay involved in the Remedy effort by placing reusable supplies in Remedy bins and encouraging their co-workers to do the same.

How do you personally live and work sustainably?

Living in San Francisco, Remedy members take advantage of city resources like composting and riding public transportation.  More than listing out specific actions, however, we hope that involvement in Remedy encourages a mindset of awareness about the footprint we leave behind and brainstorming ways to minimize our waste.