UCSF Sustainability Stories

Ana Toepel, Green Impact, February 2019

UCSF Green Champion Highlight: Barbara Bevan-Abel

Barbara Bevan-Abel, RN, fills an essential role at UCSF Health, as a clinical nurse providing care to patients in the perioperative area in the operating room (OR). She also has chosen to play another important role as a champion for sustainability, volunteering her own time to improve the recycling program in the Moffitt-Long ORs. When Barbara observed that the program was not as effective as it could be, she explored the problem and causes, documenting waste at the loading dock and setting up a process improvement project to increase efficiency that included tracking metrics. To promote recycling, she set up a dedicated recycling station in each OR instead of having just one central station and implemented OR-wide waste training for staff. Barbara continues to compare recycling weight data to adjust the process as needed.

For these efforts that make her a true green champion, Barbara received a 2018 Sustainability Award in the UCSF Health Staff category. Below, she shares some thoughts about sustainability in her life and at UCSF Health.

Why do you think sustainability is important for UCSF?
I think sustainability is important for UCSF because hospitals in the U.S. generate between 25-33 lbs. of waste per day, per patient. Although we are known and sought after world wide, I like to think of UCSF as a community hospital. Working to reduce our carbon footprint is as important for the university as it is for our neighbors. I live in this community, and I like how UCSF partners with the local government and environmental groups to build a healthy ecosystem in our community. 

What inspired you to start greening the OR?
I was inspired to start my recycling program in the Moffit-Long ORs when I realized that our current program wasn’t working—though I had no idea though that between 25-46% of our recycling was going to the landfill! When I talked to my bosses, Joan Pinotti and Sandy Wienholz, about this they encouraged me to do something about it. Without the advice and support from them and Ellie Fahlgren, I would never have been able to help achieve the results we did. We now have less than 2% going to the landfill! When you have the backing, encouragement, and support of your managers, it is amazing what can happen.

What accomplishment are you most proud of around promoting LivingGreen at UCSF?
Although I am very proud of our Hanging Blue Bag recycling program, I am just as proud of the ideas and dialogue it has generated. We are now working on considerably expanding our reprocessing program, which is very exciting! We have also restarted our Remedy program, which collects clean, unused supplies for donation to MedShare and reduces our landfill contribution. We are also working to replace all of the non-recyclable foam with gel.

How do you personally live and work sustainably?
I try to incorporate sustainability into my life, teaching my sons to reduce, reuse, and recycle. I also try to encourage my work colleges to do the same.

Is there something we might be surprised to learn about you?
You may be surprised to know I am fascinated by the human brain! I cannot believe I’m lucky enough to have a job where I’ve had the chance to do anything from hearing a single brain cell to watching a patient play guitar while we were removing half his skull and stimulating his brain!

What is one action related to sustainability you would encourage the UCSF community to take?
I would love the UCSF community to require that our buyers only consider bids from companies that reduce packaging, use recycled materials, and make their packaging recyclable. We are doing a grand job with the recycling, but we still produce a huge amount of waste. The next step has to be a reduction of that waste. We use an enormous amount of single use items in the OR in an effort to reduce infections, but they generate a lot of packaging. So, my wish is to get a LivingGreen person on the purchasing team!