Celebrate Earth Day early and often in April

April 13, 2021 Beth Schenk

Earth Hour - Be a light.

Earth day may look a little different this year, but you can still get involved as a change agent to protect our environment. From micro lifestyle changes to proactively engaging in cleanups or other outdoor activities to address climate change, we all have a part to play.

Providence’s Mission is rooted in a tradition of serving those in need, particularly the poor and vulnerable. This tradition is deeply connected to our commitment to care for the Earth, as the poor and vulnerable often suffer most from the impacts of climate change. Truly, helping the Earth, our common home, helps create health for a better world

On Earth Day 2020, Dr. Rod Hochman announced that Providence is committed to becoming carbon negative by 2030. This major undertaking has progressed over the past year, despite the challenges of COVID-19. Now, as Earth day approaches again, many Providence caregivers are eager to safely get involved.

Providence caregivers are activated

Finding ways to physically volunteer for Earth day 2021 will present more challenges given the continued uncertainties around COVID-19, but there are still plenty of ways to get involved and make a difference as individuals or within households. Together, as a united and committed force to address climate change, we can make April “Earth Month.

At Providence, we created the WE ACT framework that outlines five key areas of action we are taking to address our carbon footprint: Waste, Energy/water, Agriculture/food, Chemicals and Transportation. Pursuing actions within this framework will help us become carbon-negative by 2030.

One initiative relating to waste worth highlighting is the “Save Supplies, Heal Lives” campaign that is sponsored by the Providence Medical Supply Recovery Organization (MSRO). As the only hospital system with an in-house medical supply recovery program, Providence is turning the problem of waste into a solution for organizations around the world desperate for perfectly good medical supplies. We estimate that the MSRO collects and donates nearly 20 tons of supplies to over 25 countries. 

Additionally, across the Providence system, there are grassroots green initiatives taking place. In Alaska, caregivers sewed cloth masks for patients to protect against COVID-19, reducing the volume of disposable masks. In Oregon, caregivers built and maintain sustainable gardens to produce food for those experiencing hardship. Across the seven-state system, caregivers have set up 23 Green Teams to help their local hospitals and clinics become more environmentally friendly.

Tips for a greener lifestyle

You may be thinking, well that’s great for Providence, a large hospital system, but what can I realistically do to truly affect change? It’s important to keep in mind that changes at the micro level add up, and collectively individual contributions can deliver meaningful results.

Knowing that when WE ACT together we can collectively make a difference. Below are some ideas that may inspire you in ways that will help combat the real and growing threat of climate change:

  • Waste – use reusable grocery bags, convert all incoming paper mail to electronic, buy less plastic, avoid disposable plates and utensils, and use cloth napkins. Reuse, recycle and compost, because what we throw into the trash can often be returned to the earth in a useful way. For more ideas on how to reduce waste check out the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guide.
  • Energy/Water – turn off lights when not in use, unplug devices if not in use, turn down or up temperatures in air conditioning systems seasonally when away from home, switch your light bulbs to light-emitting diodes (LEDs), which are the most energy-efficient bulbs on the market. There are also home tools such as Terrapass, a home energy calculator, which can help you reduce your households’ carbon footprint.
  • Water – try using cold water instead of hot when possible. Collect rainwater to water plants, reduce your shower time (one minute can save sixty gallons of water monthly), turn the water off when brushing your teeth, only run full loads in the dishwasher, and pre-soak pans that require scrubbing.
  • Agriculture/Food - plant a garden! April is the best month to plant vegetable seeds which will provide healthier produce since you decide what soil and nutrients to use. If your home does not allow for a garden, consider an indoor garden with potted plants near sunlight.
  • Chemicals - Reach out to homeless shelters to find out what types of cleaning products they may need and offer to purchase “green cleaning” products to help reduce exposure to chemicals for those living in poverty.
  • Transportation – Bike or walk instead of driving somewhere if possible. If you are considering a new car purchase during Earth month, consider electric or hybrid vehicle options rather than gas powered cars.

Make April Earth Month!

For more ideas, check out our WE ACT for Volunteerism one-sheet below. Providence’s Mission is deeply connected to care for the Earth and we invite you to become an active participant in the effort to make a difference.

Earth Day - We act with volunteerism


About the Author

Beth Schenk is the executive director of environmental stewardship for Providence, leading a cross-functional commitment to reduce operational pollution while addressing environmental justice and climate resilience in the communities we serve. Beth has been a Providence caregiver for over 30 years. From serving as an ICU nurse at St. Patrick in Missoula to leading nursing research across the Providence organization, Beth has nurtured her passion for environmental care. Her first successful recycling project was over 25 years ago. Since then she has led Montana’s award-winning Green 4 Good program. She co-founded Providence’s first regional environmental stewardship council. She has co-led a system-wide monthly meeting on environmental stewardship since 2008.

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