Congratulations to members of CUPE 6079 of the Hospital Employees’ Union, CUPE’s health care division in British Columbia, for being selected the overall winner of the 2015 Earth Day contest. The top three runners-up are CUPE 301, 556 and 4953. The entries were evaluated by members of the National Environment Committee. CUPE’s Earth Day contest highlights the progressive environmental steps that our members take where they work.

CUPE 6079 members work at the 100 Mile Health Centre in the British Columbia interior. Members there have been active on environmental issues for many years. They helped set up the health centre’s first “Green Team” – a workplace environment committee. The committee decided to tackle waste and recycling issues, as there was no municipal or workplace recycling in their community. Some community members collected recyclables to be trucked to a neighbouring community to be processed. The Green Team used this model and started to collect paper, tins, glass and plastics in makeshift bins. CUPE members volunteered to sort the materials according to type.

The grassroots program eventually grew. With a Health Foundation grant, the Local helped establish a formal recycling program with proper blue bins and recycling stations in the health centre. Other departments came on board. Maintenance workers started recycling light bulbs and tubes, while pharmacy workers began to recycle medicine bottles, plastics and Styrofoam. All the while, the Green Team ran campaigns in the health centre to promote waste diversion and to raise workers’ environmental consciousness.

Among the runners-up, CUPE 301, Montreal municipal outside workers, installed two charging stations for electrical vehicles, joining the Quebec provincial government’s “Plugged in at Work” program. CUPE 556, Comox municipal workers, is recognized for their community outreach work with Vancouver Island Waterwatch. CUPE 4953, from the Arthabaska-de-l’Érable Health and social services centre in Victoriaville, implemented extensive workplace environmental practices, such as creating a carpooling program and a paper and electricity conservation program. 

Congratulations to all CUPE members for their efforts to build more sustainable workplaces and communities every day of the year.