Sustainability

I have set this post up as I am keen to understand more about the concept of sustainability and it’s implications for me and for occupational therapy practice. The Polytechnic where I work has put a focus on sustainability – living sustainably and educating about sustainability. There are changes slowly occurring within the Polytechnic – how we recycle i.e. we now have composting bins in staff rooms (don’t worry they don’t smell!), there are bikes to borrow for the short trips and we are exploring the concept of a Living Garden in the Polytechnic grounds a garden, worked and harvested by the community (particularly the Polytechnic’s staff and students and interested others).

Added to this much to my surprise over the years I have become a gardener. Currently my gardening still feels a bit hit and miss and I am such that there are easier and better ways of doing things than I do at the moment. One of my New Year resolutions (or thoughts over the holidays, when you have time to think) was to do a course of some description related to my gardening. And so last week I began a short course in Permaculture Design which I hope will serve two purposes firstly to improve my garden and to build my understanding of sustainability, as it and permaculture are implicitly linked.

I also hope to explore further the link with occupational therapy practice. I believe that the ethics and principles of both have much in common and that much of occupational therapy practice is already focused on building capacity and sustainable futures and therefore that we have much to contribute especially in the area of social sustainability.

So hopefully this page will follow my journey.

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5 responses to “Sustainability

  1. occupationaltherapyotago

    Sustainability – Sick of the word?

    Sustainability seems to be popping up in every news article, interview and policy. Hearing it so much almost turns one off. I’ve found that I have had to consciously decide to be willing to explore it rather than duck hoping it will all pass by. At the moment I’m at the stage of deciding to unpacking the word and see what the parts are all about. Hence my exploration into permaculture.

    I have been doing a permaculture course which anyone can follow along online wikieducator.org/permaculture_design I however get to go along. Permaculture is about how you design your garden, farm, house, etc to enable your needs to be met respecting and preserving the environment as you go. I’m focusing on my small bit of Dunedin 1012 sq metres of house and garden. So far we have been looking at the ethics and principles associated with permaculture.

    It’s been interesting as I sit in class thinking about the ethics and principles and think about what I do currently vs what I could do – there are so many possibilities e.g. the ethic limit consumption and the principle produce no waste. I have just shifted house and all I could think of was the large pile of things I have been collecting that the previous owners left and the prunings from all the trees that I have ready to throw into a skip that I plan to get to take it all away!. I have since taken stock of the pile and turned a bit more into firewood and composted some, given away a door, but the pile is still large – getting to no waste will sure be a challenge does anyone get close?

    See solutions and not problems sits well with my belief’s and values associated with being an occupational therapist.

    Obtaining a yield, is one principle I have been toying with over the last few years as my vegetable gardening has become a bit more serious and I have experimented with growing seeds. However in listening to others I realise I’m very much in my infancy in this journey. I like the idea that your yield is not just food but wellbeing as well.

    I’ve become aware of some of the interesting conflicting messages we have around us – we are encouraged to recycle – yet the other day I ran out of plastic bags (as I have been trying to get less) but this meant I had nothing to put the paper for recycling into and the district council states that you have to put your paper into a plastic bag otherwise they don’t take it!!

    Whilst the ethics (care for people, care for the earth, redistribute surplus, limit consumption) and the principles associated with them relate to life and not just gardens I am enjoying thinking about how to apply them to my small piece of land. I am particularly enjoying the sharing of knowledge and skills – gardening in particular seems to invite it in a way that isn’t easily matched.

  2. occupationaltherapyotago

    adiemusfree // March 3, 2008 at 6:14 pm (edit)

    One thought I immediately have for occupational therapists working in physical health – what on earth are people going to do with all those toilet seats and rails and bathboards!! I already see them on the side of the road for recycling… perhaps one thing we can do is consider whether prescribing gadgets does anything significant in the long term? Do people actually use the equipment? And if they don’t, why not? Food for though!

  3. occupationaltherapyotago

    I too have wondered about the equipment we issue. I managed a large department where we used to track and get returned most of our equipment ready for reissue. The tracking, washing and sterilizing used to cost quite a bit and I remember getting to the point that I felt that any equipment under a certain value we were potentially better to give rather than loan. Doing this however would have taken us getting a change to the budget i.e. we would need to buy more but have less in the cleaning budgets. This would be totally against sustainability principles (just as well I didn’t get to doing it!). So at the moment I see a couple of possibilities I am sure there are more. I agree with you we need to look at what we are prescribing – there have been some studies done on whether people use the equipment they are prescribed. From memory which could be faulty I think it is about 70% (a NZ study). I also wonder whether we should consider more teaching a technique instead of prescribing equipment. I’ll give you an example, we had a high level sports person come in for knee surgery, at the time I had had a lump off my leg and I was standing in the shower on one leg with the other strategically placed on the other side of the shower curtain – the athlete was prescribed a shower stool. How long do you think the athlete used the a shower stool to shower? – perhaps we should have just problem solved how they could do it.
    We can encourage manufacturers to use recycled materials, and to reduce the wrapping they come in. Then of course we need to think about under what conditions have they been made – the conditions the workers are under and the environmental friendliness of the business making them.
    Sounds like a lot of work – guess it is about taking small but definite steps. Perhaps it is starting with the question -Does this person need equipment or is there another way.
    Jackie

  4. I am an OT working in the UK at a MH trust that has just adopted a sustainability policy. I am now a green team leader and some of the strategies that we are adopting are recycling, using reusable bags for shopping and purchasing free trade and free range products.

    I am interested in postgraduate study in sustainability and behaviour change/education. This is close to my heart obviously.

    I wonder how we can apply our OT transferable skills to this area that will obviously boom in the future with good reason! Environmental and community psychologists are doing this already. Could I become an environmental OT?

    As I am writing this I can already see how I could apply the MOHO to encouraging using recyclable bags as a goal for example! 🙂

  5. occupationaltherapyotago

    Hi Melissa
    Great to hear from you. It’s nice to see others thinking about how to take up the challenge. Likewise our workplace has been working on the recycling and reuse and reduce aspect of sustainability. To that end we are composting our lunch remains, recycling paper, cardboard, bottles, computers etc.

    But the greater challenges in many ways are those of social and intellectual sustainability and I wonder whether the employment opportunities lie more in these areas? We have increased targeting populations within our school and now have asocial and sustainability committee part of their role is to build a stronger sense of community and thus a sense of belonging, support, and encouragement between our students and between students and staff.

    We are currently grappling with what a sustainable occupational therapy practitioner will or does ‘look like’. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas, particularly as you consider how you might be an environmental occupational therapist. I think our whole focus on occupation gives us a unique starting point for sustainability.

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