I’m not a tree-hugger by any stretch, but I do consider myself to be a conservationist. I hate the idea of being unnecessarily wasteful. I try to recycle as much as I can within reason. At the same time, I still use plastic bags instead of those tote bags for groceries (who wants to put raw meat into a cloth bag anyway?) and I have no problem with Styrofoam cups and plates. Here is something I’ve realized in the last few weeks, though: you cannot be an environmentalist at the hospital.

Hospitals have to be obsessed with preventing the spread of germs. They have to because hospitals are germy places, and germs get spread there despite their best efforts. So very little is reusable. The cafeteria at the hospital was entirely made up of throw-away containers, no washable plates or anything. I’m sure some of that is also to save money on dishwashing staff. They do use real plates and silverware for the trays that go to patient rooms. And we know from asking the techs that the wires used for EEGs are reusable. Towels and sheets and blankets all get washed, albeit with lots of hot water and bleach I’m sure. But we also learned that if anything is brought into a patient room like bandages, diapers, bottles, or anything else that’s considered disposable, even if it is unused, the hospital has to throw it away when the patient leaves. And speaking of bottles, each one and the nipple had to be thrown away after using them – the packages even say “single use” on them. I can’t begin to imagine the volume of garbage that the Houston medical center must create every day. I understand the thinking behind it all, but my goodness, there is no way that someone can be “green” while in the hospital.

For example, the staff has to weigh all of Samantha’s diapers to keep track of her ins and outs. I’m not sure that would work if we were doing cloth diapers. Plus how would we ever wash them? Ok, I never really considered cloth diapers anyway, but when we go home we’re not planning to throw every bottle away and buy new – we’ll wash them. I just find it amazing how much trash gets involved when you’re trying to keep everything as clean as possible. And in all of this musing, I’m not even touching on the medical waste that has to be disposed of in special ways (which I don’t even understand).

Despite all of this, I am so thankful that Samantha is mostly out of danger from this disease so that instead of worrying constantly about her I can think about silly things like hospital garbage.