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Project a HERO for green living

Twelve years ago, several operating-room nurses from MeritCare started talking about the unused medical supplies that wound up being thrown away.

It seemed like such a waste, as many of the supplies were unopened and in perfectly good shape. Wouldn't it be smart, they thought, to send those unopened, still-sterile items to Third World countries where they were so desperately needed?

From that brainstorm sprouted the Moorhead-based Project HERO (Healthcare Equipment Recycling Organization).

Today, Project HERO still sends supplies to places like Haiti and Nigeria, but it also benefits people throughout North Dakota and Minnesota.

HERO provides recycled wheelchairs, shower chairs, walkers, canes, sterile bandages and other supplies to people who couldn't otherwise afford them. Last year, the agency served 1,844 people with 19,000 medical items.

In the process, HERO made the world a greener place. In 2009, it spared 84,000 pounds of medical equipment and supplies from being tossed into landfills, said Joyce Newton, executive director of Project HERO.

Much of the equipment came from private donations, clinics, hospitals or suppliers that had discontinued certain items.

"Again it follows our recycling mission," Newton said Saturday from the Green Expo in the Fargo Civic Center. "You think about the amount of energy it takes to refine aluminum to make a new walker."

HERO was just one of 50 green-conscious businesses and agencies represented at the expo, held in conjunction with Valley Earth Week, according to expo co-chair David Crutchfield.

Crutchfield estimated that about 3,000 people will walk through the expo this weekend to check out products and specialties like geothermal heating, all-natural cosmetics, green building practices and organic beef.

"What you are seeing is really a celebration of environmentally sensitive businesses, organizations and activities," Crutchfield said. "It's a chance for really rounded people to come together and talk and to make connections."

If you go

  • What: Green Expo, held in conjunction with the 21st annual Home Lawn & Garden Spring Spectacular
  • When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. today
  • Where: Fargo Civic Auditorium
  • Info: Free admission

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tammy Swift at (701) 241-5525