2012 Green Routine Award Winners Improve Sustainability Indoors and Out
This New Jersey staffer took the initiative to find a solution to transportation hardships that other Union members were facing in attempting to keep pace with rising commuting costs. After months of work and unsuccessful attempts to get funding for or interest in options like buses and carpooling, this member found a solution in Vanpools. Transit Checks, a federal program using pre-tax dollars, provided payment for the vehicles and their upkeep and the necessary insurance. Today many facility employees commute through one of 25 vanpools—an affordable and environmentally friendly commuting option.
2. Composting Pilot Project: San Diego VA Healthcare System
San Diego, CA
Veronica Alenazi - Chief Canteen Services
Eyersulam Kalati - Assistant Chief Canteen Services
Marco Lopez - Canteen Cafeteria Supervisor
Marlon Thomas - Maintenance Mechanic
This San Diego team developed an onsite composting program to organically beautify the landscape, rose garden, and wellness garden while reducing the facility’s ecological footprint. After two employees received their “Master Composter” Certificates, eight composting bins and one “worm hotel” became operational. The team selected a level site with good drainage, sufficient work space, and access to a water supply to keep the bins moist and the microbes and insects productive and healthy. After nine months, the compost bins and “worm hotel” had recycled approximately 6 tons of food waste and provided over 20 cubic yards of organic compost. A smart alternative to synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, this nutrient rich soil provides a moist ground cover that reduces the frequency of irrigation.
This Wilkes-Barre grounds supervisor found an innovative way to efficiently melt snow and ice while causing less damage to the environment and infrastructure than rock salt. His research led him to a substance called Magic Minus Zero, a liquid that when applied to rock salt reduces its corrosivity, drops the minimum effective temperature, ends plant kill, and is the only EPA-certified ice melt product on the market. Working with a small local company, the supervisor assisted them with Central Contracting Registration to enable them to treat the facility’s 70 tons of rock salt. Complaints of slippery surfaces have all but disappeared, and housekeeping staff report easier clean-up of residue tracked indoors. Modest cost savings have also been realized with this environmentally friendly solution.
This OR nursing staff implemented a new recycling program in the operating rooms to collect single stream recyclables in blue bags. They monitored how many blue bags were generated per surgery, and the month immediately after the initial training presentation to nurses, technicians, and surgeons, 56 bags were recycled from the operating room. From this modest start, the team spread the initiative throughout the hospital. By the end of FY2011 over 1 million pounds of single stream recycling was recorded and verified as diverted. To keep pace with recycling demand, the facility has expanded its support from its recycling contractor, with a total of five pick-up locations. Single stream recycling is expected to increase to 2.5 million pounds diverted through FY2012.
A. Laboratory Waste Reduction: St. Cloud VA Healthcare System
St. Cloud, MN
Holly Grams - Laboratory Quality Manager
Laboratory staffers at St. Cloud made a concerted effort to eliminate chemical hazards and waste. Among other measures, the project included evaluating the facility’s chemicals and waste streams; substituting environmentally friendly chemicals for hazardous chemicals where feasible; minimizing the amount of hazardous chemicals stored; and eliminating mercury containing products from the waste stream. These process changes required communication and staff training, cross-over studies, and written procedures. As a result of this effort, the laboratory eliminated five large bins of hazardous chemicals from the store room by reducing standing orders, replaced many reagents with smaller volumes, improved chemical labeling, and allocated excess products for relocation to keep them out of the general waste stream.
B. Ruthless Printer Reduction: Syracuse VA Medical Center
James C. Nichols - Syracuse FCIO
This information officer took the initiative to dramatically reduce the number of printers at the Syracuse facility. Partnering with OI&T staff, administrative officers, clinical application coordinators, various manager groups and logistics, he was able to successfully reduce printers from 426 to 263—a 55 percent reduction. The reduction creates a total savings of over $100,000.00 in the first year of implementation, with additional annual energy savings that more than double that figure. Its success in improving efficiency without impacting daily business functions has spurred a second wave of printer reduction in Region 4.
C. Greening the Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative for Office Supplies: Office of Logistics and Supply Chain Management
Nelson Gonzalez - Portfolio Manager / Strategic Sourcing Program Manager
Although the primary intent of the Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative (FSSI) is to leverage acquisition resources to save taxpayer dollars, this portfolio manager exceeded project requirements to include natural resource savings as well, through his own initiative and strong commitment to the environment. He crafted policy and guidance mandating usage of remanufactured toner cartridges and environmentally preferable products like 50% recycled content paper, and he instituted FSSI OS 2 as the mandatory source for office supplies within the Department. Through his effective implementation, in FY 2011 VA saved $9 million by using remanufactured printer cartridges; avoided the consumption of 168,338 gallons of oil; reduced the amount of plastic in landfills by 228,110 pounds; and received national recognition by Office Depot for its “Leadership in Greener Purchasing.”