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VA Green Routine


2011 Green Routine Award Winners Find Creative Ways to Green Facilities

1.  OR Waste Segregation:  James H. Quillen VA Medical Center
Mountain Home, TN

Example of infectious waste or 'red bag' wasteBrenda Collier — Registered Nurse
Josh Dorsey — Nursing Assistant

The OR nursing staff found a simple way to significantly reduce the need for biomedical waste treatment.  Disposed of in red bags in operating rooms, biomedical waste is energy intensive to process, as it requires treatment in superheated water and pressurized steam to neutralize potentially infectious agents before general disposal.  The nursing team put a stop to the practice of treating all operating room waste as regulated medical waste.  By placing general (grey bag) waste containers in each operating room to segregate non-infectious waste for regular trash removal, the nursing staff reduced the medical center’s annual volume of processed biomedical waste from 1,049 loads to 145-an 86 percent cut that conserves energy while reducing energy costs for the medical center.

Students checking out the worm bins in the kitchen garden at San Francisco2.  Kitchen Garden Project:  San Francisco VA Medical Center
San Francisco, CA

Bill Clift — Addiction Therapist

The Medical Center partnered with a local community group to engage the Medical Center community in practicing environmental stewardship through sustainable gardening.  Through a series of 10 demonstrations and hands-on workshops funded with a grant from the Wellness Committee, the Kitchen Garden Project taught more than 100 Veteran patients, visitors and staff how to design, install and maintain their own small kitchen garden using local materials, companion plants, and natural pest management.  The workshops also taught participants about the overall environmental health benefits of growing food locally, as well as how to engage in conserving water, energy resources, and minimizing waste through composting and recycling.

Box of shredded hard-drives ready for recycling3.  Industrial Shredding of Electronic Equipment:  VA Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System
Biloxi, MS

Dave Merit — Facility Information Security Officer
David Wagner — Facility Chief Information Officer

The Health Care System found an innovative use for an industrial shredder purchased to grind wood and non-recyclable paper waste for composting.  Staff tested the shredder for its capacity to grind electronic equipment holding sensitive data.  When it proved successful, staff began using the shredder to destroy hard drives, cell phones and magnetic tapes, which are then crated and shipped to a recycling facility.  To date, the shredder has processed more the 3,500 pieces of electronic equipment for recycling from various medical centers in the region. The practice has saved $120,000 in disposal costs.

Banner advertising the blue wrap contest4.  Blue Wrap Recycling Program:  Boise VA Medical Center
Boise, ID

Roger Grainger — Housekeeping Aide
Calvin Gates — Housekeeping Aide
Alan Amundson — Sanitation Supervisor
Bob Crawford — Assistant Chief of Facility Management Service
Christopher J. Stalnaker — Housekeeping Aide

When the GEMS Committee at Boise Medical Center decided that recycling medical blue wrap would be a good way to reduce waste, they discovered the quantity of blue wrap that this relatively small Medical Center generates is too small to interest large recyclers with their out-of-state processing facilities.  Undeterred, the Committee sponsored an inventive Blue Wrap Contest to engage staff in finding a solution to the problem, and the staff answered the challenge.  The contest winner located a local recycler who was willing to pick up the blue wrap once a week and recycle it locally.  A collection and pick-up process was quickly developed.  Now the Center saves over $2,000 annually in disposal costs while keeping 650 30-gallon trash bags out of the waste stream every year.

Honorable Mentions

Reusable Drink Cups for CLC:  Boise VA Medical Center
Boise, ID

The Community Living Center’s (CLC) Infection Control Committee at the Boise VA Medical Center discovered a creative way to better hydrate patients while reducing the waste of Styrofoam cups.  The purchase of reusable mugs with calibration marks, along with the use of coffee cups at the coffee bar and paper cups for medications, has almost completely eliminated the use of Styrofoam cups at the CLC.  These changes have resulted in a reduction of over 38,000 Styrofoam cups per year as well as the elimination of plastic water pitchers.

Sustainability Initiatives:  Veterans Canteen Service Central Office
St. Louis, MO

With 3500 employees and 180 locations nationwide and in Puerto Rico, the Veterans Canteen Service has seized opportunities to reduce waste on a large scale.  The VCS has recently instituted programs to:

  • reduce the use of one-time beverage cups in Patriot Café operations by incentivizing the use of reusable mugs
  • eliminate the use of Styrofoam cups and replace them with recyclable paper cups
  • reduce the use of virgin HDPE plastic shopping bags by selling recycled plastic totes
  • eliminate the paper version of the Canteen Operating Policy and Procedures, a 3,000 page document, and replace it with a well-organized and easily searchable electronic version.