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Veterans benefit from green practices

Image of the grounds and landscape at Coatesville VAMC. A brick building is in the background, multiple trees growing and a garden in the front center.
This green space at the Coatesville VA Medical Center outside building 6 was photographed on September 7, 2021 and is the result of the tree management and storm water project where infiltration trenches redirect excess water and revitalize local aquifers. Five rain gardens were created, 35 shade trees were removed and replaced with 120 trees and more than 2,000 new plants appropriate for the location were added.

Veterans visiting the Coatesville VA Medical Center (VAMC) enjoy the benefits from the facility's ongoing green practices, earning them the 2021 Environmental Excellence Award from Practice Greenhealth.

Veterans visiting the Coatesville VA Medical Center (VAMC) enjoy the benefits from the facility's ongoing green practices, earning them the 2021 Environmental Excellence Award from Practice Greenhealth.

The award from the nation's leading organization dedicated to environmental sustainability in health care is given annually to honor health care's achievements in sustainability.

To be recognized, Coatesville VAMC needed to demonstrate continuous improvement and expansion of programs intended to lower energy and water consumption, reduce and recycle waste, source products sustainably, establish environmentally preferable purchasing criteria and more.

A big contributor this year was the tree management and storm water project. This effort came about when storm water erosion was detected at the foundations of the residential patient buildings causing water infiltration, and storm drains were often deteriorating and collapsing.

Work began in 2019 and included installing infiltration trenches to redirect excess water and revitalize local aquifers. Five rain gardens were created, 35 shade trees were removed and replaced with 120 trees, and more than 2,000 new plants appropriate for the location were added.

"This is a mental health facility. Our landscaping is a health benefit because it aids in the mental wellbeing of our outpatient and resident Veterans as well as bringing green practice benefits," said Tom Bucci, Construction Project Manager at Coatesville VAMC.

The project was completed in 2021 and also provides new sidewalks for better handicap access throughout the area, and the basketball court supports Veterans in long-term care by providing additional recreational activities.

The campus' Victory Garden has been around for five years and expanded in 2020 after the donation of raised flowerbeds from an Eagle Scout Project. Not only were Veterans able to grow their own fruits and vegetables for use in the Healthy Teaching Kitchen cooking demonstrations, but Coatesville VAMC was able to donate 302 pounds of fresh produce to local food pantries through the Chester County Foodbank.

"Beyond the green practice benefits, organic gardening provides anger and stress management opportunities," said Krista Lewis, a Recreational Therapist who oversees the Victory Garden. "Donating to the foodbanks creates a sense of self-worth for the Veterans by allowing them to give back to the community that has never forgotten their Veterans."

Coatesville VAMC has also reduced the amount of pharmaceuticals entering the environment through the sewer systems, replaced 13 vehicles with more greenhouse gas efficient models, and reduced the environmental impact of shipping costs by working with companies located closer to the facility.

"Incorporating green practices into our daily routine is just part of who Coatesville VAMC is," said Beth Ramsey, Green Environmental Management System (GEMS) Program Manager at Coatesville VAMC. "We are constantly looking for what comes next and trying to identify when we will be ready to take it to the next level."

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