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Sustainability Fair brings in crowds at the Phoenix VA

The Phoenix VA Sustainability Fair

The Phoenix VA Sustainability Fair was held April 18 from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center to celebrate Earth Day, which was on April 22.

The fair brought together 17 organizations from the community and the Phoenix VA in partnership to educate staff and patients on how to live sustainably and be good stewards of our environment. As part of the event, fresh potted plants were given to visitors, along with swag, and a lot of great information on how to be more environmentally conscious.

“I’m impressed by the amount of participation, people’s interest and knowledge of recycling, and their willing ness to learn,” said Jennifer Wargo, Communications Director for Waste Management. “People aren’t just walking by and picking up stuff. They are willing to learn about recycling, which is great.”

The event was organized by the Phoenix VA Green Environmental Management System (GEMS) Program Manager Loren Cheel, who monitors the environmental footprint of the medical center and ensures that the Phoenix VA continues to meet EPA standards for emissions, wastewater and more. GEMS program managers work with EPA and Maryland environmental regulators closely to ensure our environmental impacts are managed properly.

“I typically hear about [exceeding EPA standards] more with new construction, because it is easier when you are building something and you can make is more energy efficient, more sustainable,” said Wargo. “I think it is really impressive when you have an existing building that’s improving to meet what I call ‘green criteria.’”

The environmental GEMS policy requires that the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center, which opened its doors in 1951, adhere to the environmental management principles of stewardship, compliance, pollution prevention, environmental planning and continual improvement. Providing quality health care causes impacts to air, land, and water and produces waste. However, the Phoenix VA reduces these impacts and complies with all applicable environmental laws and regulations. The GEMS program managers works with the EPA to closely monitor and minimize our environmental impact.

“My primary job is to oversee all of those programs,” said Cheel. “This is our first year doing this event, and, with this turnout, I’m looking forward to doing this again next year.”

Darrell Meacham, a Navy Veteran who was at the fair with his wife, said they were at the medical center for an appointment, and they were pleasantly surprised by the event.

"We don’t get down here very often, but it seems that lately every time we come down here there has been something going on,” said Meacham. “It's good. I heard a lot of bad things about this VA a few years back. I haven't seen any of that. It's as good here as it was in Honolulu. We had a good VA in Honolulu."

The crowded hall, from the entrance to the Ambulatory Care Center to the coffee shop, and the constant commotion, from many conversations and laughter, were indicators that sustainability is important to the Veterans who get their care at the medical center as well as the staff and leadership of the Phoenix VA.

“There are so many people out here wanting to learn about sustainability,” said Alexy Flores, the Assistant Marketing Manager at ReStore. “It is super busy, and it is awesome that so many people are stopping by to talk to us. It attests to everyone wanting to help out in their community.”

See more photos here