Memphis VA Medical Center
Green Environmental Management System (GEMS)
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is committed to delivering quality health care to our nation’s veterans. Recognizing that accomplishing this mission includes a great deal of fiscal accountability, the VA is committed to reducing environmental risk factors and associated expenses by focusing on new ways to prevent pollution, reducing waste, and conserving natural and cultural resources.
Since 1922, the Memphis VA Medical Center (VAMC) has been improving the health of the men and women who have so proudly served our nation. Following the VA’s lead, the VAMC in Memphis, Tennessee is employing processes to affirm that environmental accountability is integrated into day-to-day decision-making and long-term planning goals. The Memphis VAMC began the implementation of our facility’s Green Environmental Management System (GEMS) in 2005 by establishing the Memphis VA Medical Center GEMS policy. This policy is the framework to integrate healthy environmental practices into the overall management of the Memphis VA Medical Center. The policy emphasizes the importance of compliance to federal, state, and local regulations; encourages pollution prevention strategies whenever possible; and focuses on continued improvement on environmental issues. In order to improve our environmental stewardship, the GEMS program focuses on environmental compliance throughout the health care system, as well as water conservation, energy conservation, green purchasing, resource conservation, recycling, sustainable building, fleet management and fuel usage reduction, and waste minimization.
To coordinate the implementation and continuous improvement of this program, the VA Memphis VA Medical Center has hired a GEMS Coordinator and developed a GEMS Committee to discuss ongoing environmental issues throughout the organization. The GEMS committee is comprised of members from all levels of the organization. The committee meets regularly to evaluate current environmental conditions, reviews environmental impacts and proposes new or needed environmental goals.
Since the implementation of GEMS at our facility, significant changes have been made to reduce our facility’s impact on the environment. The process has led the hospital to establish numerous recycling processes for materials that were historically considered hazardous waste or general bulk waste. The materials recycled by our facility currently includes: all batteries, plastics, used oil, metals, mixed paper, electronic equipment (computers, TVs, printers and copiers), fluorescent tubes, cardboard, and toner cartridges. Equipment utilized in surgery has reduced the quantities of regulated medical waste by removing vacuum containers from the surgery waste stream. Solvents used by the pathology laboratories are recycled. Waste sorting practices have been changed to reduce the amount of waste treated as regulated medical waste by our facility. The quantity of solid waste going to the landfill has been reduced by expanding our recycling program.
Our electrical consumption has been reduced through the facility by installing more energy efficient lighting and motion sensor light switches. Water consumption has been reduced by installing low flow toilets and showers. In 2011, the Green Building Initiative awarded Memphis VAMC a rating of 2 Globes. The Memphis VAMC supports the Shelby County Vanpool program providing incentives for employees to use the program to reduce fuel consumption, air pollutants and reducing the need for parking spaces.
Through all of these practices Memphis VAMC has demonstrated leadership in energy and environmental practices and commitment to continuous improvement in the health care industry. The GEMS process is seen as a major step in continuing the VA tradition of ensuring environmental compliance and is a component in long range planning, purchasing and operating decisions whenever possible.
For additional information concerning the Memphis VAMC GEMS program or to obtain the official environmental policy document (Memorandum No. 00-72), please contact Sandy Dickey, GEMS Coordinator, via email at Sandy.Dickey@va.gov.