Environmental Programs - VA Portland Health Care System
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VA Portland Health Care System

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Environmental Programs

Portland VA Medical Center - GEMS - Green Environmental Management SystemsVA Portland Health Care System Green Environment Management Systems (GEMS)

Earth Week 2018 Sustainability Fair info here


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 lessening environmental risk factors and associated expenses by focusing on new ways to prevent pollution, reduce waste,  and conserve natural and cultural resources.  Following the VA lead, the VA Portland Health Care System (VAPORHCS) employs processes that affirm environmental accountability into day–to-day decision-making and long-term planning.

Our Bend Clinic is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Equivalent. Click here to read more about our efforts to reduce our impact on the environment. 

Our GEMS Committee is proud to present our recent accomplishments.

  • VA Portland Health Care System earned the 2018 Environmental Excellence award for practicing environmentally responsible healthcare. The Partner for Change Award recognizes health systems that are working cohesively to set system-wide sustainability goals, track performance data, benchmark, and support intra-organizational learning and implementation within their institutions.
 logo for 2018 Environmental Excellence Award
  • VAPORHCS' honors include the 2017 Greening the Operating Room (OR) Recognition Award from Practice Greenhealth, the nation’s leading organization dedicated to environmental sustainability in health care. VAPORHCS was recognized for making substantial progress in reducing the impact of the surgical environment including implementing processes such as innovative waste minimization, clinical plastic recycling, reformulation of operating room kits, single-use device reprocessing, use of reusable sterilization cases, and a range of other programs and associated metrics.  
 Practice Greenhealth Greening the OR Award logo


  • Earned Energy Star award status since 2003.
  • Replaced equipment to increase efficiency such as boilers, chillers, heating, ventilation and cooling fans.
  • Reduced water consumption by installing low-flow toilets and showers, waterless urinals, and using a water tank for irrigation. 


  • Used Ethanol-mixed fuel for 90 of the 172 vehicles in the VA fleet. There are now E-85 alternative fuel vehicle stations at Portland and Vancouver Divisions.
  • Reduced carbon footprint and conserved natural resources by switching to 100% recycled content paper for all facilities.
  • Promoted biking and public transportation by offering free bus passes to staff, as well as requiring staff to carpool.
  • Used less toxic chemicals for our precesses. Examples include: greener sterilizing alternatives, using non-hazardous absorbent in anesthesia processes, significant ozone depleting refrigerants, and housekeeping disinfectants. 
  • Used Integrated Pest Management Plan practices, such as traps, bait, heat, and steam to control pests instead of harsh chemicals.
  • Partner as much as possible with community hospitals and sustainability organizations for environmental awareness activities.
  • Significant accomplishments: 
    • Earned several national sustainability awards.
    • Instituted twice-a-year Medication Take-Back Day events to allow proper disposal of medications. 
    • Hosted a yearly sustainability fair during Earth Week, in conjunction with Oregon Health & Sciences University (OHSU).


  • Recycled tires, wood pallets, compost cardboard, paper, yard debris, batteries, electronics, plastics, tin, glass, scrap metal, construction debris, and surgical wraps to maintain a solid waste diversion rate of 39.7%.
  • Disposed of appromiately 7.9 tons of non-hazardous pharmaceuticals to keep medications out of landfills and water.
  • Recycled 77.3 tons of electronics for FY2014.


For additional information, contact VAPORHCS GEMS Coordinator Loren Cheel at (503) 220-8262 ext. 51722 or at Loren.Cheel@va.gov