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)

VA Portland Health Care System (VAPORHCS) is a dynamic and progressive health care organization dedicated to providing quality, compassionate and accessible care and service to Portland’s Veterans. VAPORHCS also protects the health and safety of its patients, employees, and visitors and the environment that surrounds them. To achieve the latter, VAPORHCS implemented a Green Environmental Management System (GEMS), a framework to manage our environmental impacts. A central part of the GEMS program is the GEMS Committee, comprised of a cross-functional team of representatives from different VAPORHCS services. The GEMS Committee meets monthly to work on stewardship and environmental regulatory compliance issues and has developed Environmental Policy that requires VAPORHCS to adhere to the following environmental management principles:

      • Stewardship
      • Compliance
      • Pollution Prevention
      • Environmental Planning
      • Continual Improvement 
      • Providing quality health care causes impacts to air, land, water, and produces wastes. VAPORHCS minimizes these impacts as much as possible and complies with all applicable environmental laws and regulations. We do this through the work of the GEMS Program Manager, the GEMS Committee, and through employee training, policies, and internal VA environmental compliance audits. The GEMS Program Manager works closely with environmental regulators from the EPA, Oregon, and Washington to ensure our environmental impacts are managed properly. These include:
  • Impacts to Air:
    • Use of emergency generators
    • Refrigerants
    • Boilers provide power, comfort cooling and heating 
  • Land:
    • Use of tanks to store fuel for emergency power generation 
  • Waste:
    • General trash
    • Used oil
    • Hazardous waste
    • Pharmaceutical waste
    • Regulated medical waste
    • Universal waste such as light bulbs and batteries 
  • Impacts to Water:
    • Construction (storm water)
    • Sanitary sewer
    • Water disinfection

The materials currently recycled by our facility include the following: batteries (NiCad, Alkaline, and Lithium), metals (ferrous and nonferrous), electronic equipment (computers, monitors, computer peripherals), fluorescent tubes, cardboard, toner cartridges, cooking oil, amalgam, EKG tabs, and more.

Since 2011, VAPORHCS has also received the Practice GreenHealth Partner for Change Award every year in recognition of its commitment to environmental excellence.

Competing with 2020 VAPORHCS excelled in the following categories:

     % spend green cleaners (EPP)

     % C& D waste recycled

     % of ORs with HVAC setback

     % kits in reusable sterilization container

     % spend safer hand hygiene

     % spend healthy interiors

"Congratulations VA Portland" Practice GreenHealth Partner for Change Award 2020 logo 

On a monthly basis, VAPORHCS diverts anywhere from 10 to 15 tons of waste from landfills to single stream recycling, and 1 ton of organic waste to composting.

Environmental stewardship is also an important component to the VAPORHCS GEMS program. To commemorate Earth Day, patients, visitors, and staff are invited to attend the annual Sustainability Fair. In addition, the GEMS Program organizes voluntary employee invasive species ivy cleanups on Terwilliger Boulevard.

For additional information concerning the VA Portland GEMS program, please contact the GEMS Program Managers at 503-220-8262, ext. 51722 or ext. 51726.