Green is good at VA medical center

Helping veterans with their daily lives and environmental excellence go hand in hand.

The Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center in Iron Mountain has earned the Greenhealth Emerald Award from Practice Greenhealth.

Practice Greenhealth is a national nonprofit based in Reston, Virginia.

Its goal is to promote sustainable health care that’s good for the environment, good for patients and staff, and good for the bottom line, which it said means action plans to eliminate mercury, reduce and recycle solid waste, reduce regulated and chemical waste, reduce energy and water consumption, create healing environments, and establish green purchasing policies.

Regarding health care, that means efforts like reducing water usage, increasing recycling programs and phasing out hazardous substances and toxic chemicals.

The Greenhealth Emerald Award is one of many Environmental Excellence Awards given to facilities in the health care sector. This particular award designation is given to hospitals that demonstrate strong sustainability program implementation and cross-functional excellence.

Green is good, but emerald is everything.

The Veterans Administration facility in Iron Mountain has undertaken major environmental initiatives, which include recycling 59 percent of its solid waste, reducing overall hazardous waste disposal by 35 percent and recycling 45 percent of its construction and demolition waste.

It also diverted 1.33 tons of plastic annually from the local landfill by switching to reusable Sharps containers.

Jim Rice, director at the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center, said a clean and sustainable health care facility has a positive impact on the health and well-being of patients, employees and the community.

Of course, veteran well-being as a whole is of utmost importance, and it appears the Johnson Medical Center is succeeding in this regard, having ranked 10th best nationwide in fiscal year 2017 in overall quality.

However, having an environmentally healthy facility is crucial. Providing games for recreation and nutritious meals are important, but their appeal diminishes greatly in the presence of too many hazardous materials, for example.

What’s even more commendable about the center’s recognition is that over 96 percent of its patients are considered rural or highly rural, making it the most rural facility in the VA health care system.

So, that goes to show that a VA center doesn’t have to be highly urbane to be environmentally responsible.

We hope this can be an example, then, to all “rural” facilities in the Upper Peninsula.

–The Mining Journal