On Earth Day this year, VA facilities across the country took the opportunity to raise environmental awareness and share how everyone can play a part in environmental solutions, holding events for Veterans, staff, students and local communities. From saving energy to reducing waste to providing healthy food, VA’s efforts to go green serve the joint purpose of improving sustainability and improving VA’s service to Veterans.
Energy engineer Mark Humphries, at the Malcolm Randall VAMC in Gainesville, Fla., sees Earth Day as an opportunity for VA to raise awareness about the resources we all use.
Interns from P. K. Yonge High School worked hard to coordinate the Gainesville event, with a focus on paper use. Using the slogan “Think before you ink,” they encouraged reducing paper use, thus reducing costs and resources used.
The event also included a farmer’s market and a tree-planting ceremony, planting a loquat tree to produce fruit.
A couple thousand miles away, VA Montana Health Care System hosted Earth Day events, including a documentary screening, an educational poster contest, and grounds clean-up. There was also a visit from the Montana Wildlife Center, part of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, with its Ambassador Birds, representing the center’s birds of prey rehabilitation program.
Leslie Holz, Green Environmental Management Systems Coordinator, said – more than 100 people, including employees, Veterans and their families, visited. The speakers spent an hour answering questions and highlighting the need for stable ecosystems, including especially for healthy birds of prey.
Numerous other VA facilities hosted their own events to celebrate Earth Day, such as:
- Minneapolis VAMC hosted a free electronics recycling event, collecting everything from cell phones to TVs
- Martinsburg VAMC had featured educational displays, local food and tours of sustainability initiatives on campus.
- Providence VAMC hosted its third annual Grounds Cleanup, reallocated unused supplies and introduced single-stream recycling.
- Louis Stokes Cleveland VAMC hosted presentations and posters on many topics, including “The New Cleveland VAMC Green Initiative- Food Waste Composting Program,” “Pharmaceutical Waste Management” and “Every Day is Earth Day- Healing Patients and the Community.”
- VA Boston Healthcare System performed landscaping initiatives and rain garden maintenance, as well as recognizing various departments for recycling successes
These events highlight VA’s commitment to serve Veterans through improving sustainability. VA efforts have led to such achievements as reducing energy use per square foot by 23 percent since 2003. In the average home, this is similar to eliminating all of the energy used from water heating and air conditioning.
Author Ben Carlson works for VA’s Green Management Program