SAN DIEGO (April 22, 2009) — At a time when the environment’s demise might seem inevitable and ‘going green’ is the newest trend, it is encouraging to know that a multimillion dollar hospital has had the environment’s best interests in mind for years. Naval Medical San Diego (NMCSD) not only strives to provide quality health care to armed forces personnel and their beneficiaries, but cares for the environment as well. At NMCSD, the Environmental Division consists of two full time Environmental Protection Specialists and five contractors who are responsible for the existing environmental programs and are continually looking to the future to develop new programs and projects that will benefit nature.
NMCSD has made water conservation a top priority due to San Diego’s desert climate with low annual rainfall, and commonly implemented “water hours” for county residents. A project is underway to design and install a “smart” irrigation system which will sense the level of moisture in the soil and only water the vegetation when necessary. In some areas of the hospital, live grass has been taken out all together and replaced with Easy Turf, completely eliminating the need for water, saving about $3,000 annually and roughly 400 gallons of water per year. Water conservation efforts are regulated inside the hospital walls as well. Installation of hands-free faucets is scheduled to begin this year in two buildings and will expand to other buildings soon after.
Through perseverance and many work hours, savings from recycling at NMCSD doubled from $8,949 to $19,113 between fiscal years 2006 and 2007. For fiscal year 2008, the recycling program resulted in $35,000 savings. The goal is to work on increasing tonnage from 2008, enabling the revenue to remain the same, or even go down. At the same time, the Reuse Center was established to minimize waste going to the landfill and reduce disposal costs for the hospital, thus saving taxpayer dollars. In addition, the center serves as a central location where personnel can acquire no-cost, gently used furniture. This program has saved the command approximately $25,000 in new furniture purchases and numerous work hours.
Medical waste and hazardous waste have also been reduced through recycling. A program was developed to reprocess certain medical devices, instead of sending them out as medical waste, which also gave the hospital the option of purchasing them back for a reduced cost. Reprocessing medical devices has saved over two tons of waste from being incinerated, consequently reducing air pollution. The lead used in X-ray aprons, which would have otherwise become hazardous waste, is now sent out for recycling, redirecting almost one ton of waste.
In addition, NMCSD is implementing the Environmental Management System (EMS). A team has been developed to complete the process and expects to be fully functioning by Sept. 2009. The EMS program was first mandated in Executive Order (EO) 13148 “Greening the Government Through Leadership in Environmental Management” and then reemphasized in EO 13423 “Strengthen Federal Environmental, Energy and Transportation Management.” The EMS is meant to monitor new and existing environmental programs in order to help reduce the overall environmental impact of the hospital. It is a system of checks and balances that ensures the command routinely re-evaluates its environmental protection and conservation measures. In this way, programs can be identified and adjusted as circumstances change, ensuring NMCSD is environmentally conscious.
For more information on NMCSD visit http://www.med.navy.mil/sites/nmcsd.