VA’s Green Management Program Office is pleased to announce the five winners of the 2013 Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Sustainability Achievement Awards. This awards program recognizes innovative, cost-effective efforts at VA facilities around the country to improve sustainability performance in several categories: alternative fuel/fuel conservation in transportation, electronic stewardship, energy efficiency, environmental management systems, green purchasing, recycling, renewable energy, sustainable design, waste minimization/pollution prevention, and water conservation.
Alternative Fuel/Fuel Conservation in Transportation
Innovative E-85 Usage Program
Albany-Stratton VA Medical Center
The Albany VA Medical Center (VAMC) combined data analysis and outreach to reduce its 2012 gasoline consumption by nearly 14% over the previous year, despite increased demands on its services. With expanded Home Based Primary Care and other outreach programs, the Albany VAMC’s fleet size had grown over five times its size since 2005 to 93 vehicles, which made it challenging to meet the federally mandated petroleum fuel reduction goals. To achieve its goals, the Albany VAMC identified under-used vehicles for reassignment; increased the number of flexible fuel vehicles in the fleet; affixed a dashboard sign requiring the use of only E-85 fuel in Flex-fuel vehicles; monitored driver compliance; and provided laminated maps of local E-85 fuel stations. In addition, the Albany VAMC participated in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities Coalition Program, and collaborated with a local fuel vendor to convert a vacant pump location into an E-85 fuel station.
Energy & Water Efficiency Improvements
Fayetteville (North Carolina) VA Medical Center
Through its vibrant 2012 energy and water conservation program, the Fayetteville VA Medical Center (VAMC) attained the federally mandated water intensity reduction goal, and made great achievements towards the energy intensity reduction goal for 2015. In 2012 alone, the Fayetteville VAMC reduced its energy consumption by 14% and water usage by 5%. Overall, since 2003, the facility has seen a 28% decrease in energy usage and a 36% decline in water usage, and reduced its annual utility bill by $250,000. Some of the activities that drove this program’s success include: education and outreach to the maintenance and facility staff to assign energy wasting issues as high priority; an energy conservation orientation for new employees; and promoting sustainability information booths during Earth Day and Energy Awareness Month events.
Used Cooking Oil Recycling Program at PatriotCafés
Veterans Canteen Service (Nationwide)
The Veterans Canteen Service (VCS), which purchases approximately 777,000 pounds of cooking oil annually, has launched a nationwide initiative to recycle used cooking oil generated by its PatriotCafés and Nutrition and Food Services Departments. The VCS’s program aims to recycle 75% of its used cooking oil, which represents 583,000 pounds annually. Since June 2012, this recycling initiative has resulted in 50,000 pounds of recycled used cooking oil at 60 PatriotCafés. This exciting initiative is diverting waste from landfills; supporting jobs in the recycling industry; reducing our Nation’s dependence on foreign oil by creating bio-diesel alternative fuel; and supporting broader efforts toward meeting the 50% waste diversion rate goal by the year 2015. This successful recycling initiative has generated interest as a best practices model to potentially be shared with Wal-Mart, Wendy’s, and other private sector entities.
Waste Minimization/Pollution Prevention
Solid Waste Diversion Program
Hampton (Virginia) VA Medical Center
The Hampton VA Medical Center’s recycling program diverted 87% of its waste stream from landfills and reduced its disposal cost by nearly $25,000 in FY 2012. Most of that waste was sent to the nearby Langley NASA Municipal Waste Steam Power Plant. Of the 2 million pounds of waste recycled at the VA facility, 1.2 million pounds were diverted and used by NASA to generate renewable energy for their campus. This project is recognized for its cross-agency collaboration as well as the Hampton VAMC’s commitment to sustainable operations.
WaterWise Conservation Project
Bakersfield (California) National Cemetery
Bakersfield National Cemetery is a newer VA cemetery in a desert environment, which has embraced and incorporated the many features of the Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterWise program. The 502-acre cemetery optimized water usage by incorporating drought-resistant trees, shrubs, flowers, and turf, as well as water-conserving soil mulch. As a result, water usage was reduced by 94% compared to traditional grass covered cemeteries. In its first year of operation, the Bakersfield National Cemetery used only 2.4 million gallons of irrigation water in 2012, which is a savings of 37.6 million gallons of groundwater annually compared to traditional grass-covered cemeteries. This water conservation program has lessened the cemetery&rsuqo;s impact on the local groundwater aquifer that is already stressed by a long-term drought; reduced energy consumption needed for the irrigation system; and reduced the use of pesticides. The Cemetery will experience an estimated 20-year savings of $4.5 million on maintenance and $3.2 million dollars in irrigation water.
Green Purchasing: Honorable Mention
Biobased Cleaner and Lubricant Project
Riverside (California) National Cemetery
The Riverside National Cemetery is replacing its petroleum-based cleaners with biobased products to reduce its environmental footprint. After searching for eight years for a “green” alternative for its petroleum products, the Cemetery found Hoover/Nutek biobased cleaners and lubricants, which are very effective in cleaning and repairing the Cemetery’s mowing and burial equipment, and cost the same as petroleum-based cleaners. In addition, the biobased cleaners and degreasers are less toxic and help decrease our country’s dependence on foreign oil. As a result, the Cemetery is replacing all of its petroleum-based products with environmentally-friendly Hoover/Nutek products. In the future, the National Cemetery Administration plans to make environmentally sustainable products a standard, not an exception.