Since 2005 the VA Maryland Health Care System (VAMHCS) has been developing and improving its Green Environmental Management System (GEMS) Program which is based on ISO 14001. The GEMS committee meets every other month with representatives from most services (Engineering, Research, Pharmacy, Pathology & Laboratory, Nursing, Canteen, Nutrition and Food, Management, Safety, Infection Control, Housekeeping, Acquisitions and Material Management, and Social Work). Each year the committee completes a ‘GAP Analysis’ to identify areas in the program that are lacking development and sets goals and objectives to minimize the most significant hazards, increase compliance, decrease pollution, or increase sustainability. Specific actions include:


  • Reduced the amount of solid waste generated.
  • Helped to create a stronger market for recycled products.
  • Improved chemical storage compliance in areas where chemicals are most often used and stored.
  • Improved chemical purchasing and chemical inventory process.
  • Established environmental procedures for construction project management.
  • Audited pharmaceutical waste management program.
  • Developed pharmaceutical waste management policy for compliance with EPA & MDE regulations.
  • Increased compliance level of underground storage tank and aboveground storage tank programs.
  • Developed environmental stewardship wording and inserted environmental requirements into select position descriptions and performance requirements.
  • Developed guidelines and established Green Procurement Policy for Acquisitions & Purchases.
  • Established a computer based training program for environmental aspects and impacts.


Select results include:

  • VAMHCS received three ‘Partners for Change’ awards from Practice GreenHealth.
  • 80% of VAMHCS employees receive GEMS awareness training which consists of green purchasing, recycling, areas of compliance, and calendar year goals.
  • Reduced RMW by 8% since 2006. In 2008 RMW was 277 tons, down from 302.3 tons in 2006.
  • Reduced solid waste by 7% since 2006; In 2008 solid waste was 1796 tons, down from 1933.4 tons in 2006.
  • Virtually mercury free, with the exception of fluorescent bulbs and dental amalgam.
  • Increased recycling efforts by 46% since 2006: In 2008 the VAMHCS recycled 290.6 tons of waste; up from 156 tons in 2006.
  • Implemented cardboard, battery, grease, white paper, and ink and toner recycling programs.
  • Reduced hazardous waste from 2006 to 2007 by 7%.
  • Established Recycling Committee at the Perry Point Facility
  • Developed policies & procedures, including GEMS, Integrated Pest Management, Hazardous Materials and Waste Management, Environmental Control Risk Assessment procedures, Hazardous Drug, and Control of Moisture & Mold.


Contact: Angela Wood, GEMS Coordinator,