JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- The green efforts of Madigan Army Medical Center recently earned it the Greenhealth Emerald Award.

Madigan competed alongside civilian and military hospitals on a national level to be recognized for its superior sustainability program in areas such as air emissions, water, recycling, green buildings, environmental-friendly purchasing, nutritional practices and leadership.

"We have very motivated staff at Madigan who want to do the recycling, who want to reduce waste, who want to do all of these great initiatives out there that help us get to these goals," said Kerry Turner, an environmental protection specialist at Madigan.

In fact, after 10 years of earning awards from Practice Greenhealth, Madigan gets asked by other environmental offices just how they consistently get their green practices right.

"The reason we have a slight edge is because of that (consistency). Once you get it right, you continue to do it right; you get better at it, and then it becomes second nature," said Mike Kyser, supervisor of the environmental protection section at Madigan.

This past year, Madigan introduced compostable containers at the Madigan Grille Dining Hall and expanded MedSafe medication disposal containers at McChord Medical Clinic, Okubo Soldier-Centered Medical Home and Winder Family Medicine Clinic to offer patients environmentally-friendly options to dispose of unused prescription medications. Other new initiatives included the Move to Health challenges for Madigan staff, and constructing new buildings to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design silver standards.

Kyser credited Madigan's success to its decentralized approach, empowering all staff to contribute to keeping the hospital and its practices environmentally-friendly.

Turner and Sonia Beare, another environmental protection specialist at Madigan, teach a monthly environmental coordination course to help create environmental advocates in every area of Madigan. With the turnover seen at a military treatment facility, they also strive to engage all new employees when they arrive at Madigan to educate them on the basics of being green at work.

"With all the education and teaching that we're doing, I think that's what makes Madigan different. We are a teaching hospital, and we stand behind that. We're constantly engaged in teaching," Kyser said. "The more information that's put out there, we realize people make choices on their own, and they decide to do the right thing."

His team of environmental professionals are joined by Madigan's Green Team, which includes experts from safety, infection control, facilities management, logistics, nutrition, environmental health, nursing and the operating room. The Green Team meetings, held the last Tuesday of each month, are open to all staff.

Staff interested in finding out how else they can help out can talk to the designated environmental coordinators in their sections.

"The way they can continue to keep Madigan green is to maintain working relationships with their environmental coordinators, so they can continue to be educated on anything that's new, any changes going on with how we are supporting the green of our hospital environment," Kyser said.

Next year, among other plans, his team hopes to stand up a Green Star award to recognize departments for their efforts in supporting sustainability.

"It's our spirit to be good stewards of the environment; that's really what it's about," Kyser said.