JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- The staff at Brooke Army Medical Center received three Practice Greenhealth Environmental Awards at the CleanMed 2019 conference for their efforts in innovating sustainability and environmental best practices throughout the facility.

BAMC received the Greening the OR Award for the second time and the Partner for Change for the third time. This year, BAMC also received its first Circle of Excellence -- Chemicals Award.

"It is important that BAMC work towards the goals covered by the Greenhealth awards," said Kevin Nikodym, BAMC facility manager, "because we are recognized as the flagship of Army Medicine and have a responsibility to set the example for all other military medical sites to follow."

Practice Greenhealth's Environmental Excellence Awards recognize health care facilities, health sector suppliers, and member organizations for making a commitment to and progressing toward environmental stewardship and sustainability. According to Army Capt. Jennifer House, the chief of Environmental Health at BAMC, each Circle of Excellence award highlights the efforts made by hospitals driving innovation in sustainability performance across an array of categories. The Chemicals category honors hospitals where staff work to address toxicity through greener cleaning programs and avoidance of chemicals of concern in purchasing products, services and equipment.

"The Department of Nutritional Medicine continues to only purchase safe chemicals needed to wash and sanitize our food service areas," said Army Maj. David E. Elliott, DNM deputy chief. "We don't use bleach. We have zero mercury-containing thermometers."

The Partner for Change Award recognizes health care facilities that continuously improve and expand upon programs to eliminate mercury, reduce and recycle waste, source products sustainably, and more. Winning facilities must demonstrate that they are recycling at least 15 percent of their total waste, have reduced regulated medical waste, are on track to eliminate mercury, and have developed successful sustainability programs in many areas.

The Greening the OR category honors hospitals for leadership in implementation and innovation in the surgical department. Winners demonstrated innovative approaches to waste minimization, clinical plastic recycling, reformulation of operating room kits, and a range of other programs and associated metrics.

The staff at BAMC are not content to rest on their current victories. House said there are five new goals for continued improvement in 2019.

These include:

Goal 1 -- Reduce facility energy use intensity and facility potable water use intensity. In addition, ensure construction and renovation projects achieve LEED Silver, or equivalent.

LEED, or the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is an industry standard set by the U.S. Green Building Council which provides a framework for creating efficient and cost-effective "green" buildings. The rating system, which runs from Certified all the way to Platinum, is the most widely used rating system of its type in the world.

Goal 2 -- Increase community outreach programs to develop stakeholder partnerships.

Goal 3 -- Enhance indoor air quality and reduce other exposures through reduction in use of hazardous and toxic materials found in furnishings, building materials, and cleaning supplies.

Goal 4 -- Implement an electronics life cycle management plan and data center "energy management place" in support of energy use reduction and waste diversion goals as detailed in the Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan.

Goal 5 -- Reduce waste by 10 percent through recycling and management of pharmaceuticals.

Although the awards are appreciated, Elliott said they of secondary importance.

"Awards aren't that important," he said. "Sustainability is a priority for us all to ensure a future for our children and continue to provide a fit and ready force."