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How can veterinary practices be greener?

03 Aug 2022

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This year we teamed up with Vet Sustain and VDS Training to bring you a series of free webinars based on the topics covered in the Greener Veterinary Practice Checklist. We’ve been focussing on a different sustainability topic each month, to provide practical advice to help your workplace become greener. Here we summarise the key points learnt so far, and link to our supporting blog articles for more information.

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Empowering the team

The first step in a practice sustainability journey is to get team members on board, so we started the series with a focus on empowering the team. Key points included:

  • Engaging with sustainability can improve recruitment and increase retention and wellbeing
  • Clients expect sustainability to be considered
  • Changing behaviours and habits requires time, patience and motivation 
  • It’s important to make sure your team celebrates moving in the right direction together   

Through our supporting blog series, we also showcased the business benefits of sustainability, and discussed key questions such as how do I get my boss to care? We also highlighted that most vets care about the environment and know they could have a significant impact. Plus we shared inspiration from the  BVA green team, BVNA and Ellie West, showing how everyone can help.

For more help to engage your team, watch the full webinar or read this summary from Vet Sustain.

Using water and energy responsibly

Saving water and energy can help prevent climate change, reduce the risks of droughts and save businesses money. Some top tips from this practical session included:

  • Simple and inexpensive changes include LED light bulbs, window films, radiator reflectors and turning off devices
  • Save energy with a simple 'Heating and Cooling Policy' for using the thermostat
  • Consider the ERP or Star rating when buying new white goods and boilers
  • Save water with water hippos in older cisterns, tap aerators and water butts
  • Use your EPC certificate as a starting point to improve the energy efficiency of your building

We shared articles on ways to save energy through technology, heating, and travel, and to save water through use of alcohol hand rub. Further inspiration came from Old Hall vets who shared their practical tips.

For more ideas on how to save energy and water, read this fuller summary from Vet Sustain.

Sustainable surgery and use of consumables

The surgical theatre is one of the most carbon and waste intensive rooms in any veterinary practice. Key points from this discussion included:

  • Rationalise the instruments needed before a procedure. Prepare your tray in advance so that you limit any unnecessary waste from unused equipment
  • Consider switching from single-use to reusable textiles
  • Small pieces of aluminium may be missed by recycling machines, so roll them into larger balls and recycle together
  • Speak to your waste management company to be clear on what you can recycle

Our supporting blog articles covered ditching disposables in the operating theatre, why veterinary teams should care about plastic waste, and what Mars Petcare is doing to tackle this issue. Plus, Vet Sustain’s Jade told us why she’d pledged to practise responsible resource use.

Read Vet Sustain’s summary for more waste saving tips.

Using medicines responsibly

Veterinary professionals need to use medicines to protect animal welfare, but not doing so responsibly can negatively impact humans, animals and the environment. Key points from this webinar included:

  • Antimicrobial and parasiticide use is a One Health issue
  • The whole practice team needs to be on board with antibiotic and parasiticide stewardship to drive change.
  • Reduce, Replace, Refine - Use the 3Rs framework to approach a prescribing policy as a vet or practice.

Our blog posts looked at tackling AMR across a large veterinary group and by not selling antibiotics. On parasiticides, Justine Shotton told us about her pledge, and Old Hall vets explained how they take a risk-based approach. We also shared advice on disposal of medicines from NOAH. 

For more advice on the 3Rs approach, read this summary.

Reducing your carbon footprint

Reducing your practice carbon footprint can cut costs, help retain staff, improve your reputation and keep you compliant with carbon legislation. From this session, key points included:

  • Measuring your carbon footprint gives you a good piece of data from which you can create an action plan
  • If you have multiple premises, measure the carbon footprint for each to make sure each site has its own action plan
  • Record and review your data consistently to make it easier to see your progress.

Carbon calculators are really useful tools, so we’re excited for the launch of the veterinary carbon calculator to make this task easier than ever. Mayne Vets explained how measuring their footprint made a difference, and we shared some of the ways we’ve reduced ours at BVA. Malcolm Morley’s pledge to green his pension also helped to cut his carbon footprint this year.

For more guidance on measuring and reducing your carbon footprint, watch the full webinar or read this In Practice article.

Coming soon: Helping others make greener choices

For our final webinar, we switch the focus from getting your own house in order to looking at how veterinary teams can use their role as trusted advisers to help others to make ‘greener’ choices.

We’ll discuss the importance of communicating the positive changes you’ve already made with clients and making sure you have a good understanding of key sustainability topics to answer enquiries. We’ll also highlight how animal welfare is a key part of sustainability, how we can influence sustainable food production and consumer food choices, and the main elements of the carbon pawprint.

Register to attend our final webinar of the series on Wednesday 21 September, 7 to 8pm.

Whilst you wait, you can get inspired to use your veterinary voice by reading these articles from James Russell and Alice Moore, catch up on previous webinars, and keep an eye on our #GreenTeamVet campaign page for the latest updates.

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