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Jade’s sustainability pledge: To practise responsible resource use

12 Apr 2022


We’re calling on all members of the veterinary profession to join #GreenTeamVet and sign up to our sustainability pledge. In this blog, Vet Sustain Administrator Jade Urquhart-Gilmore explains why she’s committed her team to practising responsible resource use.

Jade’s sustainability pledge: To practise responsible resource use  Image

Sustainability. What does it mean? For many, it means reducing our impact on the environment and thinking green. However, I would define sustainability as three interlinked pillars; environmental, ethical (sometimes called social equity) and economic. For something to be sustainable it has to fit within these three concepts. 

A sustainable pledge

At the 2021 London Vet Show, I pledged to “practice responsible resource use” alongside to “be more sustainable in my operation” and “to use medicines responsibly” at the BVA stand.

I work in a small but busy corporate practice, so I know that to achieve my pledges, I’ll need the support of my whole team. Discussing the idea of improving sustainability within the team was met with the general sentiment of being a wonderful ideal that we currently couldn’t achieve. Like many other practices across the UK, we have a high workload with limited energy and time to change our operation. My team needs to feel empowered; and during a time of high workload, stress and burnout, it is clear the first steps needed to be achievable and have a positive impact on our team.

In order to inspire and motivate, our initial goals had to be realistic and attainable without being demanding. We have approached improving sustainability as both a short and long term project, with our team setting achievable goals which could lead to further commitment. We decided to start by focusing on reducing waste, responsible sourcing and improving recycling. 

What changes are we making?

We’ve opted to choose bioplastics where possible, source products from the UK to reduce carbon footprint and choose products that can be recycled easily. These choices can sometimes come with added financial cost, but take less time and effort than some other goals, making them good first steps for our time deficient team. 

To maximise recycling, we’ve bought Terracycle boxes for uncontaminated PPE and pill packets, and are making sure we recycle soft and hard plastics. We’re also looking into recycling of syringes, medicine bottles and catheter casing. These are more effort demanding goals and require space (also at a premium in our practice). But they are good for motivation as you can visibly see the recycling growing, which provides a positive reminder of our progress.

We’re also working on reducing our waste; for example moving to washable scrub hats and gowns for theatre, using cloth masks, reducing water wastage (e.g. by repairing leaking taps). We’re also saving used fluids and lines to water house plants, and our SVN washes out vaccine bottles that are repurposed to hold fur clippings after euthanasias. Our clients really appreciate these, and with minimal costs to us, their value for clients makes preparing them a rewarding experience for our SVN. 

Keeping motivated towards our goals

Having tangible markers for progress can be motivating when doing well, as it shows what areas are worth pursuing – though it can be difficult to mark progress accurately. We plan to keep records of our current performance and discuss this with other practices as a way to assess our progress. We will also be looking into the Vet Sustain carbon calculator when it becomes available. This will give us a more informed picture and guidance on changes our practice can make.

Sustainability is about operating in a maintainable fashion. Amongst a time deficient team, environmental sustainability cannot come at the price of team burnout, and cannot lead to decline in clinical standards. We’ve set achievable short term targets inspiring further commitment and excitement in this project. By getting all members of the team involved and approaching them for their opinions and ideas on areas relevant to them, we’ve motivated our team to be engaged. By involving all team members, we’ve allowed them to express concerns over proposed solutions, e.g. being too time consumptive or compromising patient welfare, and worked through these to find a solution that fits everyone’s sustainability criteria. All of this makes long term commitment more likely. 

What’s next?

Looking ahead, we are considering providing electronic educational leaflets for owners - to reduce printing, improve patient care and owner understanding of conditions; joining the Bee Friendly Practice Scheme and reducing the frequency of supplier deliveries (possibly coordinated with nearby practices).  

This enthusiasm across the team will lead to more progress and inspire both our clients and our peers that becoming more sustainable within practice is achievable. 


For more information and ideas, check out the Vet Sustain website, follow #GreenTeamVet on social media and make your own pledge online.


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