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Measuring our carbon footprint in a general veterinary practice

06 Jul 2022 | Lindsey Raven Emrich

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Carbon footprints can tell us a great deal about how our clinics are running, and give us a starting point against which to set targets to decrease our footprint. Lindsey Raven Emrich RVN, Green Champion for Mayne Vets, explains how they have been reducing their practice carbon footprint and why they use carbon offsetting to further balance out their impacts.

Measuring our carbon footprint in a general veterinary practice Image

Mayne vets in Colchester is an independent small animal veterinary clinic, and I am proud to be their ‘Green champion’. This means I am head of a green team, which assesses our impact on the environment and how we can make reductions. Thankfully the practice management are 100% behind this initiative and encourage it within practice.

How we got started

We first began our Green journey back in 2019 when we signed up with Investors in the Environment (iiE), which provided a great framework to work towards and help us become more planet conscious. Alongside looking at our overall environmental impact, we also started to take a closer look at our carbon footprint.

Carbon emissions are one of the main drivers of climate change, with the warming of our planet that will have disastrous effects on human and animal lives alike. In order for us to prevent this we all need to play our part to decrease the warming through reduction of CO2. It was really important to us to be able to tackle this head on and to decrease our impact on the planet.

Due to the pressures on time in everyday practice we decided to work with sustainability consultancy firm Eco Offset Ltd. They helped with analysing the data and provided external validation on our calculations. This does require some financial commitment, but we felt it was a great way for our practice to really stand out from others. If we can show we are doing our bit, hopefully this trickles through to our clients and the wider audience, who can all start to have the planet conscious mindset.

Measuring our carbon footprint

We firmly believe in the old adage ‘You can’t manage what you haven’t measured’, so we knew the first step was to find out how big our carbon footprint actually was. This would enable us to set targets and actions to reduce it. The main areas we reviewed were:

  • Energy used in practice
  • Water consumption
  • Paper use
  • Isoflurane
  • Waste produced

We started work Eco Offset in early 2022, basing our carbon footprint on data from 2021. – However, as we had been working hard to reduce our environmental impact since 2018, we used that as a base year to compare our figures with and see what effect our existing actions had already made. We were delighted to see that our efforts had already started to pay off, as our carbon footprint had reduced by over 15% from 2018 to 2021, with over 2.24 tonnes of CO2 saved!

Not only will this reduction help the planet, it has also made a saving to the running costs of the practice. We’ve reinvested those savings in the use of iiE and Eco offset, but we also hope these savings are a good way of inspiring other veterinary practices to save energy.

We’ve set ourselves targets to reduce our emissions further, year on year. We aim to obtain iiE Green accreditation, and have an ambitious reduction plan to follow. Our biggest target for this year is to get roof insulation installed. After a trip up to the practice premises loft, we realised half of the building isn’t insulated, so this will make a huge impact to our ongoing figures. We are really excited to see just how low we can go with our carbon reduction plan.

Carbon offsetting - Going a step further

When it comes to the climate crisis, we have no time to waste. Our reduction plan is in place but this is long term and we wanted to take responsibility for our emissions today. So, we took the decision to offset our carbon footprint and make a difference immediately.

We discussed with Eco Offset the sort of projects which were important to us as a practice and team, and what we thought our clients would be interested in. They then came back to us with a selection of suitable projects to review.

Nature and community based solutions were a clear choice and we are really proud to be supporting a fantastic project in the Amazon Rainforest. This project is protecting endangered species of wildlife, providing jobs for local communities and enables mature trees to keep existing carbon locked away, while sequestering more year on year.

We are also supporting another project which provides clean water filters to families in Laos. Drinking dirty water is still a leading cause of illness and death in children under 5, with families having to resort to chopping trees down and burning them as fuel in an attempt to boil and purify stagnant water to drink. With these water filters, trees are preserved, emissions are avoided from burning them, habitat and biodiversity is maintained and crucially, parents are able to give their children clean water.

By doubling our offsetting commitment, we are thrilled to now be carbon negative, removing more carbon from the atmosphere than we produce. We have also planted 748 trees to match our efforts, including one for each member of staff (see photo of our team with their certificate of trees planted on their behalf).

Eco Offset provided us with full certification from The United Nations and The Gold Standard offsetting accreditation registries, along with links to the global registries to show our commitment in our own company name. Transparency was really important to us to be able to give our team and clients confidence in our actions and these enable us to showcase our achievements.

This is the first year we have offset our footprint and so we look forward to our reduction plan working and being able to offset less and less each year, whilst still helping worthwhile projects.

Conclusion

I would say that the data collection wasn't particularly exciting especially by a spreadsheet phobic veterinary nurse who is certainly more practical than computer based – but it was all well worth it. We continue our green journey everyday with travel planning, sustainable procurement and more. We have now really embedded green practices throughout the company. These projects do take drive, passion, and support from the practice management as well as the whole team.

We are so proud of what we have achieved so far and we have so much more that can be done and that we are working towards. Carbon offsetting will become more mainstream so we are thankful we can keep ahead of the curve, not only providing exceptional care to our patients but also to the wider environment that we all rely on so much.

Whilst we have been fortunate enough to use iiE and Eco offset, there are some great free resources now that can be used. A great starting point to any green veterinary journey is the fantastic Vet Sustain website and the Greener Veterinary Practice Webinar Series.

We are hopeful and look forward to see how our industry can make further positive impacts towards the environment. Please do get in touch if I can be of any help in getting you started on your green journey.

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