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A recent survey from the Voice of the Veterinary Profession found that a massive 89% of members thought that vets should be doing more to create a sustainable future for the profession. But how can vets actually employ the mantra of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle to ensure that their workplaces are not just saving animals, but helping to save the planet as well?

The two main strategies involved in going greener involve looking at two different aspects of a vet’s work. First of all there are the strategic decisions and practice-wide decisions that can factor into a more environmentally-sound approach. Then there are the smaller, day-to-day decisions that may seem negligible, but can add up to a significant cost to the planet.

STRATEGIC QUESTIONS AND DECISIONS

How is your practice powered? It may feel like it’s powered with caffeine most of the time, but ultimately how you generate your energy for the office is a big factor in your carbon footprint. Think about which energy provider your practice uses, and switch to a renewable one if possible.

What is your waste drug policy? There is a big carbon cost of unused drugs, not just from manufacturing, but from the complexity of disposing of these items.

Speaking of waste disposal, you can cut plastic use and save significant money by exchanging hard plastic bins for “bio-bins”.

How do you get to work? Does your practice have a sustainable transport initiative? Even if it’s something as simple as a car-share scheme, this can go a long way to reducing environmental impact.

Do an audit of your equipment, from the x-ray machine to the heating and the fridge. How energy efficient is it? Can you recycle old equipment? Don’t be afraid to invest in more energy-efficient equipment – you’ll quickly start recouping the cost in lower energy bills.

MICRO-CONSIDERATIONS

Often the micro-considerations consist of making sure that the environment is a factor in every purchasing decision. When it comes to cleaning supplies: do you make sure you go for the greener versions? If you have a high usage of bedding, can you safely reuse materials that would otherwise go to waste? Do you have a scheme that helps you to recycle your sharps? Do you use energy-efficient light bulbs?

There are also some vet-specific green switches you can make. Consider ditching those awful disposable hairnets for cotton washable scrub hats. Use bamboo toothbrushes instead of plastic ones for cleaning clippers. And make sure your anaesthesia practices are as green as possible by avoiding nitrous oxide or unnecessary anaesthesia, and regularly checking and servicing your anaesthetic machine, vaporiser and breathing systems to prevent wastage.

Don’t forget that customers are increasingly looking for the businesses they use to not only say that they care about the environment, but to show it too. If you can demonstrate that you are striving to be a greener practice, then you can expect your customers to come along for the journey too.

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