26 easy sustainability hacks for your veterinary clinic

Are you looking to be more sustainable in your veterinary clinic?

If you’re just beginning your veterinary sustainability journey at your practice, here are some handy tips and tricks to get you started that are easy to action, cost-effective and simple to share with your team.

Don’t forget - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle - these 3 R’s form the underlying basis for the majority of environmentally friendly solutions for improving sustainability in Veterinary Practice.

Reception

vet reception

1. Print mindfully - Ask yourself - does your client really need that print-out? Ask them, or offer to email their invoice instead. You could also use something like PetsApp to be 100% digital! If physical copies are required, ensure all of your practice’s printers are set to print double sided to avoid wasteful printing.

2. Switch to 100% recycled paper - Check your paper is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified, which ensures its been sustainably made (the FSC promoted the responsible management of the world’s forests). Shredded paper can be recycled as bedding for small animals or compost.

3. Recycle your printer ink cartridges - Many charities take them, including the RSPB. Check your local print shop too; sometimes they run recycling initiatives.

3. Switch your search engine - Switch to Ecosia, which uses its profits to plant trees - where nature and people need them most. Set Ecosia as the homepage on all your practice computers – the more people that use Ecosia, the more trees they can plant.

4. Post can help too - Recycle your postage stamps; the Rabbit Welfare Association Fund (RWAF) can use your postage stamps for fundraising. Send them to:

RWAF Stamps, Enigma House, Culmhead Business Park, Taunton, Somerset, TA3 7DY.

5. Batteries can have a second life - Switch to rechargeable batteries where possible. Find your nearest recycling location for batteries via a postcode search on the Recycle Now website. Many supermarkets have them in store – remember to take them along next time you pop out on your lunch break!

Pharmacy

vet pharma

6. Dispensing bags - If a bag is required for medications, use paper bags rather than plastic bags.

7. Refill sustainably - Offer a refill system where clients can return their medication bottles to be refilled to reduce plastic.

8. Stock checks - Regularly check stock expiration dates to avoid medication going out of date. Remember you can always use digital veterinary systems (like PetsApp) to remind your customers to pick up their medication so you don’t have to think about it expiring on the side, going to waste.

Consults and Prep Area

vet consult room

9. Waste disposal - Ensure you have clear, well signed recycling bins for paper/cardboard/plastic/tins. Switch to reusable sharps bins like Sharpsmart or cardboard based Bio Bins - practices have reported huge cost savings doing so due to reduced weight of the waste.

10. Vaccines - Used vials can be cleaned and repurposed, using them to collect hair clippings as a keepsake for owners following euthanasia.

11. Tech helps too - Rather than ordering multiple copies of NOAH Compendium – download the super handy free app! Digital versions of the BSAVA Small Animal Formularies are available too.

12. Consumables? Make them greener - Switch to recycled (eg buster collars), or biodegradable alternatives (eg cat litter, gloves, poo bags).

13. Donate unused or expired supplies and medication - Awesome initiatives such as Vet MedAid are dedicated to improving global animal welfare whilst conserving valuable resources that would end up in landfill. From first hand experience volunteering with WeCare Worldwide in Sri Lanka I know how vital and useful these donations are.

14. Eco Bricks - Discover the world of Eco Bricks – essentially a reusable building block made by packing clean and dry plastic into a plastic bottle to a set density. Clean used plastic autoclave packets, chocolate bar wrappers, packaging material, all squished into a bottle can help. Head to the Start Up section on the Eco Bricks website to find your local drop off point.

Theatre and Dental

vet theatre

15. Reusable fabric scrub hats - Reusable hats have been shown to be superior to single use hats in terms of microbial contamination, so are only better for our patients as well as the environment. All Scrubbed Up Scrub Hats provide a great range of sustainability made fabric hats in a huge variety of fun and funky designs.

16. Anaesthesia - Encourage staff to use low flow anaesthesia to reduce waste gases which are potent greenhouse gases. Davies Veterinary Specialists have some fantastic resources on this topic.

17. Fluid bags and lines - Repurpose used fluid bags as booties to keep bandages dry, or as warming packs when labelled and dyed to keep patients warm. Drip lines can be repurposed into ET tube ties rather than using a WOW bandage, especially useful for dentals - or they can be cut into small pieces and sterilised instead of buttons for aural haematoma surgery.

Staff Room

staff room

18. Terracycle - A whole host of items can be recycled via Terracycle, including crisp packets, air fresheners, soap bottles, pens, and pet food packets. You can apply to become a drop-off location too, encouraging clients to recycle when they visit your practice.

19. Veterinary publications - Especially in multi-vet practices, it's common to end up with several copies of the same issue of the Vet Times and other publications. You can amend your Vet Times subscription via your online account – switch to a daily or weekly digital e-newsletter to stay up to date.

20. Donate unused veterinary textbooks - Try Vet Books for Africa who distribute textbooks, journals and equipment of veterinary interest to veterinary faculties in a number of African countries, where they are needed.

21. Bathrooms - Switch to recycled paper or bamboo toilet rolls.

Outside

outside cat pot

22. Bee Friendly Practice Scheme - Bee populations are declining significantly around the world. This is a serious problem as bees help to carry out the pollination that is so vital in producing many of the foods we eat every day. Create a small garden of wildflowers or easy to grow veggies. You can even become a Bee Friendly Practice – head to the British Bee Vets website to receive your Bee Friendly Practice Pack including seeds.

23. Hedgehog Highway - Take part in the national campaign launched by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and create a highway for hedgehogs by creating gaps in fences.

Management

management

24. Green energy - Switching to a greener energy supplier can have a huge impact on the environment - use a comparison site like Big Clean Switch.

25. Finances - Check to see if your bank has good ethical and environmental ratings and aren’t investing in dirty energy, and review your company’s pension scheme (the Ethical Consumer website is a great resource) to ensure your pension is free of investments in carbon intensive sectors that contribute to climate change.

26. Start a Sustainability Group at your practice - Bring together passionate and motivated team members, and track your progress together. Communicate what you are doing with your clients via your practice website and social media. You could also consider gaining Environmental Management Accreditation like Investors in the Environment to demonstrate your commitment to positive climate action.


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