How to move towards becoming a more sustainable veterinary practice in 2023
With environmental and sustainability issues consistently hitting the headlines, it is becoming increasingly important for both individuals and businesses to take active steps towards implementing changes that will have a positive impact on the world around us.
A report from the IPCC highlights a selection of stark reasons as to why ensuring the global temperature doesn't increase beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius matters. These include preventing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events that have a devastating impact on communities and wildlife, enhancing food security, and protecting the biodiversity within our ecosystems.
The good news is that not only is it possible to operate a more sustainable veterinary practice, but taking a series of clear steps to enact change is also highly likely to have positive outcomes for your profitability, team morale, and patient care.
How can a vet practice be more sustainable in 2023?
It is now apparent that the veterinary sector must collectively become more aware of the impact it is having on our environment. Naturally, as with any step towards enacting change, understanding the ways in which we are personally contributing to the issue is key.
In practical terms, this means taking a good look at every aspect of your practice, including the practices of your current electricity supplier, the methods of recycling you have adopted into your daily routine, and the ways in which you approach the procurement process for equipment and for contracts.
Small, sustainability-focused switches
The prospect of change can be intimidating, however, even something as straightforward as switching to an energy provider that uses renewables can make a big difference. So, don't underestimate the seemingly small things, or discount them completely. However, given the issue with the way that renewable “credits” are logged with REGOs, going 100% renewable for your electricity supply isn’t a cure-all. And whilst the government has announced a new energy bills discount scheme for UK businesses, it is still really worth doing as much as possible to reduce your energy demand: replacing bulbs (especially high intensity theatre lighting) with LED equivalents is a capital cost that pays for itself rapidly in reduced energy usage, but also with a dramatically extended lifespan.
Other small, achievable switches include replacing plastic containers for cardboard alternatives, eliminating single-use scrub hats in favour of washable fabric options, and leveraging specific recycling schemes that accept materials that aren't recyclable through standard schemes. Terracycle is a good example of this type of specialist scheme, because it accepts a range of pet food packaging that would otherwise end up in landfill.
Larger environmental investments
There are numerous more intensive changes you could choose to make, including increasing the insulation of your practice building, investing in new windows and doors, and having an air source heat pump installed. With regard to larger investments, it may be worth looking into whether your practice is eligible for commercial support schemes to minimise the financial impact of making these changes.
Steps to reduce waste in veterinary practice settings, however, must continue to play a key role in meeting overall sustainability goals and switching from traditional paper-based records to vet clinic software can be transformative in so many different ways.
What are the environmental advantages of adopting digital veterinary workflow software?
Digital software solutions designed to meet the needs of even the busiest veterinary practices will drastically reduce the amount of paper being used every single day as digital whiteboards, templates, treatment sheets and more can be easily shared, edited and reviewed by relevant team members. It is worth emphasising here that this will also save administrative time on filing, scanning, printing, and searching for specific documents - time which can then be used to improve client experiences and patient outcomes.
But crucially, by switching to a paper-free solution, your practice will no longer be contributing to the more than 12.5 million tonnes of paper that is used in the UK every single year. And did you know that cardboard and paper account for one-fifth of all the waste produced in the UK? It appears that we have a paper problem and now is the perfect time to address it.
Why does this matter?
First, that paper is incredibly energy and resource intensive to produce, as well as usually requiring deforestation, meaning it has a remarkably high carbon footprint. To produce the amount of paper that we collectively go through in the UK annually, the number of trees required would easily cover an area the size of Wales. That's some two million hectares! Secondly, as it takes more than 320 litres of water to make one kilogram of paper, eliminating or even vastly reducing your paper usage will clearly have a huge impact here.
Finally, the paper may also end up in landfill where, in anaerobic conditions, its decay is highly variable and often releases carbon as the very potent greenhouse gas methane.
Maximising environmental sustainability in veterinary practice settings requires a multi-faceted approach. As well as helping your practice to become entirely paper-free, a digital veterinary software solution such as Plexi can also support improvements in numerous other areas of your practice, such as accurate timely patient treatments, and lab samples and patient ashes tracking.
There’s no single easy fix to our environmental problems – but many of them can be solved, or at least alleviated, with small, practical, down-to-earth solutions. Consider changing to LED bulbs; look for greener energy and other suppliers. And think seriously about going paperless!
Plexi is an advanced, cloud-based veterinary software solution that can help you on your way to becoming a more environmentally-friendly veterinary practice. If you would like to find out more, please contact our friendly team to book your free demo.