Sustainable Success! 8 Eco-Friendly Tips for Your Veterinary Practice
When nature awakens from its winter slumber and spring returns at last, it’s natural for all things green to be top-of-mind. 🍃 Then, when late April approaches and Earth Day comes around, thoughts of green turn to “going green” and we start to seriously consider how we can be better stewards of the environment. For modern-minded veterinary practice owners, this includes marinating on methods for weaving sustainability into the fibers of their businesses as well.
And why not? There are a host of benefits for going green when and where your clinic can. Of course, there is the positive earthly impact - leaving the world a better place for generations to come is always a good thing. Plus, it feels good to do good and we could all benefit from a little boost in serotonin. Embracing eco-friendly tactics also affords you the opportunity to be a leader amongst the other businesses in your community, including in the eyes of your customers and potential customers.
From the products and technology you support, to the habits and best practices you establish, there are numerous areas of your business that can benefit from a sprinkle of sustainability. Here are eight tips for helping you continue down the path to becoming a mean, green, sustainability machine!
1. Pick products that protect
Many veterinary products can have an environmental impact - why not start by seeking out those that make it a good one? Here are some examples.
• Sharps disposal system
Properly disposing of medical waste is a key aspect of environmental protection, and implementing a sharps disposal system makes this an easier task than ever before. Simply purchase the appropriate size sharps container for your clinic’s needs and when it is full, place it in a pre-paid box and put it in the mail. The package will be shipped directly to an incinerator, where it will be safely, reliably, and environmentally responsibly disposed of.
• Drug deactivation system
If drugs aren’t disposed of properly, it can spell disaster. In a clinical setting, a drug deactivation system is the simplest way to dispose of medications, rendering them innefective for misuse while keeping waterways and the environment free of contamination. Offerings like the Deterra System feature USDA certified packaging that is 50% or more bio-based and has received the I’m Green™ plastic certification.
• Companion animal aftercare policy
When it comes to the humane, ethical, and sensitive handling of pets after their passing, Euthabags are the first functional alternative to plastic body bags. Plastic bags used for body disposal offer no protection to the environment, and have been documented to harm wildlife and farm animals. Plus, a 2020 study of 100 US pet owners found that 70% were unaware plastic bags were used for deceased pets, 84% find this is not acceptable, and 82% would pay more for a safe alternative such as Euthabag.
2. Go paperless where possible
According to Middle Georgia State University, approximately 1 billion trees worth of paper are thrown away every year in the U.S. We can do better, don’t you think? What about considering paperless solutions to traditionally paper-heavy processes in your clinic? Here are some ideas.
• Paperless payment
Receive as many bills and statements electronically as possible, and make your own payments electronically. Not only will this reduce paper waste, it’s also faster. Plus, eliminating manual functions allows you to shift your focus to higher priorities. VetHero Pay gives clients options for contactless payment, 24/7. You can even send clients text messages with a link to an online bill so they can pay from anywhere!
• Paperless check-in
Use a kiosk or a tablet to accept new patient forms electronically. Your customers are looking for the path of least resistance when it comes to intake forms – particularly if they have a squirmy pup in tow. Integrating paperless forms is more eco-friendly and makes a monumental difference in client experience.
• Paperless safety data sheets
Try a service like AutoSDS, an online database of OSHA-required safety data sheets. Increasing compliance while decreasing three-ring binders and stacks and stacks of paper waste? Yes please.
• Paperless post-op care
Are you sending your clients home with post-op care instruction sheets for their pets? Misplacing those sheets is easy to do. Skip the paper forms by forwarding a digital copy of the instructions to a preferred email address.
3. Try paperless marketing
Apparently, we weren’t quite through making our paperless point just yet. So many aspects of client marketing can be automated, and so many easy-to-use tools exist to help you do just that.
Are you snail mailing your appointment reminders? Reduce paper waste, free up your team’s time, and decrease no-shows with automated reminders. With a tool like VeHero client communication software, these reminders can take the form of text messages, emails, or auto-call communications, and your clients can select their preferred platform.
While you’re at it, give your reputation a spring refresh by setting up auto-requests for positive reviews. These can be automatically deployed via text or email following a client appointment. And hey, if you work all of your eco-friendly efforts into your key marketing messaging, your clients may even call this out in their glowing reviews!
4. Dabble in digital imaging
Digital radiography has emerged as a more efficient, more cost effective, and even safer method for collecting diagnostic images compared to traditional X-ray technology. Eliminate the need for paper print-outs (yes, more talk about paper 😬) by going digital. Additionally, digital X-rays produce 80% less radiation than traditional X-rays, making them safer for both patients and the people caring for them in-clinic.
If you do make the transition to a digital imaging solution, X-ray recycling companies can help you safely dispose of and recycle the old tube heads from your previous equipment. Reach out to your Patterson representative for details at any time.
5. Make good use of paper waste you DO have
The reality is, today’s world still runs on a great deal of paper and absolute avoidance most likely isn’t a possibility. For any paper waste you do have, why not shred it up and use it as bedding for small animal patient recovery? You can also use shredded paper as bird cage liner or kitty litter for your feline patients. If your clinic doesn’t have need for shredded paper, reinvest in your local community by reaching out to a local shelter – chances are they do!
6. Regular maintenance on anesthesia equipment
Greenhouse gas effects from anesthesia gases is no small matter. According to a 2019 study, one hour of isoflurane anesthesia in a dog is equivalent to driving 12 miles in an average car. Demonstrating responsible environmental stewardship means taking simple steps to reduce the environmental impact of these gases.
One way to accomplish this is to schedule regular maintenance on your anesthesia equipment. Enrolling in a program like our Preventative Maintenance Agreement Program means our certified technicians will help prevent any leaks, which if gone unchecked could contaminate the working environment for staff and create waste of a volatile inhalational agent.
7. Responsible water use
Whether it be for dental procedures, endoscopy, or instrument sterilization, your office is probably using a significant amount of distilled water each day. In most cases, that means a lot of plastic jug and bottle waste.
Instead, consider implementing a water filtration system. Many of these water treatment systems draw from your existing tap water source and produce distilled water via reverse osmosis. They simply mount beneath your sink and can be incorporated into your existing cabinetry. With just one cartridge kit of this kind, it is possible to produce 1,000/2,000 liters of high quality dematerialized water!
While we’re on the subject of reducing plastic water bottle waste, what team member wouldn’t appreciate a cute, customized stainless steel water bottle like this one? Earth Day gift bag, anyone … ?
8. Consolidate your orders
Each day, our logistics team processes 18,000 orders in 35,000 packages. We’re working to use the minimum amount of cardboard possible while reusing and recycling other packaging materials like shrink wrap and pallets. We’re constantly examining every aspect of our logistics in order to reduce our environmental impact, and as part of this process we’ve discovered where you – our customers – can help!
If you consider consolidating your request for items into a single order, you help further reduce the amount of packaging we use, and the amount of transportation emissions required to get you what you need. In fact, in the near future take a look at the outside of your Patterson packages and you’ll find a “help us reduce our carbon pawprint” sticker with a QR code that will take you back to our Go Green webpage experience. Here, you can find more information on our commitment to sustainability, and even more ways you can get involved.
Bonus ideas – because we couldn’t stop at eight
• Take a CE course online - Patterson Veterinary University offers several in-person continuing education events, but we also offer an entire course book of online CE classes via our virtual campus. Save on fuel emissions by skipping the travel and signing up for an online session
• Try out sustainable scrubs - Many companies make scrubs with recycled fabrics, like these sustainable collections from Scrubs and Beyond made from ethically sourced renewable plant-based materials
• Cut back on single-use aprons - Instead of single-use disposable plastic aprons, choose a more reusable aprons and gowns option made from recycled nylon and other more eco-conscious materials
• Pick up a tabletop compost bin for your break room
• Ditch plastic plates, cups, and utensils from your break room and opt for more permanent tableware. Bonus points if you thrift them!
• Stock your snack station with fruit from a local market
• Take a team walk break and pick up any trash and debris as you go
As we approach Earth Day, we’re especially curious to know: Which of these ideas might you implement - or do you already? What are some other ways your clinic is intentional about its environmental impact? If we missed any big ones, we invite you to make us “green” with envy by sharing ideas we didn’t cover! Leave us a comment on send us a message on our social media channels – here are the links to find us on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram