Sustainability - Investors in The Environment
It is no secret that the healthcare industry is far from sustainable. In 2018, human healthcare alone contributed 6.3% of England’s total carbon footprint. The NHS has committed to net-zero emissions by 2040 and it has become increasingly apparent that the veterinary sector must follow suit. Vets need to consider the vast amount of single-use plastic they throw away each day, the impact of anaesthetic gases on our atmosphere, the ecological consequences of antibiotic misuse and the nutritional demands of our ever-increasing pet population.
In October 2019, a group of UK vets launched ‘Vet Sustain’ – the world’s first organisation dedicated to supporting veterinary professionals in being a leading force for sustainability. Shortly afterwards, with the support of the partners, a group of like-minded colleagues set up our very own ‘Sustainability Team’ at Garston Veterinary Group. Drawing inspiration from the wealth of resources developed by Vet Sustain, Garston has already become one of the first UK veterinary practices to make huge leaps forward in reducing our carbon footprint. This has included streamlining our recycling and heating processes, and reducing our electricity and paper consumption. The Garston team have embraced the move away from single-use plastic – phasing in washable fabric theatre hats and masks, increasing recycling efforts and promoting the use of environmentally-friendly products such as bamboo toothbrushes and paper bags.
Inspired by a scheme run by the British Bee Veterinary Association, our Sustainability Team run regular gardening mornings, with the aim of making our practice gardens more ‘bee-friendly’. Keeping pollinators in mind, we have planted a selection of edible herbs for our small furry inpatients as well as some lovely colourful flowers to brighten up our outdoor lunch spots.
Whilst we tend to save getting our hands and knees muddy for the weekends, the green team have also been boosting their planting efforts from the comfort of the consult room by switching the practice computer search engines to ‘Ecosia’. Ecosia uses ad revenue from internet searches to plant trees where they are needed the most. By searching with Ecosia, the practice is helping to reforest the planet and empowering the communities around Ecosia’s planting projects to build a better future for themselves. Anybody can download and use Ecosia, it’s free of charge and you can even use it as your internet app on your mobile phone – why not give it a try?
Garston Veterinary Group has been crowned ‘Green Veterinary Practice of the Year 2023′ at The Webinar Vet’s Virtual Congress.
The Green Awards celebrates individuals and practices who embody green credentials. Hosted in collaboration with Investors in the Environment, the Green Awards has two categories and was open to individuals and practices who demonstrate sustainability in their work.
The whole Garston team have embraced the move away from single-use plastic, for example, phasing in washable fabric theatre hats and masks, swapping disposable to reusable wipes, increasing recycling efforts and promoting the use of environmentally friendly products, such as bamboo pet toothbrushes and paper bags for waiting room purchases. The use of nitrous oxide, (an inhalational pain killer and potent greenhouse gas), has reduced to zero over the past year, and they have moved to using a wider range of injectable pain killers during anaesthetics instead. The Garston Green Team have planted many ‘Bee friendly’ garden pots at their surgeries, along with swapping all computer desktop search engines to Ecosia, who plant trees every time staff members run an internet search. Creating their own staff sustainable living Facebook page, swapping all surgery bulbs to LED and creating a protocol for efficient use of the practice heating and air conditioning systems are just a few more examples of how busy the green team have been. Not to mention reduced paper printing, battery, medication blister packs and pet food pouch recycling. Warminster Lead Nurse, Gemma Ockendon has also encouraged many staff members to donate to a local foodbank, instead of sending Christmas cards to each other.
Garston Veterinary Group are immensely proud to be at the forefront of the drive towards sustainability within our sector, and they promise to continue working hard towards the ‘Investors in the Environment Award’ and reducing the practice’s carbon footprint.