Switch from paper to digital
The most straightforward step to promoting a greener clinic is to switch from paper to digital in feasible areas. For instance, switching to an automated communication platform will allow you to use digital forms instead of paper.
According to blue & green tomorrow, “Healthcare facilities use approximately 2 billion pounds of paper each year, adding to the already overflowing landfills around the globe.”
Aside from reducing paper waste, digital programs can also keep all notes and appointment documents in a database instead requiring you to make copies every time a client is in the clinic.
If going entirely paperless is not an option, have your clinic switch to 100% recyclable paper and teach your staff members to print double-sided pages to promote less paper waste. Along with printing only when necessary, your clinic should switch to eco-friendly ink cartridges or refillable cartridges. An important rule to implement in your clinic is having access to proper waste bins and knowing what goes into each bin. When in the clinic, encourage staff and patients to use the correct waste bins when disposing trash.
Daniels Health notes, “County, state, and federal guidelines may be applicable to veterinary clinics when it comes to determining the difference between sharps waste, biohazard waste, and regulated medical waste. Depending on the state, various agencies are involved in this process.”
Make sure to check with your state and county to determine how to get rid of the waste in your clinic. Assigning a specific member of your team to this job will ensure that your employees and clinic keep your clinic and state as healthy and hazardous free as possible, as well as avoiding hefty fines.
Requesting your suppliers to minimize packaging materials whenever possible is another way to decrease waste inside and outside your clinic by not providing your patients with unnecessary trash. Then when sending clients home with medication or care instructions, switch from plastic to paper or reusable bags.
Increase energy efficiency
The AVMA states, “Approximately 32 percent of the U.S. professionals are practice owners, according to AVMA membership data, many veterinarians are in a unique position to incorporate energy-saving practices into their clinics.”
Increasing energy efficiency will significantly help your carbon footprint. Some simple ways to do this are by switching light bulbs in your clinic to options that are more eco-friendly but emit the same lighting.
Paul Gladysz from Today’s Veterinary Business adds, “These days, there is little reason to use anything other than LEDs. They are energy efficient at about 100 lumens per watt, they are easily and cheaply dimmable, and they do not contain toxic mercury like fluorescent lamps do.”
Also, consider switching lights to a motion sensor or timer system. This way lights will turn on and off automatically, and you won’t have to worry about accidentally leaving lights on. This can also be beneficial in low-traffic areas or with security system lighting.
Science Direct notes, “Installing motion sensing, day-light sensing, or lighting controls in common areas will reduce electricity use and cost. Equipment affecting building plug loads, such as radiology machinery, computers, and other electronic devices, should be powered down at night to reduce stand-by electricity consumption.”
Regarding battery-powered tools or appliances, consider using rechargeable batteries or plug-in rechargeable appliances. If larger devices, such as refrigerators, washers/dryers, etc., need to be replaced, replace them with energy-efficient appliances.
When your clinic closes for the evening, make sure to entirely turn off computers, monitors, and other appliances that won’t be used overnight. If there are electronics that you know won’t be used frequently, unplug them to help conserve energy.
Check that all your windows are insulated or tinted to help conserve the heat inside the building, especially during the winter, and the AC during the summers. This will keep your heater and air conditioning units from being unnecessarily overused.
Improve water efficiency
Scott Learned with DVM360 notes, “Animal care facilities require a great deal of water. Even with water restrictive fixtures, the normal operations of kennel washing, floor cleaning, animal bathing and laundry can drive water consumption to more than 1,000 gallons per day.”
Everyone needs help with conserving water, not just clinics, but being aware of your water use daily can make your clinic greener. Ensure during or between appointments when you wash your hands that you don’t leave the water running or dripping.
When washing rooms, kennels or the floor, make sure to not leave the water continuously running. Turn it on and off as you need it. This will help minimize the water waste inside your clinic walls.
If you are a clinic focusing on landscaping around your property, try switching to drought-resistant and non-toxic plants. These plants will require less water maintenance and won’t harm the environment around your clinic.
If you provide water for your employees, switch from plastic bottles to reusable branded bottles. Install a water filter that attaches to a sink or provide water-filtered pitchers they can drink from.
Reduce chemical product use and minimize toxins
One of the simplest ways you can reduce the use of chemical products and minimize toxins is by switching to eco-friendly cleaning products for counters, windows, floors, and laundry. There will be situations where using a heavy-duty cleaner will be necessary, but changing your daily cleaners will make a substantial difference.
Converting to digital radiography will help eliminate chemical hazards associated with the development process for radiographic films. The same risks can be eliminated by switching to a digital thermometer from old-school mercury thermometers.
AVMA suggests “Keeping a written Hazard Communication Plan (HCP) that provides information on appropriately dealing with spills and contamination by-products used in your practice, and make sure all employees are familiar with the plan. The plan should address the resolution of spills and contamination in the most environmentally safe manner possible.”
It is also vital that you and your staff learn how to properly dispose of hazardous waste. These materials can include unused pharmaceuticals, vaccines, animal waste, and fluids. Disposing of these correctly is vital for decreasing unnecessary pollutants.
Your clinic can also sign up for reverse distribution channels and take-back programs for unused or expired pharmaceuticals. This will prevent your clinic from being responsible for the disposal of these items. To decrease the amount of unused or expired pharmaceuticals, make sure someone is regularly checking your supply and take advantage of automated client communication to remind patients when medication needs to be picked up.
Being a greener clinic is a team effort but is easily obtainable and will make a difference in the health of your staff, clients, community, and environment.