A Greener Approach to Veterinary Medicine

You may think that working in veterinary medicine and being a “green practice” are incompatible. However, it is possible to be a superhero pet saver and a hero to the environment at the same time. Bonus: You don’t have to give up deodorant and make your own toilet paper to make your clinic greener.

Ditch the paper

Most hospital management software systems offer clinics the opportunity to do away with paper records altogether. They can store all your patient information, keep inventory and account records, and create templates for any record entries you commonly create in your paper files (think wellness exams, vaccines, spays and neuters, or dentals).

Not only will moving your practice to electronic records decrease the amount of paper you use daily, but it will also free up space in the clinic, which you can use for things like product placement, inventory storage, employee recognitions, client and patient highlights, or information boards.

Ask your clients if they would be open to text or email reminders for appointments instead of reminder mailers. Some of your savvy clients may also be open to receiving their appointment “report cards” via email instead of a printed copy. Many credit card machines now also give you the option to email or text a client’s receipt.

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Recycle

Recycling in the workplace goes beyond the paper bin you keep at the front desk. Think of all the things you can recycle each day:

  • Syringe cases are usually accepted by recycling centers. See if there is an employee who drives by one on the way to or from work each day.
  • Packing material:
    • Cardboard boxes and paper stuffing can go in your regular recycle bin.
    • Plastic bags can be collected for reuse as pet waste bags for clinic potty areas or can be recycled at any grocery store.
    • Many shipping stores will accept packing peanuts for reuse (contact your local carrier). Otherwise, recycling centers will often take packing peanuts (sometimes only the white ones as these are manufactured with non-recycled materials, so be sure to do your research before you go). Green packing peanuts are made from mostly recycled materials, and many can be composted. Pro tip: Run your green packing peanuts under water. If they start to break down, they’re compostable.
    • Reach out to your distributors to see if they offer shipment in reusable containers to decrease your clinic’s use of cardboard.
  • Electronics and batteries:
    • Big electronics stores will accept many types of batteries, charging cords, and electronic devices.
  • Light bulbs:
    • Home improvement stores will accept many types of light bulbs for recycling, especially the compact fluorescent varieties often used in veterinary clinics.

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Protect the water supply

Chemicals are necessary to properly clean and sanitize a veterinary hospital. But, think about the other items that may be going down your drain. What do you do with leftover medications? As quickly as you can squirt these meds down the drain, you could instead dispose of them into a sharps container. It takes up only the space between used needles and syringes and keeps these drugs from the water supply, where it’s nearly impossible to remove them through standard sanitation techniques.

Make it easy for your team

Place recycling bins next to trash cans in multiple areas of the clinic to help encourage use. If you run into resistance, ask the team what is keeping them from greening up the clinic, then listen and adjust your plan accordingly. For those Captain Planet fans, remember “The power is yours!”

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For help with hard-to-recycle materials, check out earth911.com.

KS Headshot

Katie is a CVT, wife, mother, manager, and adventurous chef. When she’s not working at VSS (or being a mom – work in progress), she’s hiking, traveling, reading, or trying out a new hobby to see if it will stick.