You don’t have to solve climate change to make an impact. Use these tips to make a difference right in your own veterinary clinic.
By Bowman Report
These tips are compiled from the experts who contributed to this special edition of the Bowman Report: Colleen Duncan, BScH, DVM, MSc, PhD, DACVP, DACVPM, Colorado State University; Margo Mosher, Mars Veterinary Health; Julia Loew, MWI Animal Health; and Andrea Nance, Zoetis.
Feeling icky about the waste you’re throwing away in your veterinary clinic? Frustrated because you’re in a rented space and can’t switch to renewable energy? Don’t give up! There are many opportunities to help the environment right where you are in your hospital.
BScH, DVM, MSc, PhD, DACVP, DACVPM, is a professor at Colorado State University’s School of Global Environmental Sustainability and co-author of the book Climate Change and Animal Health.
What you buy matters. In fact, in many ways it matters more than what you do inside your hospital. Emissions associated with healthcare are overwhelmingly scope 3 emissions, which are created by the products we buy. So as a profession, let’s say we’re sick of getting things packed in three layers of plastic. If we have suppliers who are making an effort to be more sustainable, let’s buy from them. Companies are working in this space and actively looking for opportunities to improve. But sometimes they need to be reminded there’s a market.
At Colorado State we did a survey asking veterinarians and technicians what they cared about in terms of environmental sustainability. Repeatedly they told us they hate throwing out medical waste in their clinics. So our students led a project where they audited the CSU veterinary hospital waste stream.
"So our students led a project where they audited the CSU veterinary hospital waste stream."
For several days we sorted through every piece of garbage that came out of anesthesia and surgery, characterized what it was, and tried to identify ways we could manage waste better. The students wrote up their work and published it to help other hospitals do the same thing.
Anesthetic gases are greenhouse gases, and they’re potent. We can modify our anesthetic protocols to minimize waste gas.
Everybody in a veterinary hospital comes to work, and patients come in with their owners. A silver lining of COVID was we learned to work differently—things like teleworking or doing follow-ups with clients virtually. We can continue to get creative about cutting down on transportation effects.
Senior Vice President, Commercialization Services, Companion Animals, US, MWI Animal Health
Align with a distribution partner that prioritizes sustainability and provides eco-friendly products and environmentally responsible practices. Make sure the distributor prioritizes not only sustainability but innovation when it comes to options for eco-friendly choices.
"Make sure the distributor prioritizes not only sustainability but innovation when it comes to options for eco-friendly choices."
Implement recycling programs and partner with recycling organizations or waste management companies to ensure proper disposal and reduce environmental impact.
Digital solutions can also play a big role in enhancing a practice’s environmental sustainability by reducing waste and labor footprints. Transitioning to digital record-keeping systems helps reduce paper usage, and employing an online patient portal, like AllyDVM’s PetPage, uses paperless communications to cut down on physical mailers—saving not just paper, but also the time it takes to send them out.
Global Sustainability Director, Mars Veterinary Health
Think beyond the clinical setting. How can you use sustainable options in the break room or your business operations? Are you buying 100% recycled content paper? Can you avoid printing in the first place? Consider stocking your break room with reusable cutlery and dishware. These simple things are a great starting point because they’re easy and don’t involve medical care.
Look at where you can use reusable products in the clinical space as well. Washable incontinence pads in the kennel area are just as effective, and even with the extra laundry, you still have a much lower footprint than using disposable pads. Another simple switch is scrub hats for surgeries. Switching from disposable to reusable scrub hats can make a big difference, and it’s an easier change than gowns and drapes, which are more complex in terms of infection control.
Biodegradable products can be great options. The benefit is they can break down when put into the correct waste streams and then into the landfill. The key is to have a clear understanding of where those products will go.
Global Head of Corporate Sustainability, Zoetis
New technology allows more efficiency in the clinic. For example, some diagnostics support fewer samples being sent out and quicker, more accurate diagnoses. We’re proud that our Vetscan Imagyst diagnostics tool has enabled veterinarians to efficiently perform applications including artificial intelligence (AI) fecal analysis and digital cytology image transfer. In 2022, we added AI blood smear capabilities. This innovative solution uses deep machine learning AI to provide important blood smear results within minutes.
- Ordering larger containers when possible to help reduce packaging and shipping waste.
- Support your suppliers who are taking action to reduce their footprint.
- Calculate your clinic’s carbon footprint and look at where you can take action.
KVP is using biodegradable materials in e-collars, pill vials and nitrile gloves
You won’t notice the difference, but the planet will. Designed to address the growing issue of single-use product waste in the veterinary industry, the KVP Renewables line features products that are 100% biodegradable in landfills. As a veterinary manufacturer, KVP International is proud to introduce cost-efficient products that reduce harm to the environment while maintaining product integrity.
KVP BetterGloves are nitrile, powder-free and 100% biodegradable in landfills. They’re FDA-approved for a wide range of medications and uses, including chemotherapy and food handling. While they have the same shelf life as standard nitrile gloves and won’t degrade during use in the clinic, these gloves are made of a polymerized “food source” used to accelerate biodegradation in biologically active landfills and anaerobic digesters. This material can be consumed by bacteria and microbes, which then excrete enzymes to further break down the material.
KVP BetterCollars are made with a unique polylactic acid material that contains properties to assist biodegradation. With a tried-and-true design from the company’s classic Saf-T-Clear e-collar, BetterCollars are a sustainable option for veterinary teams seeking to create a better planet and greener animal healthcare. They emit 42% less greenhouse gasses and consume 32% less energy in the manufacturing process, and they attract microbes found in landfills to decrease decomposition time without soil ecotoxicity, biodegrading completely in three to six months in a landfill or industrial compost.
The original product in the KVP Renewables portfolio, BetterVials are 100% plant-based and biodegradable while also meeting FDA guidelines. Both the dram and lid can be thrown away in household trash or recycled, with complete degradation taking place in three to six months when the vial is exposed to moisture and heat. BetterVials take 42% less energy than petroleum-based plastic to manufacture and produce 32% lower level of greenhouse gases. They’re USP- and CPSC-compliant—meaning they’re well-sealed, protected from light, and feature child-resistant and senior-friendly caps.
For more details or to order these products for your clinic, visit kvpvet.com/collections/renewables.