Options for integrating eco-friendly features into veterinary practices
There are many ways to integrate eco-friendly practices into veterinary clinics. Some of the options listed below may not be appropriate or feasible for your clinic, but others might. This list is intended only to inform you of some available options.
Additional resources can be found on the following sites
- 50 Percent Advanced Energy Design Guide Free Download (ashrae.org)
- ENERGY STAR for Healthcare
- EPA for businesses and non-profits
- EPA: green building
- State-by-state resource locators
- Green Guide for Healthcare
- Sustainable Hospitals
Reduce waste production and improve waste management
- Appoint one of your staff members as a "green representative" to oversee your efforts and encourage others to use greener practices. Make sure your staff knows proper disposal means for all items within the practice.
- Get staff involved to encourage excitement about your recycling program.
- Become familiar with waste disposal and recycling options in your area.
- Ask your staff to print only when necessary, and print double-sided to save paper.
- Use recycled office products including paper products, glass and aluminum.
- Install waste stations that include separate compartments for trash, recyclables, and even compost material (as allowed by local law).
- Make sure your staff knows the appropriate disposal methods for all waste products.
- Request that your suppliers minimize packaging materials whenever possible.
- Enhance the control and understanding of your inventory flow and supply to reduce the amount of waste generated from 1) extra packaging for small or single-item shipments; and 2) the more expensive component of items expiring before they can be used.
- Additional resources:
- EPA: Wastes where you live
- Electronics Waste State Resource Locator
- Disposal of Batteries (AVMA members only)
- Recyclable Waste (AVMA members only)
Increase energy efficiency
- Replace light bulbs with more efficient bulbs that use less energy to emit comparable lighting.
- Install timers or motion sensors in security lighting systems.
- Install motion sensors in lower-traffic areas.
- When it's time to replace old appliances and equipment such as refrigerators, freezers, washers, dryers and computers, purchase replacements that are ENERGY STAR certified.
- Turn computers, or at least the monitors, off overnight or when not in use.
- Insulate and tint glass windows to minimize heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer.
- Keep infrequently used electrical devices unplugged until needed.
- Visit the ENERGY STAR site for many more ideas:
Improve water efficiency
- Landscape with drought resistant, non-toxic plants.
- Install low-flow water fixtures for faucets and showerheads as well as low-flow or dual flush toilets where practical.
- Install a water filter or use a filtered pitcher for drinking water instead of using bottled water.
Reduce chemical product use and minimize toxins
- Keep 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. [Note: An HCP is required by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).]
- When practical, use eco-friendly cleaning chemicals for windows, surfaces, floors, and laundry.
- Convert the practice to digital radiography to eliminate the hazards associated with the substances and chemicals used in the development process for radiographic films.
- Use digital thermometers to eliminate the environmental hazards associated with accidentally breaking a mercury thermometer.
- Dispose of wastes (regulated medical, hazardous, universal, etc.) properly, including unused pharmaceuticals, and make sure your entire staff knows how to properly dispose of these wastes. Guidelines and regulations can be found at:
- Waste Disposal by Veterinary Practices: What Goes Where? (Portions restricted to AVMA members only)
- EPA Waste Laws and Regulations
- Waste Reduction Overview
- Guidelines for Hazards in the Workplace (AVMA policy)
- Best Management Practices for Pharmaceutical Disposal (AVMA policy)
- Utilize reverse distribution channels and take-back programs for unused or expired pharmaceuticals.
- Use low- to no-VOC (volatile organic compound) paints and adhesives that do not volatilize into the air – these products are increasingly available to consumers.