Case Study: Old Hall Vets, Appleby
"Our global vision for the future is that the effect on the environment and biodiversity is an essential part of every decision made, be that at home or work, by all individuals and organisations."
Old Hall Vets
Old Hall Veterinary Centre is a 100% companion animal practice located in the small rural town of Appleby, Cumbria.
The boss, Helen is a keen environmentalist and was conscious that many of us try to take what measures we can to reduce our environmental impact at home, but that the good habits we have are often shed at the door when we go to work.
When we moved premises in 2015, this was an ideal time to look at our building. We installed LED lighting and PIR sensors throughout, put in lots of insulation and a heat recovery unit and sourced flooring with a good recycled component amongst other things. We also started to use the Humphrey ADE anaesthetic system which works on very low flow rates and thus reduces oxygen and anaesthetic use, and it's a lovely system to use.
"We were already recycling as much as possible and using a 100% renewable electricity company, but felt we could probably do more, so after seeing a webinar about Davies Vet’s green journey we joined the Investors in the Environment programme."
Jan, our mentor with iiE visited and made some helpful suggestions. One of these was to compost all our paper towels and animal hair (and anything else compostable!). This has cut our waste-to-landfill by a whopping 53%. We monitor electricity, water, waste-to-landfill, paper and clinical waste so we can track how we’re doing which concentrates the mind!
Electricity use has reduced by 17% through installing a more efficient heater/air conditioner, taking out the less efficient heaters so they can't be turned on by mistake and increasing awareness in the team ensuring that all computers etc are turned off and nothing left on standby.
Paper use has reduced by 48% through a concerted effort to get as many clients signed up for electronic communication as we can. Everyone shares in the joy of a tiny pile of bills to send at the end of the month! Less work for all.
We try to always think about the environment when sourcing products (Yora dog food, solid bar dog shampoo, Nutravet products) and hassle for change where we feel it’s needed (wholesaler packaging excesses, plastic freebies from reps, use of aluminised plastic in mailings ,etc). There are obvious limitations in the veterinary workplace due to regulations but there is some room for manoeuvre.
"We try to always think about the environment when sourcing products and hassle for change where we feel it’s needed."
The team are enthusiastically on board which has made the whole journey possible. Many of the staff bring in grass clippings, guinea pig muck etc to add to our compost. Separating out all the waste was a pain at first (we have 4 colour-coded bins in every room!) but it quickly became a habit, although we do find some errant articles in the compost!
COVID-19 has provided unexpected benefits as people taking up telephone or online consultations has reduced the number of car journeys to the practice. We also have more staff cycling and walking, a function of quieter roads and fewer late surgeries.
Our plans for the future are to create a small wildlife garden, become carbon neutral and try to involve clients more in our journey. We had planned some evening meetings but will now have to put these online. Still working on that one!
"Our global vision for the future is that the effect on the environment and biodiversity is an essential part of every decision made, be that at home or work, by all individuals and organisations. That it becomes more important than finances. That we all take this crisis seriously and start to care for our planet, our home."
I think the take home message from this is that none of our changes were difficult to make. All would be achievable by most veterinary practices (and other businesses) in the UK. All it requires is the desire to do something.
Photos are of Helen and Kerry, not in Bake-Off but sporting our reusable vinyl covered aprons as part of our COVID PPE, and one of our composters in Darlek mode!
Video: Sustainability at Old Hall Vets
Catch Vet Sustain's Becky Sedman in conversation with Helen Gould from Old Hall Veterinary Centre