Case Study: Regent Court Vets, Penzance
"At the beginning of last year, we were incredibly proud to be named as the first veterinary practice in the UK to receive a plastic free award from environmental charity Surfers Against Sewage."
Hi everyone, my name is Megan and I’m the Head RVN at Regent Court Vets in Penzance, Cornwall. We are a small animal practice on the beautiful south coast of Cornwall, not too far from Land’s End. At the beginning of last year, we were incredibly proud to be named as the first veterinary practice in the UK to receive a plastic free award from environmental charity Surfers Against Sewage.
What motivated you to reduce your environmental impact in the first place?
The Cornish coastline and beautiful ocean we are so lucky to be surrounded by here speaks for itself. We are so grateful to live in such a wonderful part of the world that we wanted to do as much as possible to preserve it. We have seen first hand the visible impact not only along the shoreline, but also to the wildlife we have been unfortunate enough to have to help treat.
What were the main areas of concern?
In three simple words: Single use plastic! Although the name of the award suggests we are completely “plastic free”, I think you will all be able to appreciate that this would be an impossible task to achieve in the medical setting of a veterinary practice. Our main concern was, and remains, the huge amount of disposable/one use items that are used in our profession.
"Although unable to eradicate the use of these single-use items completely, we impressed Surfers Against Sewage with the large amount of alternative products we had found."
What steps have you taken so far?
We have made numerous changes, including:
- Our dog/cat food pouches have been replaced with tins
- We use washing powder instead of individually plastic-wrapped tablets
- We now wear fabric re-usable caps in theatre instead of single-use disposable ones
- We purchase BD Emerald syringes which are made from 30% less plastic and are also more sustainably sourced
As well as looking at alternative products, we have increased the amount of things we are recycling. Used pens, crisp packets, pet food pouches and pet food bags are all recycled via the Terracycle scheme. We also take our plastic packaging to the local supermarket.
One of the most important actions we have taken is to educate our peers, clients and the general public. We organised our own local beach clean called “paws against plastic”, we share numerous tips and stories on our Facebook page and have had several pieces published in veterinary publications. This has included articles published in the Vet Nurse Journal and The VN Times.
What impact have these had on your practice?
We have had an incredibly positive response from our veterinary peers and clients. Our Facebook posts are always very well received, with some of them producing our highest response/interest ratings. We have clients getting involved with the Terracycle recycling initiatives and have had lots of wonderful messages congratulating us on our achievements. I have received many emails and phone calls from veterinary peers wanting to get involved in making their practices greener. One of the articles I wrote led to communications with vets as far afield as France. As a team we are incredibly proud of what we have achieved.
"Knowing we are making a difference is a great positive for all of us and our results have lead to staff improving their efforts at home as well as at work."
What is your vision for the future?
We strive to keep making a difference, no matter how small. New products are coming onto the market all the time, more and more items are able to be recycled and new initiatives are being developed. We aim to utilise as many of these opportunities as possible to continue reducing our carbon footprint. I do feel though that the way we can make the most difference is through educating and supporting others. Things like this case study for example! We would love to organise another local beach clean and will continue to spread the word to the public through social media.
What tips would you give to other practices trying to become more sustainable?
My main advice would be to start small, as the whole thing can seem a little overwhelming to begin with.
"We found reception was a good starting point, as it’s a non-clinical area - there are more things that you can address without medical implications."
Don’t be put off by the cost. There are many changes you can make without this being impacted and many of the alternatives are cheaper than you might imagine. Check out the dedicated green product sections at IMS and JAK Marketing. I would also say that social media is a great place to get loads of new ideas and helpful tips. There are now several groups dedicated specifically to sustainability in veterinary practice.