Paragon Veterinary Group: Striving for Net Zero by 2030
Laura Binnie & Paragon Veterinary Group
Paragon are a mixed, independent practice in rural Cumbria. We offer small, farm, equine and advanced breeding veterinary services to our clients and are proud to be an environmentally conscious business. Our sustainability project started in 2020 when like-minded and environmentally conscious director David Black and small animal vet Laura Binnie started discussing ways we could reduce our practice’s carbon footprint. Paragon’s board asked Laura to form a green group and appointed Laura to be the lead of the project. We pledged our commitment to the SME climate hub to become carbon neutral by 2030, by at least our scopes 1&2. Laura became a Vet Sustain Practice Champion early on in the process, which proved to be a great resource and support network for us.
Like a lot of practices starting out, we began with the easy wins, changed all spent lightbulbs to LEDs, stuck ‘switch it off’ stickers on equipment and light switches, installed loads more (clearly labelled) recycling bins and composting caddies, switched to a renewable energy tariff, fitted radflek radiator reflectors, became a bee friendly practice, turned down the thermostats and water temperature, added ‘hippos’ into the toilet cisterns and switched from hibiscrub surgery prep to sterilium to save water, bought in recycled papers for the printers, started a blister pack recycling programme, etc. All good and relatively easy stuff to implement.
Bee Friendly status
We calculated our carbon footprint so we knew what we were up against, we viewed this as a ‘line in the sand’ where we could measure the changes we were making and see if they were making a tangible difference. By knowing what our carbon footprint figure was we could also see where the majority of our emissions came from and where we should focus our efforts. Happy to report we reduced our footprint by 10% from 2021 to 2022.
Our carbon footprint 2022
We started an initiative called #30DaysGreener where we challenged ourselves to make one switch every day of November to something greener, some of the ideas were a bit tongue in cheek but ultimately this was a great activity for staff engagement as everyone was welcome (and did) make great suggestions!
It got people thinking and that was the aim, we want to embed sustainability into our culture at Paragon and this is part of it, taking everyone along on the journey.
Extract from our website showing our #30DaysGreener initiative
'One of the best sustainability training courses I have done (and I’ve done a few!) so far is the carbon literacy training with Jen Gale, it delivers everything you need to know about the climate and biodiversity crises and gives really practical training on how to approach sustainability in practice. Would highly recommend.'
Feeling encouraged and empowered our green group went on to develop a sustainable travel policy to reduce our emissions from our mileage, fitted solar panels on our roofs, created two well-being gardens and orchards for the staff to use (and to encourage biodiversity), planned a 3 hectare woodland and wildflower meadow, retrained our small animal team to be competent using low flow anaesthesia, purchased equipment to help us deliver low flow GA safely, improved our local anaesthetic and analgesia usage to reduce our use of isoflurane (a potent greenhouse gas), established a unused medicine amnesty for our clients to use, fitted water purifiers to reduce the plastic we buy in and implemented the Vet Sustain greener procurement list.
To keep developing the plan and moving it forwards our green group has regular meetings with as many of the group members as possible. Our group is diverse, all sectors have representation and we have many skill sets among the members which helps us explore every angle of the business and how best to reduce our emissions.
3 hectare woodland with wildflower meadow, planting planned for spring 2024
Well-being garden meeting
Hanging out washing to reduce energy consumption
Launching blister pack recycling scheme with local pharmacy
We signed up for the investors in the environment (iiE) starter package and made a start on getting ourselves some accreditation, there were loads of resources on there that really helped us move our project forward. We’d made so many changes by this point that we were encouraged to go straight for Silver accreditation. Then along came the RCVS PSS Environmental Sustainability award which we went for and got an outstanding result in. We were the first practice to go for it and were very proud to welcome Sue Paterson RCVS President to our practice to plant and tree and receive our award.
It's so encouraging that the RCVS have developed this award, it's a really forward thinking and positive sign and I hope they are inundated with applications from great practices all wanting to do great things.
Planting a tree with Sue Paterson RCVS President