Work · Sustainability Practitioners

Vet Sustain Champions: Tips On Team Engagement

Vet Sustain's Champion community recently met online for two inspiring talks and an update from the network. Champions coordinators Dorottya Nagy and Maite Pardo tell us more.

Dorottya Nagy and Maite Pardo

Vet Sustain's Champions Group is a small community of passionate sustainability advocates from within the veterinary sector, that connect and meet regularly online to share sustainability experiences, knowledge and inspiration about driving change through their work. Find out more about our Champions group here.

The group recently met for their biannual meeting, with a focus on team engagement. We heard from Alice Moore and Maren Junior, who shared the secrets to their success in engaging the veterinary and wider support team at Garston Vets, and achieving ‘Green’ accreditation in the Investors in the Environment scheme in a large referral hospital, Wear Referrals. The group also launched our new "Champions Challenge" - to motivate as many teams as possible to make the BVA’s Sustainability pledge, and get a team photo to commemorate.

“We don't need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly, we need millions of people doing it imperfectly" - Anne Marie Bonneau, the ‘Zero Waste Chef’
“We don't need a handful of people living off grid, growing their own lentils, and weaving their own garments from nettles, we need millions of us switching to renewable energy, remembering our reusable water bottles, eating less meat, and buying a bit (a lot) less crap.”- Jen Gale, Vet and author of the Sustainable (ish) living guide

Champions meeting
Vet Sustain Champions July 2022 meeting

Alice Moore

We first heard from Alice about leading her Sustainable Team at Garston Vets, by following 5 key principles:

1. Inspiring the new generation of environmentalists (e.g. by involving the children of the team in a bee-friendly garden at the clinic and creating bug hotels).

2. Empowering everyone in the wider team (e.g. with Ecosia search engines installed on every computer so that trees are planted with every internet search).

3. Provide and fund CPD with a sustainability focus including external and internal CPD sessions (e.g. on low flow anaesthesia, phasing out nitrous oxide, printed anaesthesia/analgesia protocols, encouraging internal knowledge sharing).

4. Making sustainability as easy as possible, (e.g. by having bins in accessible and frequently used places, clear labels, assigning people to take charge of each segregation system).

5. Offering alternatives and encouraging people to try new things (e.g. oat milk at the staff room as well as dairy milk to continue to support local farmers).

Alice and her team are also piloting a Sustainable Living Facebook page for all employees to post about local food producers and refill shops, vegan/veggie recipes, repurposing household items, sustainable brands etc, to engage the wider team with ideas for both their personal and professional lives.

Read more about Alice’s work here.

Maren Junior

Maren then shared her experiences of managing an Investors in the Environment (iiE) accreditation at a large referral hospital, Wear Referrals, successfully jumping from bronze to green under her leadership. She emphasised that engagement with her colleagues was key to inspiring behaviour change, but that it was a gradual process taking up to 6-8 months, requiring information gathering beforehand, low-friction changes and several channels of communication (email, printed notes, informal chats in the staff room).

Maren also explained how she successfully argued the case for her employers to support her formal training through an environmental management course and by allocating her regular time during her working hours for sustainability work, which should ideally become more of a norm in workplaces.

The iiE accreditation requires monitoring and reducing use of several resources including inhalation gases, pharmaceuticals, water and paper, and Maren gave us several useful examples:

- Appropriate waste segregation: use of recycling, pharmaceutical, food and offensive waste in a way that saves the environment (and money!)

- Decrease electricity use by setting automatic switch off in computers and placing switch off stickers on lights and aircons

- Bee friendly gardens, making a pet oasis in garden for anxious animals to relax in prior to consults, having a green roof

- Delegating tasks within the ‘Wear Green Beans’ group

Read more about Maren’s work here.

Vet Sustain's Champions Challenge

The group has established a challenge for all the Champions to get involved in: they will be engaging their teams to sign the BVA Sustainability pledge (#GreenTeamVet) and take a team photo to commemorate. The BVA platform allows you to select a pledge and describe the changes you are committing to make.

During the next 6 months the Champions will be checking in with each other, and sharing advice, tips and also the challenges they encounter along the way.

Anyone can sign up to the BVA sustainability pledge (and encourage their teams to do so!)

Vet Sustain's Champions Group is coordinated by Dorottya Nagy, Large Animal Veterinary Surgeon and Green Group lead at Isle Veterinary Group, Cambridgeshire, and IVC Farm sustainability Working Group Member, and Maite Pardo, veterinary surgeon at PDSA, Greenpeace Speaker, and Thanet Friends of the Earth coordinator.