The amount of materials used in medicine is extensive, as is the waste generated. Recently, I’ve been considering my carbon footprint while working in practice. Think about how many times a dog or cat eliminates inappropriately in a small animal clinic. Staff response generally involves at least one paper towel for each mess. While it might seem miniscule, consider this one scenario over the course of a week, a month, a year. I do acknowledge that a sanitary environment is essential for quality medicine, but I also believe that as veterinary professionals, it is our job to be mindful of how our actions impact our community. I’ll highlight a few tips that I think make a difference.
First, let’s think paper. Vets and their staff wash their hands multiple times a day. I’ll skip the details, but you can imagine the many scenarios that necessitate this. Instead of drying with paper towels, using cloths that can be rewashed helps minimize the amount of rubbish generated daily. If you’re like me, vitamin caffeine is part of a balanced breakfast, but this comes in a disposable cup unless I remember a travel mug. That amounts to two hundred eighty-eight cups used and discarded a year for just one person. It adds up quickly in a practice, but it is also not unreasonable to think ahead to minimize this waste.
Many practices have begun moving away from film radiography. In practices that haven’t, there is an opportunity to earn money while reducing environmental impact. Traditional film contains silver; this gives even the most poorly exposed radiographs value. The liquids used in development ccumulate some silver over time and may gain some value. In my opinion, it is worth saving poorly exposed films and working with private contractors to discard liquid waste properly.
Surely there are other methods of reducing waste in veterinary medicine. To those interested in the subject, please leave your feedback. It’s important for veterinary professionals to act as stewards for our communities and resources.