By Beth Davidow, DVM DACVECC
Yesterday, I attended the GoGreen Conference in Seattle (http://www.gogreenconference.net/). This was a unique meeting where business leaders from Seattle discussed ways in which changes in business practice and culture are having long term effects in helping our environment but simultaneously helping businesses to be successful. Speakers ranged from the Director of Corporate Responsibility for Starbucks to the owner of Alchemy bags, a company that makes messenger and other types of bags out of used bike tires.
One of the most interesting and relevant speakers to our business was Stephen Grose, the administrative director at Virginia Mason. In an effort to improve their bottom line, Virginia Mason started looking at ways to be more energy efficient, more water wise, and to create less waste. https://www.virginiamason.org/body.cfm?id=4917 In their first 2 years of increased efforts at sorting and recycling not only paper but also medical plastics they decreased their waste production by 22%. Waste out of the operating rooms was decreased by 80%. Health care, because of its need for many single use and sterile products, is the second largest industry producer of waste so these efforts, if duplicated in other hospitals, could have a dramatic impact. This impact is not only on landfills but finding cost savings in health care due to efficiency with no impact on quality is desperately needed.
At ACCES and in veterinary medicine, we have similar issues to Virginia Mason. We have a busy surgical practice in addition to our ICU and internal medicine services. We use a large amount of equipment and items that must be sterilized to prevent infections and thus generate a large amount of plastic waste in this process. We are very concerned about our impact on the environment, built our second facility in Renton using green building techniques and are rated 5 stars by the Envirostar program. Over the last several years, we, like Virginia Mason, have worked on reducing our waste. About 6 months ago, we introduced the use of single use microfiber cloths to clean kennels and our treatment tables. This switch has led to a dramatic decrease in our purchase and use of paper towels. Composting in our staff kitchen and of our reception area coffee supplies has led to further decreases in waste production. Like Virginia Mason, we have also worked to increase the amount of plastic we recycle. These changes in practice are better for the environment and make us feel glad we are doing our part but also help free financial resources for new equipment that allows us to better care for pets.
So this Earth Day, think about the small things that you could change that might not only be good for the environment but also good for your wallet. Bike, walk or take the bus for one errand or one day to work. Compost your food waste and encourage your employer to make this available to you at work. Recycle paper, aluminum, cardboard, and even your coffee cup. Even better, look at where you can use less: don’t print that email, pack your lunch in a reusable container, and use your own coffee mug. On Earth Day, if you do bring your own mug, you will even get that free cup of coffee. http://www.starbucks.com/blog/happy-earth-day/993