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Veterinarian Technician August 2009 (Vol 30, No 8)

Management Matters — Saving the Planet Made Quick, Easy

by Katherine Dobbs, RVT, CVPM, PHR

    Almost everyone is going "green" these days, and you may be wondering how you can participate in the worldwide effort to reduce our impact on the Earth. There are many ways to create a veterinary practice that is more environmentally responsible while saving money at the same time.

    Begin With an Audit

    Before you go green, an audit can help determine where opportunities lie and how successful your efforts can be. Begin by identifying recyclable materials around the office, including plastic, aluminum, glass and paper. Evaluate how much can be recycled and determine how these recyclables can be easily separated for collection. Then, target the products that are abundant and easy to collect. Ask the local recycling handlers which materials can be recycled the most cost effectively by considering the costs of collection, handling and processing.

    It is helpful to know if you'll receive feedback, such as the amount of each material you sent during a year, and if items had to be removed from your collection because they weren't recyclable. For example, some types of plastic and glass are not recyclable.

    The Human Factor

    Admittedly, it is difficult to change old habits. For a green initiative to be successful, the human factor must be considered. Additional tasks should require the least amount of time and energy expenditure. For example, recycling bins located around the back door of the facility will not get used as often as smaller recycling bins in several convenient locations throughout the facility.

    Another example is the reduction of electricity use. It can be difficult for everyone to remember to turn out the lights in empty rooms, so motion-detecting lighting fixtures can help compensate for the human factor. However, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't tell the staff how they can help and hold them responsible for doing so. Conservation tasks should be mapped out in job descriptions and standard operating procedures, and the success — or failure — reflected in staff performance evaluations.

    Shining a Light on Conservation

    Lighting fixtures and bulbs should be a component of green initiatives. Switch from incandescent bulbs to more energy efficient compact fluorescent bulbs. A construction or electrical contractor can help you determine if new bulbs can be installed in existing fixtures or if it would be more sensible to switch out the entire fixture.

    It is important to note that continually lit signs can be an energy vacuum. If you have a sign that must stay on, trade it in for an LED sign that can help save on your electric bill.

    There may be ways in your community to "get off the grid" by using solar, wind, or geothermal energy.

    Beyond Paperless

    Some veterinary practices have gone paperless, while others have made an effort to minimize paper use. If your practice's records are no longer in paper form, there may still be more ways to reduce paper use in your practice. Before hitting the print button, here is list of questions employees should ask themselves:

    • Is it necessary? Would it be appropriate to print one page or section instead of the entire document? Can I save it to my hard drive or a flash drive instead?
    • Have I used the Print Preview function to double-check that I am about to print what I actually need? Can I use a duplex feature to print on both sides of the page?
    • Can I use the second side of waste paper or the blank side of printed documents to turn into notepads for office use?

    Other ways the practice can reduce paper use include switching from a fax machine to a fax modem, where documents appear in an e-mail account instead of printing; scanning and emailing documents instead of passing around redundant stacks of paper; bringing laptops to meetings and using flash drives to save on printing reports for all who attend; establishing PINs to track employee printing and creating established protocols and policies that make paper conservation a necessity, such as what can be printed, how many copies are allowed.

    Remember to monitor and follow-up on your green efforts. Measure your progress to provide quantifiable results and comparisons. Ask employees how easily they are able to comply, and which initiatives seem to be most supported by the team. It also is important that management support the green initiative in your practice. They should consistently voice their support to increase staff buy-in, and the entire management team should stand as role models for conservation efforts.

    Communicate these new initiatives to the team to instill this conservation effort in your practice culture and create a sense of pride for the organization.

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