The carbon footprint of an average equine vet has been estimated as a whopping 524 tonnes CO2e/vet/year* (compared to the UK average of 13.4 tonnes CO2e/person/year**), with transport accounting for a large proportion of this. Reduce your carbon footprint today by following the hints below:
1. Drive more efficiently:
• Subtle changes like slowing down and accelerating smoothly can make a big difference to fuel consumption. There are companies which provide eco-driving courses and it is well worth investing in one of these at your practice.
• If your car allows, monitor your fuel efficiency and set a target of improving your average miles per gallon (mpg) over the coming weeks.
• Make sure your vehicle is well maintained – the RAC report that properly inflated tyres can improve fuel efficiency by up to 2%.
• Keep to the speed limit: according to the AA, driving at 80 mph uses up to 25% more fuel than driving at 70 mph.
2. Plan your route intelligently:
• If your practice doesn’t already, consider making use of ‘area days’ to reduce the mileage between calls.
• Use smart route planners (such as provided by the website https://www.speedyroute.com/) to calculate the most efficient route with multiple visits.
• Travel from home if possible and check ahead in the diary to avoid unnecessary trips to collect drugs/equipment.
• Get your admin team on board and make optimising travel a priority – not only will it reduce your carbon footprint, it also presents an opportunity to save valuable time during a busy day.
3. Share vehicles where possible
• Consider whether staff can travel together, especially when taking nurses to calls. Coronavirus has added a layer of complication this past year but, provided the relevant rules are adhered to, a shared journey also presents a good opportunity for that much-needed social contact!
• Consider lift-sharing for office-based staff. A recent survey by Mobilityways (https://pressat.co.uk/releases/revolutionising-the-commute-is-key-to-reducing-uk-carbon-emissions-new-research-from-mobilityways-reveals-da85f9d9f474054043ae488b43720af7/) found that 92% of commuters have one or more colleagues living within one mile of them with whom they could share a lift to work.
4. Post drugs and worm egg counts
• Avoid clients having to drive individually to the practice by offering to post drugs or accept poo samples by post.
• When ordering drugs and supplies from wholesalers, aim to do this in as few orders as possible to reduce the number of van journeys required.
5. Make use of video conferencing and telemedicine
• Consider whether an animal requires a physical visit, or whether a telemedicine consult might suffice.
• Consider using teleconferencing for practice meetings and CPD sharing. A comparison between videoconferencing and in-person meetings1 suggested that videoconferencing takes at most 7% of the energy/carbon of an in-person meeting.
6. Promote active commuting for practice-based staff
• As well as reducing the practice’s overall carbon footprint, ‘active commuting’ has been shown to have a number of health benefits, and studies have demonstrated a link between active commuting and lower risk of all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease and diabetes2.
• Consider setting up a practice running or cycling club!
7. Prioritise efficiency when buying a new vehicle
• Choose the smallest, most efficient vehicle that will do the job. We all love a 4x4, but do we really need one?
8. Go electric
• Yes, this really is an option for equine vets. With the latest electric vehicles offering a range of up to 250-300 miles on a single charge, there’s no reason an EV won’t manage even the longest days in practice.
• If you’re still not convinced, try starting with a practice vehicle that isn’t used for on-call work such as a communal practice van.
• Alternatively, don’t let perfect be the enemy of good: consider a hybrid vehicle. Whilst they have their drawbacks, they represent a step in the right direction and play an important role in improving air quality in towns and cities.
As equine vets, transport represents a large part of our carbon footprint, and thus a huge opportunity to reduce our environmental impact. By planning routes more intelligently, driving more efficiently and making sustainability a priority, we can make a big difference.
*As estimated by Andrew Prentis of the Greener Veterinary Practice group of Vet Sustain
**Figures from CarbonIndependent.org (https://www.carbonindependent.org/13.html)
1. Ong, D., Moors, T. & Sivaraman, V. Comparison of the energy, carbon and time costs of videoconferencing and in-person meetings. Computer Communications 50, 86–94 (2014).
2. Dinu, M., Pagliai, G., Macchi, C. & Sofi, F. Active Commuting and Multiple Health Outcomes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Med 49, 437–452 (2019).