Investing in the Environment through the Veterinary Sector
Updated: Apr 11
By April Sotomayor
I am delighted to be contributing a blog to Vet Sustain. Through an incredibly inspiring flow of collaborative work, I find I’ve somehow been adopted by a growing network of passionate environmentally-minded veterinary professionals and change-makers in the community. Alongside the organisational work I do, I’ve been finding the most interesting challenges and inspired solutions shared through Vet Sustain and the various social media groups and online forums that have popped up as a result of vets looking for practical solutions.
To give you a little bit on my background, I trained as a biologist and worked for several years on water quality and citizen science projects to raise awareness about local environmental health. Working at this level inspired me to pursue a career within the not-for-profit sector to influence policy and real environmental change within organisations.
I now work for environmental charity PECT, leading our Investors in the Environment (iiE) national accreditation scheme aimed at making it easier for organisations to go green. Working with a grass-roots organisation that focuses on people as well as the environment has always been incredibly motivating.
April's role is varied and includes providing support, environmental audits, engaging people, planting trees and more
Educating and enabling
My varied role includes providing support and environmental audits, engaging people with tree planting schemes, and even getting involved in the direction of our charity at this critical time of climate emergency. Our focus has always been on working with people to educate and enable real environmental change and we work hard to deliver this.
I’ve been so inspired by the passion of individuals within the veterinary sector who are keen to shift practices to sustainable ways of working. The opportunity for veterinary practitioners is threefold – to reduce the environmental impact of clinical work with patients, engage with pet owners on more eco-friendly choices, and influence colleagues and suppliers. This influence can extend to getting suppliers to adopt better practices like bulk deliveries or eliminating shrink wrapped products, to rethinking their product lines, and committing to their own environmental accreditation.
So, if you want to go green in a veterinary practice – where do you start?
Take a walk around your practice. Start with one busy, well used space and look with open eyes at the resources being used in that space and what people in it are doing. What do you see? Question everything. What products are being used, from drugs to materials? What is being discarded, or even sent away to be discarded elsewhere (e.g. packaging or product)? Who deals with the waste and do you know where this ends up? Without having much knowledge of sustainable sourcing, what do you suspect problem areas are and what opportunities do you think there might be? Your intuition is an asset, because simply asking these simple questions can drive action, even if they only highlight how much has to be changed.
Investors in the Environment helps vets by offering a framework to take steps at making real, measurable environmental progress. Based on some of the answers to the questions above you can start an action plan and even look at forming a ‘green group’. Starting with assessing the eco impacts of the practice, to adopting an environmental policy that really drives sustainability by committing to key targets on resources, waste, carbon emissions, and engagement.
The great news is that what is good for people (and their pets), is also good for the planet. Making meaningful contributions to reducing your environmental impact gives people a sense of purpose and achievement.
This is the most rewarding part of my job, because I see myself as a catalyst for change – simply showing people ways forward and making it easier for them to make progress.
April Sotomayor (BSc Biology, MSc Environmental Management, PIEMA) - Sustainability Consultant and National Responsible Resource Use Lead, Investors in the Environment