South Wairarapa Veterinary Services champions climate change actions

South Wairarapa Veterinary Services has kicked its climate change action off to an impressive start, with a successful community planting day making the clinic a finalist for the Sustainable Business Network’s Regenerating Nature Award 2023.

Since 2020, South Wairarapa Veterinary Services has had an internal Climate Action group of staff and shareholder members who are passionate about taking climate change action.

“I approached the board about the emergency that is climate change, and they agreed that we should take responsibility for the part we play in it as a business and take urgent climate action,” says South Wairarapa Veterinary Services small animal veterinarian and New Zealand Veterinary Association Climate Change Ambassador Jane Ough.

“Climate change is having an ever-worsening impact on the animal world. Veterinarians, in their role as advocates for animal health, welfare and public health, have a responsibility to protect ecosystem health and demand action to minimise climate change. As vets, we are at the interface between science and the community. We are in a powerful position to be leading the way with climate action. We must use this.”

The Climate Action Group was formed in 2021, and its first action was to measure the carbon footprint of South Wairarapa Veterinary Services. It was clear the carbon footprint was significant, with a large fleet of utes travelling around the countryside for large animal work.

“The other big part of our footprint was getting our staff to and from work, so again, transport. It was obvious it was going to be difficult to reduce these emissions in the short term, so we looked for a way to offset them in more immediate ways. One of these was a community planting day, which we did in 2022.”

With the support of South Wairarapa Veterinary Service’s staff, suppliers, clients, the New Zealand Veterinary Association and the Wellington Regional Council, more than 600 native trees, flaxes and shrubs were planted in one day on a QEII covenant in Carterton.

“We enjoyed it so much, and we really wanted to get to 1,000 trees, so we came back and planted another 400,” Jane says.

More than 600 native trees, flaxes and shrubs were planted in one day on a QEII covenant in Carterton.

“It’s a fundamental mistake to try to continue business as usual in this climate crisis.”

Services director Katie Grant wanted to go bigger, and she asked Jane how many trees would need to be planted to offset a whole year of the business’s emissions. “I said it would take 5,000 trees, and she said okay, let’s plant 5,000 trees. This work is what caught the attention of the judges in the Sustainable Business Network awards and placed us in the final of the Regenerating Nature Category.”

This year, the South Wairarapa Vets board is planning for further action, and the committee is working on an innovative sustainability project with the hopes of getting it off the ground. Meanwhile, the practice continues to implement climate change action to address sustainability issues at the grassroots of its operation.

A newly built clinic in Greytown has been designed with sustainability in mind and wired up ready for solar panels. These will give the business more energy resilience and over time reduce costs. A capnograph CO2 monitor has been approved and will enable the reduction in the use of anesthetic gases which are expensive, potent greenhouse gases.

“The EVs are going to be a longer-term solution and as you know, this Government has just removed the rebate for EVs and hybrids adding another financial disincentive. A new hybrid Hilux is coming available this year, and we will be looking at that.”

South Wairarapa Veterinary Services aims to be carbon neutral by 2028. “We cannot continue with business as usual during this climate crisis,” Jane says. Based on the current global government action plans and promises, we are heading for a rise of 3°C in global temperatures above pre-industrial levels by 2100. Nowhere would be immune. Prolonged heatwaves, droughts and extreme weather events would all become increasingly common and severe.

“If we don’t get on top of it, we are heading rapidly towards an uninhabitable world. It’s a fundamental mistake to try to continue business as usual in this climate crisis.”

© Waterford Press Ltd 2024 – Independent Print Media New Zealand

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