For most business, veterinary clinics included, energy is the greatest source of greenhouse gas production. This is an area we can really move the needle on! Any item that plugs into an outlet, e.g. computers, laundry facilities, microwaves, refrigerators, etc, can be very impactful on both carbon emissions, as well as utility bills. Appliances that are energy inefficient not only draws power, but also emits heat that the air conditioning compensates for contributing to higher cooling bills1.
Computers and monitors are essential for the daily operation of a practice. Energy-efficient computers are widely available and easily identified. If all computers sold in the US met ENERGY STAR requirements, energy costs savings would grow to $1.8 billion per year2. ENERGY STAR certifies washers, dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators and freezers, electronics, lighting and much more! It is also important to consider end of life management when purchasing computers and monitors. Electronic waste (e-waste) contains metals and persistent organic pollutants, e.g. PCBs. Inappropriate recycling releases these toxicants posing great risk to human and environment health3. Responsible end of life disposal is a necessity. When the time comes for disposal, contact local computer engineers to see if they are looking for computers to refurbish or use for parts. Call your local recycling facilities to inquire about proper disposal. In some states, e.g. Colorado, it is illegal to dispose electronics in the trash due to the toxicants they contain. Currently there are two accredited certification stands for e-waste recycling which includes Responsible Recycling “R2” Standard for Electronics and the e-Stewards Standard for Responsible Recycling and Reuse of Electronic Equipment4.
Choosing ENERGY STAR Certified products can significantly reduce your environmental impact while facilitating significant savings. The ENERGY STAR program for commercial businesses avoided $12 billion in energy costs, in addition to a reduction 140 million metric tons of greenhouse gases in 20185!
Electronics and appliances are important for the everyday functioning of your practice and careful consideration should go into replacement, purchasing and disposal of these products. Valuable resources and materials are necessary to make electronics and donating or recycling can conserve natural resources and reduce pollution. Recycling one million laptops saves the equivalent of the electricity used to power more than 3,500 US homes in a year4.
1. Sustainability Roadmap for Hospitals: Energy Star Office Equipment.
2. Sustainability Roadmap for Hospitals: Computers and Monitors.
3. Robinson, B. H. E-waste: An assessment of global production and environmental impacts. Sci. Total Environ 408, 183–191 (2009).
4. US EPA. Certified Electronics Recyclers.