Di Royle is a vet nurse at Linnaeus-owned Donnachie & Townley (D&T), which has practices in Rugeley and Stafford. This is her journey in helping practice hit sustainability aims. She said:

“I qualified as a veterinary nurse in 1995 and loved working in busy, small animal primary care practices but had a career change when my family came along.

“Besides raising two boys, I qualified as teaching assistant. In July 2019, I decided it was time for me to return to my first love and was lucky enough to return to the D&T family and refresh my skills.

“2020 was a year to forget in many ways. As the pandemic put paid to ‘normal’ life and the practice adapted to working in small bubbles, I had some working from home hours, and this was the beginning of my Investors in the Environment journey with D&T and Linnaeus.

“I’m not an eco-warrior but I like to think I have always been conscious of the environment. When I was asked if I wanted to be part of the ‘green team’ to make my workplace more sustainable, I knew there would be a lot more to it than just separating the waste! Nevertheless, I thought I might have something to add.

“Reading the Investors in the Environment audit pack was a little daunting to be honest. But with no deadlines and WFH hours, I felt like there was no time like the present to make changes for the future.

“Initially, it was all about the data. This was a challenge, as we didn’t always have access to the historical data we needed. For me, this was time consuming and a little frustrating, as my IT skills are somewhat lacking!

“Having said that, we have a great team here at D&T, so I was helped and nurtured along the way. If I can do it, anyone can. I needed to follow the audit pack step by step and sometimes I tried to run before I could walk but I soon learnt that concentrating on one area at a time was more manageable.

“Another lesson learnt was to call on the great support offered by the Investors in the Environment team, they are really friendly and helpful.

“The team started talking about changes and it’s fair to say there was a little reluctance. In my experience, most of us fear change and nobody wanted to compromise on quality of care.

“Waste seemed to be the place to start, it was palpable and a conversation starter. Terracycling schemes were introduced such as crisp packets, biscuit, sweet and chocolate wrappers and boy do nurses get through crisps (not as many as practice managers it seems)!

“I was soon labelled as the practice womble but as everyone became more involved, we have all earnt that same title.

“I found the best place to pick up ideas from the team, was the informal chats in the staff room. The team was united in the common cause to become more sustainable, while still delivering excellent patient care.

“Talking between ourselves allowed us to come up with ideas that, from a nursing point of view, may not have been on my radar.

“Our receptionist suggested recycling the printer ink cartridges and went on to implement it. Our branch lead sourced syringes made using 100 per cent renewable energy. We checked the heating and were able to turn it down a degree or two, and reduce the time settings, saving both money and energy.

“We took part in the Linnaeus ‘Paws to turn off’ campaign, with stickers as reminders which got everybody involved and feeling proud to be helping save energy by turning off unnecessary lights.

“Staff now use reusable water bottles. We’ve realised we don’t need to use the tumble drier as much and use a clothes horse or washing line when we can. None of these things take extra time or detract from good quality nursing but time is needed to plan and implement the changes.

“With anaesthetic gases having a clear impact on our carbon footprint, we have initiated training for all staff on low flow anaesthesia and capnography, which will have a positive effect on patient care.

“As the practice became busier, WFH ended and we all began working in our small bubbles on site. I tried to grab a few minutes here or there to continue the work I had been doing at home.

“It soon became clear this was not going to work though, as it is much more efficient to have an allocated time slot to concentrate on the task at hand, whether that be inputting data, reviewing the action plan or researching new projects.

“We were recently honoured to be accredited the Investors in the Environment bronze award which is a massive pat on the back to everyone in the team.

“Personally, I feel like it has inspired us to aim higher. We are recycling and terracycling more than ever and composting our food waste now, which has motivated many to change their habits at home.

“Clients are also encouraged to return their empty blister medication packets and pet food packaging to us too, and as a wider community project, we are now putting together plans to use our homemade compost for bee-friendly planting.”