06/10/2023 10:31 AM
Opinions on topical issues from thought leaders, columnists and editors.

The impacts of climate change have been broadly recognised as the greatest global public health threat of the 21st century and health professionals, including veterinary practitioners, should be more responsible towards reducing the carbon footprint in their veterinary settings. Transitioning any business practice into an environmentally conscious effort should be supported with an urge among the consumers as for the companies or brands to be transparent and proactive in addressing environmental and social problems.

Globally, greenhouse gas emissions from human healthcare are estimated to be between one and five per cent of the total global impact and major sources include procurement and inefficient energy consumption. As reported by the Department of Statistics Malaysia, the clinical waste produced in 2020 increased by 18.1 per cent, from 33,800 tonnes to 39,900 tonnes in 2019. This was partly due to the disposal of COVID-19 test equipment in health facilities and quarantine centres.

Under the Global Climate Change Emergency, the World Veterinary Association (WVA) acknowledges climate change as a global emergency and urges members of the veterinary profession to research, review and adopt practices that minimise greenhouse gas emissions. Veterinarians have a responsibility to protect ecosystem health and demand action to minimise the impact of climate change.

There are many ways in supporting greener veterinary practice and low carbon energy ranging from larger to small facilities that could not only mitigate climate change but could enhance access to essential health services and ensure business resilience. This article summarises recommendations relevant to the veterinary medical field that can be used as a starting point for veterinary practices interested in implementing change.

Energy Efficient

Building design and high-performance equipment have contributed to the main energy consumption in any veterinary setting. By electing renewable energy such as solar electricity, it serves as a long-term cost effectiveness to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions. If other lower emissions technologies may not be sound, motivating veterinary employees to adopt positive behaviours such as transition to LED lights and encouraging a switch-off culture may be more practical. Furthermore, installing motion sensing, day-light sensing or lighting controls in common areas may reduce on the electricity bills. Certain equipment can be powered down at night to reduce stand-by electricity consumption.


Although water is regarded as a smaller utility expense compared to energy, significant water savings can be done by installing flow restriction devices on faucets, using low-flow toilets, maintaining proper plumbing and pipes to prevent water loss through leaks and harvesting and recycling rainwater for sustainable water use. Switching from an ‘elbow-on’ tap operating system to a leg-operated tap was found to save up to six litres of water per scrub.

Recent technological advance of ozone laundry has been shown to serve environmental and economic benefits via decrease in water usage, energy consumption and chemical use.


The veterinary business has produced various types of waste and requires more comprehensive waste management and strategies to ensure proper and safe waste disposal. The most immediate strategy that can be opted is by purchasing products that contain less packaging, purchasing reusable alternatives and purchasing recycled-content products. Hospital staff can be effectively trained in implementing proper waste-disposal and green-cleaning protocols to reduce the negative consequences of unavoidable waste byproducts contaminating air quality and water sources. Lastly, paper waste can be reduced by opting for more green printing practices such as double-sided printing, and decreasing toner use with digitalisation of medical records and invoices.

Antibiotics and Medicines Use

While antimicrobial resistance serves as another important global issues affecting humans, animals and environment, by reducing and avoiding unnecessary antimicrobial and other medicine use can help to achieve more sustainable solutions in protecting animal health and welfare. Preventive medicine is another important aspect by improving husbandry and management, vaccination that can replace the use of antimicrobial where possible. Antimicrobial stewardship should be practised based on the culture and sensitivity diagnostics to reduce the use of highest priority critically important antibiotics.

Dr Tan Check Nam, managing director at Vet Partners (M) Sdn Bhd, said that ‘by adopting eco-friendly technologies, reducing water consumption, implementing recycling programmes, and promoting judicious use of medications, veterinarians in Malaysia can contribute significantly to a more sustainable and environmentally conscious approach to animal healthcare’.

The veterinary team have a unique perspective of animal, human and environmental health, and embracing sustainability is morally responsible. Indirectly, this will help business in effectively managing its costs and operational resilience. Taking a small step is always better and this may serve as a resource by considering both personal situations and long-term environmental and economic co-benefits of these recommendations. Improving veterinary establishment to be environmentally sustainable is worthwhile and warrants increased attention moving forward.


Rozaihan Mansor is an Associate Professor at Universiti Putra Malaysia.

(The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of BERNAMA)