Established in 2012, Thornbury Veterinary Hospital is a small to medium-sized practice located in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. Dr Mariane Morin joined the practice in 2018 and was keen for it to become more environmentally friendly. Here, she shares the story of how she became involved with Vets for Climate Action (VfCA) and the Climate Care Program, which put Thornbury Veterinary Hospital on a path to becoming more energy efficient.
I think that, as a medical establishment, we are responsible for a lot of waste and energy consumption, and I wanted to see if we could minimise our impact on our planet. As vets, it seemed like a logical step to take to protect animals!”
Dr Mariane Morin, Thornbury Veterinary Hospital
My experience with VfCA began in June 2021. During a review with my employer, we discussed my idea for the practice to become more environmentally friendly. As a medical establishment, I think we are responsible for a lot of waste and energy consumption, and I wanted to see if we could minimise our impact on our planet. As vets, it seemed like a logical step to take to protect animals. My employer mentioned VfCA, so I looked them up and the Climate Care Program immediately caught my eye! I got in touch with the program coordinator and was invited to participate in one of their meetings. That was the start of my volunteering experience with VfCA and I have never looked back!
What we did...
The Climate Care Program consists of six topic-based modules and I put my hand up to help develop the energy efficiency module. After an intensive research phase, it became obvious that conducting an energy assessment (one of the primary tasks to complete for this module) would require a fair amount of time, equipment, and knowledge. Fortunately, there are companies dedicated to that process.
This is how I came across Ecovantage - an energy efficiency solutions company working with businesses and households to minimise their energy costs and reduce their environmental impact. I prepared a presentation for one of the owners of my practice, where I talked about climate change, how it is connected to energy efficiency and what Ecovantage could do to help. Fortunately, my employers have always been supportive of my environmental endeavours and they enthusiastically agreed to the energy assessment.
Due to the pandemic, the entire assessment was done remotely. I dealt with Rob at Ecovantage who guided me through the process. After an initial zoom meeting to discuss what the steps of the assessment would be, I conducted a walk-through of the practice, taking photos of everything that consumes power in every single room. I sent all the photos to Rob including comments on how everything was used.
After a few weeks, we received a full report from Ecovantage containing the details of our energy consumption, recommendations on how to become more efficient, as well as information on the financial and environmental cost/benefit that following these recommendations would have. The report also gave us an overview of the trajectory to follow in order to become a carbon-neutral practice. This was followed by a zoom meeting with Rob from Ecovantage, myself and the practice owners, to discuss the report.
- Changing all lights to LED - valued at $1,800.00
- Replacing the hot water system with a heat pump - valued at $3,250.00
- Installing solar panels on the rooftop - valued at $10,840.50
All of these were achievable at a low cost through Ecovantage. Thornbury Veterinary Hospital management decided to embrace the opportunity, and green-lit all three recommendations! In the end, we spent less than a quarter of what the improvements were valued at (approximately $3,500.00) due to Ecovantage’s ability to obtain grants/incentives or Government funding!
It’s important to note that Thornbury Veterinary Hospital is renting the building in which it operates. So with regards to installing solar panels, the practice owners thought it may be an issue. However Ecovantage was able to walk them through the process and paperwork necessary to discuss this upgrade with the owner of the building, and we were granted permission to go ahead with the installation.
In the end, we spent less than a quarter of what the improvements were valued at!"
In December, Ecovantage Operations Coordinator, Matthew visited our practice to assess and organise the implementation of the upgrades. The plan was to have everything delivered before the end of the year, but there were some delays due to a change in the accreditation process, but thankfully Ecovantage took care of it and was able to organise a new proposal. Then they sent electricians to assess the property, and organise the installations. While it took a bit longer than we had initially planned, in the end, everything was delivered, with no additional cost or effort from our side. In the weeks following the installation, Matthew ran regular checks to ensure the solar system was operating correctly.
What happened and what we learnt...
Overall, the energy assessment was an easy process involving minimal costs. But it should be noted that even with the help of Ecovantage, it still involved a time commitment. While the actual assessment took about 2 hours (including video calls and email communications), all up, for our clinic the process took about 5 months from the first consultation through to installation (noting this included some unforeseen delays). However I’m convinced that conducting the assessment by myself would not only have been a near impossible task, but also, it would have yielded less positive results. Working with Ecovantage meant that we could benefit from a number of government schemes and rebates – and the changes that ended up having the biggest impact for us might not have been achievable without these. By implementing these changes, the practice is looking at reducing its carbon footprint and energy costs by about 70%!
Working with Ecovantage meant that we could benefit from a number of government schemes and rebates – and the changes that ended up having the biggest impact for us might not have been achievable without these."
Now all that is left to do is eagerly await the next energy bill to celebrate how much impact the modifications have already made! For example, our average daily usage for the month of May 2022 was 48.59kwh. At the same time last year, it was 62.4kwh!
We will also continue to make incremental improvements in our sustainability journey, tackling recycling, water usage, etc. The future is bright and exciting at Thornbury Vet Hospital!
Dr Mariane Morin pictured with a solar panel about to be installed at the practice.
Solar panels installed on the roof of Thornbury Veterinary Hospital.
Disclaimer: Vets for Climate Action (VfCA) has partnered with Ecovantage to deliver free energy assessments to eligible Climate Care Program (the Program) participants. Undertaking such an assessment is entirely voluntary, and has no bearing on the participants’ completion of the Program. On completion of a free energy assessment, if an eligible Program participant engages Ecovantage to provide additional, paid services, Ecovantage will make a donation to VfCA. All donations received from EcoVantage will be used to continue the development and operation of the Program.