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Going green


Shadyside, Pa. - Believed to be the first in this region, a veterinary practice has gone green.

Shadyside, Pa. — Believed to be the first in this region, a veterinary practice has gone green.

Opened in October, the ecologically friendly East End Veterinary Medical Center seemed a logical step for DVMs Andrea Cangin and Ken Fisher — both environmentally concerned veterinarians wanting to do their part to help conserve, recycle and reduce.

Their 3,000-square-foot facility, comprised of exam, surgery and treatment areas, a waiting room and staff office area, is blazing the trail for green practices — not exactly common in veterinary medicine. "To our knowledge, we're the first in the region," Cangin says.

And what exactly does touting this eco-aware label entail?

"We used recycled materials for our drywall, studs and anything steel-related. It was all manufactured locally, so it didn't have to be transported. Our paints are low-VOCs [volatile organic compounds]. We chose to use digital X-rays because there are no chemicals involved," Cangin says. "We are paperless to reduce paper use. Our fax machine comes through the computer. We recycle our syringe cases. We have flow-control faucets to reduce water use and our lighting is fluorescent."

Cangin and Fisher enlisted the help of evolveEA, an architectural firm that creates designs to help reduce use of natural resources. Although the East End facility was the firm's first veterinary practice, it came up with an affordable design that is better for the environment and still provides effective animal care.

"To us, the animals' health is the main focus. We weren't going to jeopardize care just to be able to have the entire clinic be green. We simply did whatever we could," says Cangin of the 330-patient clinic.

Green fast facts

The design implemented smaller, inexpensive elements that, put together, make a large impact. "A lot of these things weren't huge undertakings and, while there was some additional expense, we thought it was important enough to be worth taking on a few extra costs," she says.

The next step for the practice is to apply for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, a national benchmark for design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings.

Conserving your cash and the environment

From changing a light bulb to changing locations, there are many ways to protect the environment



PITTSBURGH — Preparing a veterinary practice to go "green" doesn't have to mean a complete clinic overhaul. Even the smallest changes make a difference.

Recognizing areas where you can improve or implement more environmentally friendly options — with or without large price tags — is key, says Christine Mondor, founder of evolveEA, a Pittsburgh-based architect firm that works to create synergy between designs and the environment.

Minor alterations

  • Open window blinds to let in sunlight, and try to use less lighting.

  • Replace burnt-out light bulbs with fluorescent lighting.

  • Purchase cleaning products that are biodegradable.

  • Use washable floor mats.

  • Stock your printer with recycled paper.

  • Paint with low-or no-VOC (volatile organic compound) paints.

  • Change air filters regularly. "Most folks don't maintain their mechanical systems as well as they should, and it is not only a health issue, but a matter of efficiency," Mondor says.

Medium modifications

  • Designate prime clinic parking spots as "carpool only," and install bike racks. "Encourage and enable others to make environmentally friendly decisions," Mondor says.

  • When purchasing medical equipment such as an X-ray machine, inquire about which brands create the least waste and by-products.

  • Become paperless. Send clients e-statements, pay bills online and have the fax machine routed through e-mail.

Major transformations

  • If scouting a new office location, focus on a building that is central in the community, making it convenient for patients and staff to walk or ride bikes.

  • If your practice is being built or undergoing construction, use materials, such as drywall, insulation or flooring, that is made from recycled materials. Also, purchase locally to cut out long-haul shipping.

  • Consult with an engineer about improving airflow through the office. Most likely, a more effective method of regulating temperature can be implemented. "Typically, there are ways to provide more exhaust and positive pressure to keep the winter air from rushing in and the cool air from rushing out in summer," Mondor says.

No matter what changes are made, cost can always be a factor. "When you get into more pricey things, like the building's mechanical systems, it is the difference between buying a Toyota and buying a Lexus. You have to make a decision between what type of quality product you want," she says.

Overall, it is about helping the environment and getting a better practice in return. "These changes will make it a more environmentally friendly, efficient workplace that has less maintenance, needs less repair and is a better place to be for the people going to work there," Mondor says.

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