It's Good to be Green
Nashville Veterinary Specialists set the standard for green business practice
From our April/May 2012 issue archives
BY HEATHER DOWDY
One of my favorite things about our annual Green Issue is highlighting local pet businesses that are taking action toward a healthier planet. After all, we each have a responsibility to care for the earth which sustains us and the animals we love, whether in our personal lives or business practice.
I am especially excited to feature our friends from Nashville Veterinary Specialists and Animal Emergency. You know them from our back cover, and you may know Dr. Trey Calfee as a leading orthopedic veterinary surgeon in Middle Tennessee. However, what you may not know is that this is one business that is serious about being green.
Photo: Dr. Trey Calfee, owner of Nashville Veterinary Specialists, with his son Easom and general contractor Cary Frazier, atop the clinic's roof next to the solar panels that provide up to 35% of their clinic's energy needs.
“Our environmental commitment originated from my family’s beliefs that everyone needs to be environmentally aware and that our planet needs to be respected and protected,” says Calfee. “For the past 20 years we have tried to live the most environmentally responsible life possible. As the father of a young son, protecting the environment for future generations really hits home for me.”
That’s why Dr. Calfee and his wife Lisa knew they had to apply the same philosophy to their veterinary clinic. He explains, “With the growth of our specialty practice, it was just a logical fit to incorporate these same behaviors into the workplace. Many of our employees had similar environmental beliefs, so it was a good fit for everyone. It was easy to implement environmentally friendly behaviors because we had good buy-in from our employees. So, first, we felt like it was the right thing to do. Second, it was a good fit for our hospital as animal care providers. Finally, we assumed being resource conscious was a good business practice and that many of our pet guardians cared deeply for the environment as well and would view our stewardship in a positive light.”
Harnessing solar energy and rainwater
Solar panels atop the veterinary clinic began producing energy in February 2011. “We have a 29 kilowatt photovoltaic system that supplies between 25-35% of our energy needs,” says Calfee. “The system was funded with assistance through federal and state grants. We also participate in the TVA Generation Partners Program that promotes alternative energy to Middle Tennessee and surrounding regions.”
Meanwhile, a 5,000 gallon collection system gathers rainwater from the roof, which is used to irrigate the outdoor dog walking area.
Finding creative ways to go greener
While some might stop there, Calfee takes a green approach to daily operations as well as to the health and wellbeing of his staff members. “We have a comprehensive sustainability philosophy that works to decrease our environmental footprint through minimizing our use of natural resources while also improving the indoor environmental quality for our employees and our patients,” he says.
For example, Calfee was diligent about the placement of windows and installed six four-by-four skylights that bring in natural sunlight. The open, airy and bright layout lends itself to that of a day spa versus the cold and sterile environment sometimes associated with animal hospitals. The windows not only add natural warmth to the building, but also offer staff and clients a connection to the natural world.
Reclaimed materials, including employee lockers, office furniture and medical cabinetry, were installed during the construction of the practice. “We have an energy reclamation heating and cooling system that works in a similar fashion to a geothermal heat pump,” says Calfee. “The system is energy efficient and helps to minimize our total energy use. We also partner with locally owned small businesses as much as possible. This includes everything from building construction to catering.”
In addition, the practice minimizes the use of raw materials through a comprehensive recycling program for plastics, paper products and metals. Glass products are recycled separately and packing materials (mostly Styrofoam containers) are collected and given to a local business for re-use.
Calfee adds, “We also use cloth materials in our surgery department as much as possible. Since these can be laundered, sterilized and re-used, they provide our patients with the same safety and high quality as disposable items.” Meanwhile, the clinic removes many chemicals from the equation by utilizing digital radiology rather than traditional x-ray processing and by using earth-friendly cleansers and products.
A healthy earth and healthy pets go hand in hand
While maintaining an environmentally sustaining practice is an important aspect for Dr. Calfee, his utmost priority is of course the health and safety of the animals in his care. He says, “Our slogan is ‘Helping Pets Heal’ and we work very hard night and day to make that a reality. Fortunately, most of the time, our environmental commitment works in synergy with our primary mission of delivering the highest quality state-of-the-art pet care. The health of the environment affects animals as well as people, so we want to do our part to insure a quality environment for all.”
For more information on Nashville Veterinary Specialists, please check out our back cover of Nashville Paw magazine and visit them online at nashvillevetspecialists.com.