The London Vision Clinic Goes Carbon Neutral

When you first meet marketing coordinator, Thilini, the tag “Warrior” is not the first thought that springs to mind. However, within her petite frame lurks a rugged determination which is currently aimed at making her colleagues more environmentally aware having reached the goal of a carbon neutral London Vision Clinic.

Thilini decided to take on the role of “Carbon Warrior” after speaking to London Vision Clinic patient Julia Hailes MBE, who is a professional environmental consultant. Julia’s work includes advising companies – including high street giants such as Marks and Spencer – on how to improve their carbon footprint. At the time she commented that Laser Eye Surgery is, in itself, an environmentally friendly procedure. She also spoke to Thilini about the clinic’s recycling practice.

“I then passed on Julia’s comments to management and they asked if I would like to act as the clinic’s ‘Carbon Warrior’ to educate staff and to reduce wastage”, recalls Thilini. “A few months later our clinic manager, Emma, asked me if it would be possible for us to become carbon neutral.”

Thilini decided to find out. Her first task was to discover how to assess the London Vision Clinic’s current carbon footprint. This proved far from straightforward.

“I thought it would be a great step to promote sustainability in the UK and also to give back something to community. If we aren’t the first medical organisation, we are definitely the first laser eye clinic to achieve this.”

“Because it’s not mandatory for companies to assess their effect on the environment, there is a lot of ambiguity regarding how to go about it.

“Initially I had to educate myself with a lot of ready material. I also attended a few seminars on the subject”, Thilini recalls. “Once I understood how the process worked, the next step was to select one of the several London-based organisations to work alongside.”

The London Vision Clinic paired with Carbon Footprint Company and an assessment period of July 1st 2011 to June 30 2012 was agreed.

A period of detective work followed as Thilini set about discovering all the relevant information about the environmental cost of running of the London Vision Clinic. She carefully detailed gas and electricity bills, the number of refrigerators and air conditioning units, alongside transport usage – flights, cars, taxi expenses and courier services. This information was passed over to the Carbon Footprint Company who issued a “data pack”. Once filled in, the crucial carbon emissions equation for that year could be calculated.

The Carbon Footprint Company’s subsequent report showed that the London Vision Clinic’s total carbon dioxide emissions for the assessment period year were 106 tonnes – 46.5% of which was from electricity usage. In order to become carbon neutral, this usage would have to be offset to a VFS (Verified Footprint Standard) and in order to obtain BSI certification PAS 2060, a detailed Carbon Management Policy must be drawn up. This would entail actions and goals to reduce overall emissions for the forthcoming year.

“We have chosen to give back to the UK by planting 106 trees across London. These will not only offset our carbon emissions, but also help prevent climate change and create space for wildlife. We have also set ourselves the goal of reducing our total carbon emissions by 2.5% next year”, explains Thilini. “We are now in the process of educating all staff to consider the environment by reducing overall wastage in the company: not printing unnecessarily and recycling appropriately.”

Although the reduction plan includes a “switch off” policy, it also takes into account the extremely sensitive nature of Laser Eye Surgery – certain rooms at London Vision Clinic hold equipment that require temperatures cooler than room temperature. These rooms need the air conditioning to remain turned on regardless of the external temperature. However in many other areas, motion sensors will be installed, existing light bulbs replaced with low energy bulbs and a firm “turn off” policy for computers at the end of the working day.

London Vision Clinic patients will not notice any dramatic changes at 138 Harley Street – although the observant ones might spot the new recycling systems. “Patients can return their surgery packs to us if they want us to recycle them. Although we cannot use them for patients, we can definitely find a way to recycle them”, Thilini concludes.

Watch this space for updates and progress on the London Vision Clinic’s carbon neutral journey.