Henry environment list 2010

April 5, 2010
You don’t have to do everything. Just do something. Here are 10 easy environmentally friendly things you can do in your dental practice today that will make a difference.

By Kevin Henry

One of the common misconceptions about becoming more environmentally friendly is that it’s a huge undertaking. “Going green” doesn’t mean reverting to the Stone Age or buying your own wind farm. You can simple things in your home and office to not only make a different in the environment, but in your pocketbook as well.

As I always tell people who attend my green lectures, “You don’t have to do everything. Just do something.” With that in mind, here are 10 easy things you can do in your practice (and/or in your home) today that will make a difference.

1. Look in your trash can.

If you don’t have any idea where to start making a difference in your office, look in your trash can at the end of the day and see what’s in there that could be recycled or replaced with a more environmentally friendly choice. Many items in the dental office now have a reusable option that are available from your dental dealer, so ask your rep next time he or she comes into the office. Remember, “disposable” means “headed to the landfill” and doesn’t help the environment.

2. Start a recycling program

If you don’t already have this set up in your office, it’s a great way to start down the green path. Be sure to set up different containers for office paper, plastic bottles, and aluminum cans ... and don’t forget about printer toner cartridges and cardboard boxes as well. Designate someone in your office to be the recycling point person. If you don’t know where to recycle in your area, or what things are accepted at your local recycling center, call your local municipality or log on to www.earth911.com, which has a great recycling center search feature on it.

3. Install low-flow aerators on your sink faucets

Aerators fit on the end of your sink faucet and can be purchased at any local home improvement store. They’re inexpensive and easy to install. Their main job is to restrict the amount of water flowing through the faucet, saving you not only on your water bill but also on your energy bill (if you’re using less hot water, you’re using less energy to hear the water).

4. Switch over to CFLs

Essentially mini versions of the large overhead fluorescent lights found in office buildings and schools, most CFLs last roughly 10 times longer than incandescents, at a quarter of the cost per hour. They also produce 70% less heat than incandescents while illuminated, so heat waste is a nonissue. CFLs do cost between $5 and $15 per bulb, while some incandescents can be purchased for as low as 50 cents each. But given their longer life and energy savings, the cost of CFLs is worth it. To read more about CFLs, click here.

5. Use extension cords

Have you ever walked through your practice or your home at night with all of the lights off and noticed the glow coming from “ready lights” on your TV, VCR, DVD, stereo, etc.? These lights indicate that that appliance is ready to be used the moment you hit the “on” button on your remote. The problem is that while these appliances may not be “on,” they’re still using a lot of power just waiting for you to hit that button. What’s the solution? Use a power strip everywhere you can. Power strips can still draw energy when they’re left on, but once they have been switched off, no energy is being used.

6. Stop sending out postcards

It’s a simple thought ... saving paper and postage costs by building a list of your patients’ e-mail addresses or cell phone numbers for text messages. Companies such as SmileReminder and Sesame Communications are in the business of establishing these lists for you, and see the ROI your practice could have by using a service like this versus postage and printing costs.

7. Tell your patients what you're doing

There’s no reason to keep your green efforts a secret when so many of your patients (and potential patients) are taking their own steps to help the environment. According to the BBMG Conscious Consumer Report, nine in 10 Americans say the words “conscious consumer” describe them well. According to the same report, 87 percent said, when given the choice between similar offerings, he or she will select the entity that demonstrates a commitment to social responsibility. If you’re looking for a way to differentiate your practice, “green” could be just the thing.

8. Get rid of the styrofoam in the lounge

If you use disposable plates, cups, and silverware in your staff lounge, you’re contributing to your local landfill. Bring your own plate and glass from home and save some trash.

9. Turn down the thermostat

Most households (and offices) spend roughly 50 to 70% of their energy budgets on heating and cooling. For every degree you raise the thermostat, you'll save between 1 and 3% of your air conditioning bill. In the winter, going one degree cooler can save you 1 to 3% on your heating bill.

10. Install motion sensors

Electricity is often wasted because lights are left on in a room all day. Think about some of the rooms in your practice that are used sporadically during the day (supply room, patient restroom, private offices, break rooms, etc.). Installing a motion sensor that would turn the lights on and off automatically would ensure fewer hours of electricity used each month.

For a more in-depth look and more ideas on how to save water and electricity in the practice, click here to read a longer article I recently wrote.

If you have any questions on going green, just drop me a line at [email protected]. I’d like to hear from you.

Kevin Henry is the managing editor for Dental Economics magazine. He will be speaking on the environment and dentistry at the International Congress of Oral Implantologists and the sixth annual Dental Managers Conference.