Greening your dental office: Practical tips for leaving the smallest environmental footprint

Making your dental practice more environmentally friendly is a worthy goal, but how should dentists go about doing this? Here are several very practical tips to get your practice started and to make a big difference.

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“Going green” is very chic right now, and rightfully so. The impact our modern society has on the environment is certainly cause for concern. While many dentists have good intentions, it can be very confusing and time consuming to sift through an endless array of “green solutions” to find the ones right for your dental practice.

Office managers and those who make purchases for the practice may become overwhelmed trying to look at each product from every angle to determine if it’s as green as it claims. So let me try to simplify things.

Eco FriendlyHere’s one main aspect to keep in mind—no matter what you’re buying, from office supplies to dental supplies, the most important point to consider is the environmental footprint. If you can manage to be a mindful steward of your environmental footprint, you’re on the right track, the green track.

When thinking about your environmental footprint, here are two considerations:
1. The impact of production on the products you’re using.
2. The waste generated when you actually use the products.

If you’re new to the green game, your goal should be to select products and create habits that effectively reduce your waste. Here are a few suggestions:

Opt for minimal packaging—Select products with minimal packaging, or packaging that is biodegradable or recyclable.
Try for reusable or recyclable—Select reusable products rather than disposable products where appropriate. For example, purchase air dryers for the restrooms in lieu of paper towels. If reusable products such as cups, plates, and towels are out of the question, consider disposable products that are made from recyclable or biodegradable materials.
Buy high-quality, updatable equipment—Purchase equipment that will not quickly be obsolete. You can do this by ensuring there are updates available with your product and that you will not be made to buy a new one annually. Upgrading any appliances and equipment to Energy Star Compliance can also reduce your power and water consumption.
Recycle—Recycling paper has been common for years, but you can also recycle printers, cell phones, tablets, batteries, and other items. A quick Google search will tell you what recycling programs are available in your area.
Provide a water filter—Add a simple water filter to your faucet to encourage your dental staff to quit burning through plastic water bottles.
Turn off your screen saver—It’s common practice in the dental world to use screen savers to protect patient privacy. Unfortunately, this uses a lot of energy. Instead of using a screen saver, set the screen to blank or blackout mode to maintain patient privacy safe and save energy.

If you can successfully implement these steps, you’re well on your way to making your dental practice more environmentally friendly. Once you become confident in your waste reduction, you can start to examine manufacturers to learn who is the most environmentally conscious, and this will help you to further your green initiative.

Audrey Christie MclaughlinAudrey Christie McLaughlin, RN, is a mentor to dental and medical practices. In addition to writing for Quill.com, she helps practices attract and retain patients, clients, and customers, and maximize their revenue mindfully. Audrey is the founder of PhysiciansPracticeExpert.com. Reach her at Audrey@PhysiciansPracticeExpert.com.

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