This year, join in the largest civic observance in the world — Earth Day. More than one billion people in 192 countries set aside April 22 to celebrate and support our planet, while pledging to lessen their impact on the earth.
You can do your part, too. Dental practices, like all businesses, produce waste. According to the Eco-Dentistry Association, every year dental practices dispose of:
• 4.8 million lead foils
• 28 million liters of toxic X-ray fixers
• 3.7 tons of mercury waste
• 1.7 billion sterilization pouches
• 80 million chair barriers, light handle covers, and patient bibs
This Earth Day, tread a little lighter on the planet by making your practice more sustainable. Whether you begin with baby steps or really go for the green, start today with these easy-to-implement ideas.
Go digital – Want to save money, time, and the environment? Go as paperless as possible. Deliver charts, patient appointments, and reminders via email or even text message. Set up an online payment option. Go super green with digital X-rays. Not only do they use no toxic X-ray development chemicals or lead foils, but they expose technicians to 75% to 90% less radiation.
Cut down on chemicals – Using digital X-rays is one way to limit toxins in your practice. Another way is steam sterilization for instruments. Look for other alternatives to chemical processes and materials, such as BPA-free night guards. And look around your office. If you plan to do a remodel or touch-up, remember to select VOC-free carpets and paint.
Choose renewable – Check to see if your utility company has a renewable energy option. Purchase products made from sustainable resources, too. Think fabric (not paper) lab coats, cork or bamboo floors, or even making bamboo toothbrushes your giveaway item.
Conserve energy – Turn off lights and equipment when they’re not in use. Install energy-efficient appliances, air conditioning, and heating. Think about replacing windows. You’ll save on heating and cooling and let in more natural light.
Recycle – You probably recycle some materials already. Do more. Put recycle bins everywhere that your staff may need them. Check with your waste management company to learn how to recycle items that don’t get picked up on a regular basis (batteries, paint, electronics, etc.) You can even find programs that recycle dental instruments into industrial metal.
Once you’ve made the decision to go green, tell people about it. Join in an Earth Day celebration, send out an email announcement, or announce your intentions on your website. After all, many of your patients and potential customers care about the planet, too. They may even be among the one billion people who will celebrate Earth Day this year.
Dr. Leslie Townsend has worked for Jefferson Dental Clinics for the past 10 years in Dallas. Dr. Townsend likes to be as eco-friendly as possible, and always tries to keep waste levels at a minimum.