The Environmental Protection Agency reports that in 2014 alone, people in the United States produced 258 million tons of trash under the category municipal solid waste. Dentistry itself is full of disposables, in part due to concerns about keeping patients and staff safe. Yet there are many opportunities to reduce waste without compromising patient care, and going green in dentistry is another step towards reducing our global footprint. Here are four ways you can get started on building a more sustainable office.
The latest digital technologies in dentistry produce less chemical and paper waste than traditional technologies. The options below not only help to make your office a bit more green by reducing such waste, they can also make daily tasks easier:
- Digital X-rays. Unlike traditional X-rays, these don't require any chemicals for exposure. Plus, there are no physical copies to dispose of after you're done.
- Digital files. Going chartless is another way to use technology to your advantage and go green at the same time. Imagine all of the paper (and space) your office will save over time. Another benefit? You don't have to pull a chart from paper files.
- Digital impressions. This technology can help you reduce waste while sparing your patient from a commonly unpleasant experience.
Dental offices use disposable supplies, such as masks and gloves, that end up making a lot of trash. While you can't reuse gloves or other single-use disposable products, other items can safely be recycled. For example, magazines from the waiting area and boxes from dental supplies can be recycled or repurposed. Think one step beyond the usual suspects, too. Dental instruments can be recycled or retipped as they become worn. Some plastics containers can be recycled, so make a habit of checking labels before defaulting to the trash can.
Some dental suppliers make an effort to be good to the earth by using recycled materials and less packaging in their products. When your office buys from these suppliers, you are doing your part to support the cause.
RDH Magazine offers multiple ways your office can conserve resources by making a few simple changes. Begin by turning off your computer at the end of the day, and shorten the time it takes to go to sleep mode during the workday. Another way to make a difference is by installing low-flow toilets. Older toilets can use up to 7 gallons of water per flush, whereas as low flow toilets use only 1.28 gallons per flush. Your office can also reduce its water consumption by installing faucets with aerators, which help slow the flow of water. The aerating discs are easy to install and inexpensive, and they can save up 3.5 gallons per minute. Lastly, a programmable thermostat preset to suitable temperatures will save resources by automatically adjusting the temperature as needed throughout the day.
Lots of consumer dental products end up in the trash after being used, but there is a better solution. Your office can participate in Colgate's Terracycle program to reduce this type of waste. When you sign up, your patients can bring in their old toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes and caps, packaging materials from these items, and floss containers. You can download a free poster explaining the program to your patients. Any brand is accepted, and once your collection box is full, you can ship it at no cost. This effort shows your patients your commitment to going green while encouraging them to join, as well.
Going green doesn't have to be complicated — how much you choose to do is up to you and your office. If you want to help your office go green, the first step is to share your ideas with your employer and coworkers. Ask your fellow staff members if they have suggestions. You may learn that your coworkers also want to do what is best for the planet but don't know where to start or how to implement new ideas. You can make a few changes at a time, such as by placing a recycling bin by the lunch area. It's easier to get people on board with small changes. Remember, any amount of change helps make a difference in the long run.
- Make the leap towards a greener office by going digital and adopting energy-saving habits.
- Participate in Colgate's Terracycle program to help patients recycle their old dental products and packaging.
- Encourage small changes in the office to get your coworkers on board (and maybe your patients, too!).
The earth has limited resources and everyone, including dental professionals, should do their part to protect the planet for future generations. Request that your office adopt eco-friendly practices. A more sustainable office may inspire your patients to join the green initiative, too. A healthier earth is just a decision away.