Sustainability and you

26 January 2021
3 min read
Published:

Rebecca Waters discusses ways to make your practice more environmentally friendly.

Exploring more sustainable options to boost the eco-credentials of your practice can bring many benefits. Indeed, in this day and age where it appears that people are becoming more conscious of the environment and the impact our actions are having on the planet, it only makes sense to see if you can take a greener stance.

But where to begin and what benefits will this bring?

Something to draw in new patients
In recent years many of us have started to realise just how important the environment is, and how necessary it is to support and protect the natural world. From David Attenborough documentaries about plastics and the ocean, to a big push on programmes exploring sustainability and ways to better nurture the planet, we are being exposed to a more eco-friendly message. As such, it’s little surprise that many people are now taking environmental considerations more seriously.

For your practice, this could provide an effective marketing strategy. Research has proven that 80 per cent of people are more likely to use a business or service if it is presented as a more environmentally friendly option. This is significant, because if these figures are true, by becoming a more eco-friendly option you can stand apart from your competition, as well as draw in those patients who prioritise a green approach.

Marketing, therefore, is essential. Once you have made any changes to your products or services that are better for the environment, you should promote these on your available channels, including your website, social media profiles and via email to your existing patients too.

Energy switch
Of course, going fully green in the healthcare industry isn’t easy. Dentistry, in particular, relies on a number of single-use items, and in the course of the pandemic this has been essential. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t look into other areas and see if there are some beneficial changes to be made.

Perhaps one of the easiest ways to take a greener route is to look at the energy you’re using in practice and thinking of ways to cut this. Installing a smart meter for electricity is a great way to keep track of things, and from there you can identify your energy use and make changes as necessary.

And, these don’t have to be huge adjustments – instead, they can be small switches such as choosing more energy efficient lightbulbs or making sure that computers are switched off when not in use. However, it’s also a good idea to see if there are any technology upgrades that you could install to help further. Many of the new systems from manufacturers are becoming more energy efficient. So, if for example you do have an autoclave or a washer disinfector or any other system that is a big drain on your power, making a change can fast outweigh the initial expenditure of a new system and be better for the environment moving forwards.

Keep your waterways clear
Perhaps one of the most dental-specific threats to the environment is amalgam. Though this substance is steadily being phased out of use, it’s very likely that a large percentage of your existing patients will still have amalgam fillings, and should these need replacement this process could easily contaminate waterways unless precautions are taken.

This is a huge problem, as once amalgam reaches the ocean it can have an adverse effect on marine life. Due to the unique micro-organisms found in the sea, amalgam breaks down into a form of mercury that can be easily absorbed into the bodies of fish and other marine life. Not only is this damaging to these creatures, but if the marine species are then eaten, there is the real danger of humans suffering from mercury poisoning as a result.

As such, installing amalgam separators onto your sinks and commonly-used waste water outlets is a fantastic way to lessen your environmental impact. These work by catching the small fragments of amalgam that are washed away after a filling treatment or replacement, preventing them from reaching marine environments.

Products make a difference
The products you use in practice can also have environmentally friendly alternatives. For example, if you do use plastic items then it’s a good idea to look into recycled plastic alternatives. These prevent the need for virgin plastic to be created and, depending on the item, can often be recycled again after use too, helping to minimise plastic pollution.

Although it’s likely that you are currently not using items such as plastic cups in your waiting rooms, when restrictions are eventually lessened, it’s would be a good idea to look into replacing these with greener versions such as cardboard cups.

Helping practices achieve a greener approach with ease, Initial Medical has recently introduced some eco-friendly changes to its products and services. These include electronic hazardous waste consignment notes, as well as a series of new rigid waste containers that have been made out of 100 per cent recycled plastic and that can be recycled after use. Both of these are simple ways to boost your green credentials.

A greener future
As the focus on going green continues and more solutions become available, it’s a great idea to upgrade to eco-friendly options where possible. These not only help you to do your part in keeping our planet safe, but can also boost your appeal for potential patients.

References available on request.