Time to take the first steps to greener dentistry?

Launching our eco-dentistry section, Mark Topley lists some easy ways you can make your practice better for the environment.

It has never been more important to care for the environment, support the shift to renewable and sustainable sources of energy, cut down on the use of plastics, and recycle wherever possible.

Everywhere I go, clients are more and more concerned about the environmental impact of dentistry.

Everyone is acutely aware of the amount of waste that is generated on both the clinical and non-clinical sides of our business.

I also hear how powerless many feel to change it.

There’s a growing expectation from both consumers and our teams that we simply must do more to protect the environment.

Certainly, we have a challenge.

Slow changes

There are so many practical constraints from regulation that seem to disqualify common sense approaches.

There also seems to be a lack of simple information about so called ‘green lines’ of consumables.

Many dentists and managers lack the time to look for greener alternatives and fear the potential for additional cost.

A growing number of people in the profession are beginning to talk about what can be done to change the way dentistry is delivered to make it more environmentally friendly.

This is good news but the political and regulatory wheels tend to turn painfully slowly.

So, while we lobby and campaign for policy change, we have to act personally.

Thankfully, there is a great deal that practices can do already to limit their footprint and promote this to their patients.

If you are looking for the simple steps you can take to move your practice to a more environmentally responsible position, I’ve got some great places for you to start.

Where to begin – the basics

Eliminating non-clinical, single-use plastics, recycling whenever possible, reducing energy consumption, and limiting the use of paper are all straight-forward methods to lessen your environmental impact.

Single-use plastic for food and beverage is one of the quickest methods to eliminate plastic waste.

Stop the supply of bottled water at the practice.

Substitute a water cooler with compostable paper cups, or better still, offer reusable glasses that can go through the dishwasher.

On the same note, use recyclable or washable cups throughout the practice for staff refreshments.

Cut out disposable cutlery and plates for staff lunches and parties.

If reusable plates and cutlery are available, but plastic options aren’t, your team will automatically reach for the reusable option.

To save energy, it almost goes without saying that you should turn off all lights when the practice is closed – apart from critical security lighting, obviously.

Rather than letting machines idle on standby, computers and other electronic devices should be turned off when the practice is closed.

Wherever possible, replace lightbulbs with low energy options.

It’s encouraging to see many practices already going paperless.

When you must print, institute a double-sided printing policy (unless it is critical to use single sheets).

Recycling is a big one.

It’s important to ensure that recycling bins for non-clinical waste are offered on site (to include paper, plastics, card and cans).

Also, make sure you use a licensed waste carrier with relevant Waste Transfer Notes supplied.

Environmental responsibility

Outside of the constraints of compliance, there are a good number of things that practices can, and should, do to take their environmental responsibility seriously.

If you would like to know more, please download my free guide to ‘greener dentistry’ from marktopley.co.uk.

Despite the challenges, it really is possible to move past the frustration many of us feel when it comes to the environmental impact of our businesses, and create a structured approach to ensure we are doing everything we can to protect our world.

Read more from Michael Topley:

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