Clean and green: This month, the Eco-Dentist, Davinder Raju, discusses how you can create a more eco-friendly bathroom in your dental practice.
Earlier this month, Japan’s oldest communal toilet, the Tosu, which dates back to the Muromachi period (about 500 hundred years ago), was accidentally damaged after it was hit by a car.
Ironically, the driver was an employee of an organisation that preserves cultural relics and buildings. I suppose when you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go…
Anyway, just as maintaining the historical legacy of a building is essential, the environmental legacy we choose to leave as a profession is just as important.
Let’s visit the bathroom
So as the second part of this mini-series on the different rooms in your practice, let’s visit the bathroom.
Unfortunately, it’s one of those essential rooms that don’t quite get the attention they deserve. Unless it happens to be Japan’s oldest existing toilet.
By the way, only the wooden entrance to the Tosu was damaged, and with a bit of luck, it should be reopened to visitors within a year.
As a visitor to the bathroom at my dental practice, you will notice areas where we have subtly embraced sustainable practices. It’s a practical approach that helps us reduce our environmental impacts.
So, if you are looking to make your bathroom more eco-friendly, here are some pointers to reduce your environmental impacts.
We’re already experiencing hotter, drier summers. Certain areas in the UK are already facing water stress.
By using less water, we can help reduce that stress.
- Aerator: Fit a tap aerator to the tap spout to significantly reduce the amount of water used. These are ideal for sinks used predominantly for washing hands as the water pressure is still maintained while reducing the flow rate. Tap aerators can save up to half your normal water usage. Additionally, when you are using aerated hot water, when you save water, you will use less energy to heat it and save money on these bills too
- Notice: Place a sign over the sinks to remind patients to turn off the water tap while cleaning their teeth. Often the most straightforward measures are effective
- Timed flow taps: Consider automatic sensor taps when your existing fixtures need replacing. Water will only be dispensed when the motion sensor detects movement in front of it. In addition, it’s more hygienic. Also, consider self-closing taps (they turn themselves off after dispensing a specific volume of water) in non-accessible toilets.
- Dual flush toilets: Dual flush toilets save a significant amount water compared to traditional, older toilets
- Cistern displacement device: If your existing toilet is an older, non-dual flush-type toilet and is still functioning, consider installing a cistern displacement device. These can be obtained free of charge from your water company. (Or you can simply fill a plastic bottle with water and submerge it within your cistern). They work by displacing water in your cistern so that the volume of water in your flush is reduced by between one to three lites
- Leaks: Leaky toilets can waste between 200 and 400 litres daily. Get all repairs completed promptly
- Rainwater: Consider harvesting rainwater to flush toilets instead of potable mains water. A system connected to a drainpipe and filtered to remove most pollutants and larger contaminants is suitable for flushing toilets. Again, you’ll be saving money and a valuable resource
- Reverse osmosis water waste: Every flush sends potable water down the drain. Reverse osmosis wastewater can be used effectively to reduce this wastage of clean water by using it to flush your toilets. In addition, a periodic cleanup using common toilet cleaners will reduce the chances of discolouration, and the formation of salt deposits can be avoided.
Saving energy will not only reduce your carbon emissions but will save you money too.
- LED lighting: Switching to LED light bulbs is simple and should be done ASAP. LED bulbs are far more efficient and environmentally friendly among all the available options, using up to 90% less energy
- Passive Infra-Red sensors: Consider fitting Passive Infra-Red sensors (PIR) to control bathroom lighting. The lighting is only on when someone is in the bathroom. You also remove the risk of lights being left on overnight
- Hand dryers: Low-energy hand dryers have a lower carbon footprint than traditional hand dryers and paper hand towels
- Radiator valves: Fit thermostatic radiator valves to traditional central heating radiators.
Eco-friendly bathroom consumables
Your team will be grateful for using products that are eco-friendly and not detrimental to their wellbeing. For example, at my practice, we use plant-based products.
You can buy ethical and environmentally-friendly:
- Cleaning products
- Disinfecting agents
- Air fresheners
- Toilet paper.
As a guide to procuring these items, consider the following:
- Is it a refillable product? Having the option to buy in larger containers eliminates unnecessary packaging and plastic. Additionally, check that the packaging is recyclable or biodegradable
- Does the product contain toxins? Unfortunately, many companies formulate products that often include chemicals that are hazardous to the environment and health. Only recently, I was given a sample disinfecting product which was harmful to aquatic life. Suffice it to say that it remains unopened. The best companies will have clear policies against the use of toxic chemicals
- Does the product contain palm oil? Palm oil is linked to massive deforestation. Look for brands that commit to sourcing palm oil sustainably, or avoid it altogether
- Is the product cruelty-free? Many companies still use ingredients that are tested on animals. Opt to purchase from a company with a clear cruelty-free policy.
While it may seem like the steps listed above won’t save the environment, even minor changes and actions toward reducing your practice’s impact can make a difference. Especially if taken as part of collective action toward sustainable dentistry.
Additionally, highlighting and taking pride in the small changes you make will leave a lasting impression on your patients. Ultimately, this will increase positive brand association, even if it is just the bathroom!
If you want to know more about how to make your practice green, visit us at www.greendentistry.co.uk
Catch previous columns from the Eco Dentist
- How to make your reception area more sustainable
- The Eco Dentist – greenwashing and how to avoid it
- Minimal intervention oral care and sustainability
- The plastic waste tsunami facing dentistry
- ‘Dentistry is unsustainable’.
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