Sustainability – small steps to make a big difference

Sustainability – small steps to make a big difference

Sustainability has become a hot topic over recent years. Practice Plan’s head of sales, Zoe Close, spoke to Wesleyan’s group sustainability manager, Dan Gamson, to find out more.

Thanks for taking the time to chat about sustainability. What do we mean by sustainability? Why do we need to think about it?

I think, even in my fairly short career, sustainability has ramped up massively, everyone’s talking about it in some way. But I think it’s changed as well. When I first started out I was more environmentally focused. But then as things have developed and progressed, the world has changed quite a lot and over the last few years with Brexit, Covid and everything else going on in the world, I think sustainability has really expanded in its relevance and meaning.

For example, what does sustainability mean to Wesleyan? It’s our investments, what we’re doing with our money, it’s our clients that we’re investing in and the dental practices we work with, the stewardship and duty of care with our customers. Without our customers, our business isn’t sustainable.

We need them to continue to keep working and it’s our carbon footprint. A lot of legislation and rules and regulations are being brought into play around that. So, people need to be more aware of their carbon footprint and how to reduce it.

Zoe Close and Dan Gamson

What prevents sustainability from being part of everyone’s business as usual?

One of the things that gets in the way of sustainability is the intention/action gap. An example of this is New Years’ resolutions. If you’re like me, it gets to New Year’s Eve and you start thinking, ‘Oh no, I’ve had a really heavy Christmas.

So, on the first of January, I’m going to stop drinking and I’m going to go for a run twice a week.’ And you have all of these good intentions. But then the reality is, the first week back at work was tough, so on Friday you crack a beer at half past six and then you get a takeaway because you’re shattered and everything falls off a cliff.

So, although we could have great intentions the reality is, if you try to tackle everything, you’re going to fail. So it’s much better to pick one or two little items and then really invest and go wholeheartedly into it. You can make little changes and still make a difference.

What practical things can we do to be more sustainable?

DG: Recycling has just changed where I live, so now we can recycle more. It’s a small thing but it is making a difference because now we only put one black bin bag out a week, whereas beforehand, we used to put two or three out. And small things like that help.

With regards to material management in dentistry, because it’s a medical setting there’s a lot of single use plastic, things you have to throw away. We will never get away from that and we should never kid ourselves, because it’s there for a reason.

But I think being able to rationalise that and reduce it wherever we can or make people aware of what they’re doing is a really positive step.

We can always make proactive challenges or be a positive disruptor. Just ask whether something needs to be done. Such as, ‘Did you really need to print that off to then bring me a piece of paper through? Could you have just told me? Could you have messaged me?’ There are ways and means.

So, what I’m trying to say is that it’s great to have these aspirations, we all need them, but the intention action gap gets in the way. And, just the little things, whether it be at home or whether people cycle to work once a week, there’s always a lot of things that we can do that can have quite a big impact on the bigger picture.

What we need to do is just try and challenge the way we do things. We’re not always going to be perfect, but I think just thinking about it and making little tweaks along the way, you’d be surprised a) how much money you save in doing it and b) how much you’re helping the environment.

I think probably my overarching theme is that none of us are perfect. We don’t live in this ideal world where everyone walks to work because they work two miles away from home.

And we all create waste, it’s part of human nature, unfortunately, but we can always make better choices.

Thanks, Dan. It’s good to know that by taking personal responsibility and doing our own little bit, we can still achieve a level of sustainability and not be expected to save the planet single-handedly.

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