Mending the planet

With climate change now a major concern for most people, it’s worth dental practices giving some thought to ways they can effectively neutralise their contribution to global warming. Scientists and environmentalists are clear in their message that everyone urgently needs to change their behaviour to stand any chance preserving the planet.

At home, many of us are making the effort to recycle, improve the energy efficiency of our homes and minimise our use of electricity, but research shows we are much less green in the workplace.

Now that a few large high-profile companies such as Marks and Spencer have sworn to become carbon neutral, many large companies, aware that UK business and the public sector generates more that a third of CO2 emissions, have put education programmes in place to make their people aware of the need to use energy with diligence. Retailers are being pilloried for using excessive packaging for their products, and no business can afford to ignore this shift in public awareness and not make attempts to be environmentally friendly.

Dental teams are aware of the need to sort waste and send it to authorised companies for disposal, and of the environmental effects of mercury when handled incorrectly. Now it\’s time to expand these measures to reassure patients that their dental care does not cost the earth. If you are not already doing so, here are some ways your practice can play a role in mending the planet:


Come up with some sort of practice slogan, such as: ‘Our aim is to minimise our own carbon impacts, to work with suppliers and customers to help them do the same, and to invest in measures that will cancel out our contribution to climate change.’

Reduce, reuse, recycle

Do your part to reduce waste by choosing reusable products instead of disposables. Buying products with minimal packaging (including the economy size when that makes sense for you) will help to reduce waste. And whenever you can, recycle paper, plastic, newspaper, glass and aluminum cans.

Make demands of suppliers

Think about differentiating yourself by offering low-carbon products . . . work with your supply partners to find ways of reducing the carbon content.

Cut energy use

Use heat and air conditioning diligently by adding insulation to your walls and attic, and installing weather stripping or caulking around doors and windows to lower the amount of energy needed for heating and cooling.

Change light bulbs

Wherever practical, replace regular light bulbs with compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. Replacing just one 60-watt incandescent light bulb with a CFL will save money and reduce carbon emissions.

American scientists tell us that if every American family replaced one regular light bulb with a CFL, it would eliminate 90 billion pounds of greenhouse gases, the same as taking 7.5 million cars off the road.

Drive less and smarter

Less driving means fewer emissions. Find out if team members can car share, and consider changing practice opening hours to avoid team members driving when the roads are congested.

Use the ‘off’ switch

Save electricity and reduce global warming by turning off lights when you leave a room, and using only as much light as you need. And remember to turn off appliances when they’re not in use, rather than leaving them on standby. It’s also a good idea to turn off the water when you’re not using it. While brushing your teeth, turn off the water until you actually need it for rinsing. You’ll help to conserve a vital resource.

Encourage others

Share information about recycling and energy conservation with your patients. Ask if you can send their recalls by email to save paper. Make your commitment to mending the planet a high-profile feature of your practice.

Climate change is the theme for World Environment Day on 5 June and for 2007 the Environment Agency are challenging everyone to ask themselves: What’s the number one thing you are doing to help tackle climate change? What’s one extra thing could you do to help tackle climate change? What’s stopping you?

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