In my home life, I try to be as green as I can: I re-use and recycle, I buy Fair Trade food and products, I try to walk on short journeys, and I use energy economically.
It’s not easy for an orthodontic practice to have sustainable policies. Our first priority is to keep patients safe and this means that many of our products have to be disposable. But there are small things that we can do. Since I have been practice manager here I have ensured that materials which can be recycled are kept separate from general waste. And the way the practice operates has evolved, too, so that we are now almost fully paperless.
I was really pleased to read recently that in the world of general practice we are ahead in the UK. This is according to a spokesperson for the Eco Dentistry Association. An established US dental organisation, they want a federal regulation passed which would require dentists in the US to install amalgam separators. Apparently we already have this regulation here, which is great news. These bits of kit prevent the waste from amalgam fillings which contain mercury – going into the water supply.
Unfortunately we don’t have a campaigning organisation like the EDA here in the UK. A long list of British dental and health organisations such as the NHS and the British Dental Industry Association (BDIA) have put into place their own environmental policies and green initiatives, which is encouraging. But, as an article in the British Dental Journal stated: What seems to be missing in the UK is galvanising leadership, pushing dental practices and their teams to be more environmentally considerate.
Jivadental in Kingston-upon-Thames is one of the UK’s greenest dental practices. Practice-owner Bob Bhamra has won accreditation with the Carbon Neutral Company as a result of his huge efforts to run a sustainable practice with electricity from a green supplier, a water meter to reduce consumption, motion-activated light sensors and LED lights.
What about being a green dental patient? It makes sense that as consumers become increasingly concerned about sustainability they also search out products and services which share their values. Are there things we can do as individuals too?
We are advised to change toothbrushes every three months – that’s a lot of damaging plastic piling up in landfill. But there are alternatives. The Environmental Toothbrush is an Australian company whose biodegradable, sustainable bamboo toothbrushes do not pollute the environment. Plus, all their packaging is bio-degradable as well. (Their products are available to buy from various UK sellers). For green and toxin free toothpaste check out online shops such as Spirit of Nature, or brands like Kingfisher which make products with people and planet in mind.
Now I have started thinking along these lines, I’m sure I will find other ways to be a conscientiously green dental patient! Meanwhile I will continue to try and be a green Practice Manager – the only way to be.