For today’s consumers, environmental consciousness plays a critical role in their decision to support a company and its products. A recent study from First Insight and the Baker Retailing Center at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania found that 62 percent of Gen Z and millennials and 54 percent of Gen X participants seek more sustainability in the products they buy.
As society shifts towards prioritizing eco-friendly businesses, it’s important for dentists to embrace the change and consider how they can adopt green practices and put sustainability at the forefront of their business model.
The importance of eco-friendly dentistry
Beginning to implement practices that support eco-friendly dentistry isn’t just a “we’re doing it because everyone else is” trend. The dental industry has a sizable carbon footprint in addition to its use of toxic substances. As such, it’s becoming necessary for dental clinics to follow in the footsteps of other industries by starting to think green. By focusing on a strategy of reduction, dental offices can minimize their carbon footprint to help fight climate change and better the world for future generations.
Leaders are even implementing changes to promote sustainability at the federal level, which can be seen in President Joe Biden’s Federal Sustainability Plan. This Executive Order intends to build internal capacity in the federal workforce through “engagement, education, and training on Federal sustainability, climate adaptation, and environmental stewardship.” Federal agencies are also taking responsibility by placing sustainability and climate adaptation at the forefront of their human capital management with optimal staffing, training, and resources.
With the availability of resources and training, embracing sustainable dentistry is easier than ever before. In fact, companies that continue to resist these changes are more likely to struggle than those that embrace them. Not only is it essential for companies to adapt to these changes to help save the planet, but it’s also essential to keeping their business afloat. With pressure from customers, employees, prospective employees, and regulators, companies must be ready to prioritize sustainability or risk going out of business.
Ways to make the dentist office more eco-friendly
Making your dental office more eco-friendly isn’t all that different from how big corporations implement sustainability practices. To make environmental consciousness a priority, dentists can start by following the same three pillars: reduce, reuse, and recycle.
To make offices more eco-friendly, dentists can reduce waste and their environmental impact by cutting down on the following:
- Bibs: Not all exams and cleanings are going to be messy. Instead of automatically attaching a bib, offer your patients the choice.
- Fluoride trays: Rather than using single-use items like a fluoride tray, use a small brush to apply fluoride varnishes. Brushes are just as effective and can make a huge difference in eliminating unnecessary waste.
- Paper: Eliminate paper waste by going digital for all reports, records, and x-rays. In addition, be sure to unsubscribe from any junk mail piling up in your mailbox and be conscious about your own mailers.
A recent National Resources Defense Council report revealed that “plastic production contributes to planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions at every point in its life cycle.” Dentists can conserve resources by limiting single-use plastics as much as they can. Instead of discarding and replacing your dental instruments after every use, invest in high-quality, reusable tools that can be sterilized.
For hygienic reasons, not all dental equipment can be reused — but they can be recycled. When choosing between landfill and recycling, choose to recycle the following:
- Plastic cups
- Paper and cardboard
- Any item with a recycling symbol and number on them
You can also reach out to programs like The Colgate Oral Care Recycling Program, which accepts the following items and recycles them into new plastic products:
- Toothpaste tubes and caps
- Toothpaste cartons
- Toothbrush outer packaging
- Floss containers
For more ways to make your dental office eco-friendly, check out this list of 80 changes you can make from the American Dental Association.