I had a new patient in yesterday who works at a big pharmaceutical company and is involved with sustainability at their company. It made me think about what, if anything, we do to support sustainability. At first, all I could think of was recycling our paper and plastic, and I was a bit embarrassed. But the more I thought about, I realized that small changes we’ve made over the years have been “green”:

• Digital x-rays – I think this is the single biggest change because it is such a win-win for everybody. Using digital allows us to dramatically reduce radiation exposure for patients. Also, the system has a reusable sensor which eliminates the need for film and its lead lining. Finally, no chemicals are needed to develop the film.
• Appointment reminders – we decided a few years ago that we wanted to reduce the amount of paper we use at the office, so we switched to an email or text appointment reminder system. We no longer send out postcards which saves paper and printer ink.
• Communication – let’s face it, no office will ever completely eliminate paper use, but little changes make an impact. We use email now to communicate with doctors, labs and patients. All referral letters and x-rays are sent over the internet instead of being printed and mailed. The additional plus side is that I’m amazed at how little stationary I need to purchase!
• Plastic containers – our sterilizers require distilled water and each week we would go through at least five plastic jugs. Installing an automatic distilled water system in the office has eliminated the waste of plastic (and makes my assistants happy because they don’t have to lug jugs of water around).
• Construction – we recently renovated a building for our office and although we made big changes, I tried as much as possible to reuse or maintain building materials. Windows and wood trim could have been replaced, but we chose to keep them. When we purchased things for the building, we looked for sustainable or energy efficient supplies like fluorescent lighting, Energy Star® products, and products made with recycled materials.

While I’m sure there are more things we could do at the office, I’m pleased that we’ve done some things to make an impact. I encourage everyone, home and business alike, to spend some time recognizing the changes you’ve already made and considering the additional things you can do to improve sustainability.