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Whenever I speak on “going green in the dental office” at meetings and study clubs around the country, there are two main points I try to get across to the audience. The first is a saying I heard growing up: “If you can’t do everything, please do something.” The second is: Your office may already be a shade of green and you don’t even know it.
Please do something
Have you ever come upon an obstacle that seemed so big you decided it couldn’t be overcome and you went into “ostrich mode” — you simply stuck your head in the ground and ignored it? Several people have told me that for them, the concept of “going green” fits that description. Too often, people think that their entire home or office has to be revamped to be green. That’s not true.
My advice to dental practices is to simply start with small steps. Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the entire staircase.” By taking small steps in your practice to help the environment, I believe you’ll be amazed at the impact you can make in a short time.
What are some of these small steps? How about setting up a recycling program in your office for things such as aluminum cans, plastic bottles, office paper, and more? Designate a recycling area in your team lounge or kitchen area and make a team member responsible for taking the recyclables to the local recycling center each week. If you are not sure where or what you can recycle locally, call your city or municipality or log on to www.earth911.org, a site that provides a good resource center for local recycling.
Another small step could be to ask your local dealer about “green” alternatives to your current dental products, then decide if these products might be right for you. Don’t be surprised if some come with a higher price tag, but this is where your passion and pocketbook collide.
While a higher price may turn off some people immediately, take a few moments to talk with your dealer about the ROI of green alternatives, then decide if they are right for you and your practice.
Shades of green … and how to market it
Susan Beck, a friend and colleague of mine with the Eco-Dentistry Association, has told me that there are various shades of green within every dental practice. There are also many practices that have taken steps toward “going green” and don’t even realize it.
Do you use digital radiography? Are you digitally storing charts, notes, and X-rays? Are you corresponding with your patients via e-mail rather than postcards? Do you use an amalgam separator? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you have already taken steps down the green path.
Now for the next question … do you tell your patients about the steps you’re taking in your practice to help the environment? If not, you are missing out on a critical marketing opportunity that will not only help you with your current “green” patients, but also potentially attract new environmentally conscious patients.
Think about these statistics. According to the “BBMG Conscious Consumer Report,” nine in 10 Americans believe the words “conscious consumer” describe them well. According to the same report, 87% said that when given a choice between similar offerings, he or she would select the entity that demonstrates a commitment to social responsibility. Also, 85% said they would consider switching products or services if they learned a company was more environmentally conscious than its competitor.
Knowing these numbers, if you are already doing small things in your practice to help the environment, why not proclaim it? Put a small sign (on recycled paper, of course) at your front desk or in another visible location telling your patients the steps you are taking in your practice to help the earth. Maybe these are things you have been doing for a couple of years, but do your patients know that? Share the good news with them, and see what comments they make. You might just be surprised.
Kevin Henry is DE’s managing editor and is becoming one of the nation’s experts and speakers on ways to become more environmentally conscious in the dental office. He can be reached at [email protected].