Seven easy things you can do today to make a difference

May 1, 2010
One of the common misconceptions about becoming more environmentally friendly is that it’s a huge undertaking.

For more on this topic, go to and search using the following key words: green dentistry, recycling, environment, Kevin Henry, conscious consumer.

One of the common misconceptions about becoming more environmentally friendly is that it’s a huge undertaking. “Going green” doesn’t mean reverting to the Stone Age or buying your own wind farm. You can simple things in your home and office to not only make a different in the environment, but in your pocketbook as well.

As I always tell people who attend my green lectures, “You don’t have to do everything. Just do something.” With that in mind, here are seven easy things you can do in your practice (and/or in your home) today that will make a difference.

1. Look in your trash can — If you don’t have any idea where to start making a difference in your office, look in your trash can at the end of the day and see what’s in there that could be recycled or replaced with a more environmentally friendly choice. Many items in the dental office now have a reusable option that are available from your dental dealer, so ask your rep next time he or she comes into the office. Remember, “disposable” means “headed to the landfill” and doesn’t help the environment.

2. Start a recycling program — If you don’t already have this set up in your office, it’s a great way to start down the green path. Be sure to set up different containers for office paper, plastic bottles, and aluminum cans ... and don’t forget about printer toner cartridges and cardboard boxes as well. Designate someone in your office to be the recycling point person. If you don’t know where to recycle in your area, or what things are accepted at your local recycling center, call your local municipality or log on to This site has a great recycling center search feature on it.

3. Install low-flow aerators on your sink faucets — Aerators fit on the end of your sink faucet and can be purchased at any local home improvement store. They are inexpensive and easy to install. Their main job is to restrict the amount of water flowing through the faucet, saving you not only on your water bill but also on your energy bill (if you are using less hot water, you are using less energy to heat the water).

4. Use extension cords — Have you ever walked through your practice or your home at night with all of the lights off and noticed the glow coming from “ready lights” on your TV, VCR, DVD, stereo, etc.? These lights indicate that that appliance is ready to be used the moment you hit the “on” button on your remote. The problem is that while these appliances may not be “on,” they are still using a lot of power just waiting for you to hit that button. What is the solution? Use a power strip everywhere you can. Power strips can still draw energy when they are left on, but once they have been switched off, no energy is being used.

5. Stop sending out postcards — It’s a simple thought ... saving paper and postage costs by building a list of your patients’ e-mail addresses or cell phone numbers for text messages. Companies such as SmileReminder and Sesame Communications are in the business of establishing these lists for you, and see the ROI your practice could have by using a service like this versus postage and printing costs.

6. Tell your patients what you are doing — There is no reason to keep your green efforts a secret when so many of your patients (and potential patients) are taking steps to help the environment. According to the BBMG Conscious Consumer Report, nine in 10 Americans say the words “conscious consumer” describe them well. According to the same report, 87% said — when given the choice between similar offerings — he or she will select the entity that demonstrates a commitment to social responsibility. If you are looking for a way to differentiate your practice, “green” could be just the thing.

7. Turn down the thermostat — Most households (and offices) spend roughly 50% to 70% of their energy budgets on heating and cooling. For every degree you raise the thermostat, you will save between 1% and 3% of your air conditioning bill. In the winter, going one degree cooler can save you 1% to 3% on your heating bill.

If you have any questions on going green, just drop me a line at [email protected]. I would like to hear from you.

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].

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