Dentistry and the environment are all but incompatible.The hard part is reducing the impact we have on our surroundings and the world at large.
Our Founder, Mike has ancient history of being 'green'. A history going back to before being green was even invented (apart from the 'Nuclear Power? No thanks!' badge on his rucksack all those years ago!). Let's forget the 'green' tag and just think of it as caring what goes on around you - and what we hand over to the next generation. Isn't it ironic that we turn back to nuclear power as the green alternative?
Having spent an entire school summer holiday collecting tons (or tonnes) of newspaper for recycling in the mid 1970s, he moved on to being a Conservation Volunteer with the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV) during his late teens and student days. He spent much of his spare time in the Peak District National Park - he even landscaped the car park in front of Derwent Dam, where the Dambusters trained! Summer holidays were spent thinning out rhododendrons on overgrown stately home estates and doing forestry. Hard graft and if we're honest, good times.
A serious point - don't complain about the environment. Get off your butt and do something about it - do we want to leave a desolate wasteland for our children and grandchildren? The TCV have depots in Hull and all across the UK and anyone can go and join in. Learn all sorts of skills for free. Volunteering can be for a day, or you can pay for a cheap "holiday" where you get fed cheese or jam doorstep butties and get utterly filthy in the name of caring for the planet (How about spending a week up to your neck in a canal planting reeds?). The camaraderie is superb and you genuinely make a difference. Follow this link to the BTCV website.
Also have a look at the National Trust - they do some very good camps for younger people.
Anyway......! We have to accept as dentists that we really aren't kind to the environment. Our Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) file is currently approaching 2000 pages thick. Most things we use in tiny quantities, but the manufacturing processes aren't exactly kind to the planet. Our Practice has four sacks of disposables taken away for incineration every week, plus our sharps - and a good proportion of this originated as oil. We also get through far more energy than we'd like, so we've been replacing our lighting with LEDs as we go. The difference in power use is remarkable and the light given off by LED strip lights is remarkably good. The vast majority of our energy use goes on sterilisation - and we ain't cutting back on that for anyone! So we've got to try wherever we can.
We replaced all our handwash taps with infrared or knee operated taps so that we don't waste any more water than we need to.
We pay to send our x-ray developer and fixer for recycling
We spent £3500 on a suction system with a built in centrifuge to remove all the solid waste from fillings drilled out of teeth. We pay for this to be recycled and so stop metals like mercury being dumped into the drains. It also means that all the others metals are reused.
We collect our amalgam waste we've cleaned out from old fillings with a centrifuge. It's then kept in airtight containers with special mercury vapour absorbing material before taking away to be recycled. We no longer use mercury based amalgam fillings.
We use biodegradable disinfectants for our clinical work.
We send our scrap metal from extracted teeth and send it for recycling - and we don't rip it off church roofs!
We use recycled paper wherever we can get it at sensible prices - we're not wasting your money on overpriced stock! Also - sorry but loo roll has to be soft, no compromise!
- We recycle all of our printer ink cartridges.
- We recycle our dead batteries
We recycle enormous amounts of used paper - shredding it first to ensure confidentiality - have you seen the size of our recycling bin? We've recently had to "go large"!
- We recycle all of our cardboard - you'd be amazed how much cardboard a dental practice collects.
We recycle all our plastic and metal containers (where it's safe to do so) and have stopped buying coffee in glass jars since Biffa Waste have stopped recycling glass in their Dry Mixed Recycling.
Almost all our lighting is latest generation low energy CFL or LEDs and our low energy external lights for security are "dawn to dusk". If you've used our loo you'll notice the PIR activated lighting and that we have Ecoflush low volume toilets. It's also not rocket science, but we also switch the lights off when we can.
- Equipment and instruments don't last forever. But for obvious reasons we replace it before it's completely worn out. So, we send it off to somebody who hasn't got equipment at all, via a charity called Dentaid. If you're stuck in the third world, an instrument that's a bit blunt is infinitely better than none at all! And it doesn't go to landfill!
You get the idea - we're trying to balance doing the job well with environmental responsibility, but we have one enormous trump card - our glorious site. How much carbon dioxide do our enormous beech trees offset? We also have loads of evergreens to continue the good work during the long dark winters.
Look at where we are - we get to look after one of East Yorkshire's best looking and historic buildings and have a third of an acre of proper green space around it! Some would think it's a hassle, but we have a site that we think can't be surpassed. Some bits we keep manicured, much of the site we deliberately don't. By leaving parts of the site more natural in character it means that our bird boxes have thriving families of blue tits and the local rabbits are regular visitors. Gardens that are obsessively tidy are bad for wildlife. We decided to back fill our pond for child safety, losing some of our attraction to wildlife, but we've kept it wet as a bog garden. It was filled in with our own compost from the enormous pile we generate - we NEVER buy peat based compost. Find a practice with a better show of holly with berries or piles of logs tucked away rotting, just for the creep crawlies. How many practices have deer visit them?
We say - if you're going to do environmentalism, don't delude yourself into thinking you're buying a piece of rain forest somewhere thousands of miles away - do it where you can see the result of your efforts. Then you KNOW you've made a difference - it hasn't all been creamed off in "administration".
And, most magnificent of all - isn't it pretty?
© Hesslewood Lodge Dental Practice, 16.11. 2015