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Green dentistry: Does sustainability cost more?



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In an earlier blog post, we shared the story of Artisan Dental, a practice in Madison, Wisconsin, that includes sustainability as part of its mission. Artisan Dental is the first carbon-neutral general dentistry office in the United States and a Certified B Corporation.

With sustainable business practices at its core, the team at Artisan Dental is always looking for ways to reduce its environmental footprint. From using recycled building materials when constructing its office to using 100% renewable power for electricity to managing community-based recycling programs, Artisan Dental keeps sustainability at the core of everything it does.

When it comes to the question of whether sustainable practices – which may sometimes cost more than traditional ones – are good for the bottom line, Scott Andersen, director of stakeholder stewardship at Artisan Dental, points to the research as well as Artisan’s own experience. “Hamburg University in Germany did an interesting meta-analysis that went back all the way to the 1970s,” he said. “They looked at publicly traded companies that included [environmental, social, governance] criteria. And they found that companies that scored highly perform better financially. And this was true around the world.

“Another nonprofit, called Ethisphere, creates an annual list of the most ethical companies around the world,” he continued. “They found that ethical companies also tend to perform better financially. And interestingly, they perform better in recessionary environments.

“So what we find is that there may be some marginal additional cost. For example, purchasing renewable electricity is about $1,200 to $1,500 more per year. We spend almost $300 in carbon credits to become carbon neutral. But what we also find is that we have savings, for example, in marketing. So, all things considered, we would actually make the case that it’s beneficial and creates tailwinds.

“One of the most important aspects of a sustainable framework is that the efforts you’re making in the economic, social or environmental sphere can positively reinforce each other,” Andersen elaborated. “And there are remarkable synergies when programs are engaged in all of those spheres simultaneously. So going to electronic medical records, reducing paper, that certainly has an environmental benefit. But it also has an economic benefit in terms of the efficiencies that it creates within the office, in terms of delivering care. And that’s really where two plus two can equal six.”

First steps in sustainability

Is your practice looking to “go green?” While the efforts of Artisan Dental are impressive, there are many steps a dental practice can make now to have an immediate impact. Consider taking these steps to build your sustainable practice:

  • Offer incentives to staff to use greener travel options, such as public transportation.
  • Replace single-use products with reusable ones (cloth bibs and chair barriers, stainless steel trays, suction tips, prophy cups).
  • Buy supplies in bulk to minimize shipping and other waste (tubs of prophy paste rather than prepackaged cups).
  • Use steam sterilization rather than chemicals.
  • Use digital radiography rather than chemical film processing.
  • Move to digital charting and billing to reduce paper use and choose recycled paper products.
  • Use nontoxic, biodegradable cleaning products.
  • Use EnergyStar devices and energy-saving lights, such as LEDs.
  • Start a recycling program for worn-out instruments.
  • Join a state or local sustainable business council.

Some of the ideas listed above require little to no monetary investment. Others may require equipment and technology upgrades. Speak with your Patterson representative to learn about sustainable products and other ways to reduce the carbon footprint at your practice.

Help us Go Green

As a values-driven company, Patterson is committed to sustainability. We’ve examined every aspect of our logistics to reduce our impact on the environment. As part of this process, we’ve discovered where you, our customers, can help. Please consider consolidating your request for items into a single order. When you do this, you help further reduce the amount of packaging we use, and the transportation emissions required to get you what you need. Visit our Go Green page to see what other steps we’re taking to operate in a sustainable, responsible manner.

Resources for building a sustainable dental practice

American Dental Association: 80 ways to make your dental practice green

B Lab Global: B Impact Assessment

Carbon Credit Capital

Eco-Dentistry Association: Green dentistry

United Nations: Take action for the sustainable development goals

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A version of this article was first published in Advantage magazine by Patterson Dental. Read the original article here.

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Patterson Dental

At Patterson Dental, we are committed to partnering with dental practices of all sizes to help oral health professionals practice extraordinary dentistry. We do this by living up to our promise of Trusted Expertise, Unrivaled Support every day.

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