80 ways to make your dental practice green

Going green is more than a trend — it’s a reality. Many businesses large and small are adopting green habits to reduce waste and conserve energy. Have you implemented green policies at your office? If you haven’t, it’s easy to get started. Many ideas are free or very inexpensive.

To help you along, the ADA has compiled 80 green tips below. Most of them are specific to your dental practice but there are some general green tips, as well. To make for easier reading, they’ve been grouped in categories such as “Be Proactive” and “Educate Your Staff and Patients.” Take a moment and choose one idea you can implement this week. Even one small change can have a big impact on the environment over time.

Be proactive

  1. Implement an environmentally friendly sterilization program
  2. Install an amalgam separator
  3. Get rid of aerosol products
  4. Plan the office layout to maximize natural light and ventilation
  5. Walk, bike or take public transportation to work
  6. Consider stocking all-natural oral care products, from toothpaste to mouthwash
  7. Sign up for your energy company's summer energy savings program
  8. Partner with businesses that have sustainable principals, such as a green bank, a recycling service or a green architect/engineer to help with office design
  9. Send appointment reminders on recycled paper or through email or text message
  10. Consider installation of linoleum for flooring
  11. Purchase organic or eco-friendly scrubs
  12. Carpool to work with colleagues
  13. Request to be removed from receiving office junk mail
  14. Put indoor plants around the office
  15. Bring your meals to work in reusable containers
  16. Convert heating and cooling return-air vents from ceiling return-air vents in the summer to floor return-air vents during the winter
  17. Hand out patient giveaways in degradable plastic bags

Install energy-efficient products

  1. Add a dimmer lighting system, which saves electricity and only uses as much light as needed depending on the office's natural light
  2. Save on your heating bill with a programmable thermostat
  3. Purchase reflective glass (low-E) windows
  4. Install mini-fluorescent fixtures
  5. Invest in a central vacuum that uses no water and has an amalgam trap
  6. Switch to water-saving toilets
  7. Use sensor-operated faucets and/or low-flow faucets and fixtures
  8. Install energy-efficient appliances (washer, dryer, dishwasher, etc.)
  9. Invest in solar electric panels and water heaters
  10. Hook up motion detectors and timers for lights
  11. Hang hot air dryers in washrooms instead of paper towels
  12. Plug in smart power strips for electronics
  13. Cover chairs with organic bamboo and organic cotton
  14. Ensure you’re using environmentally friendly cabinetry (no added urea-formaldehyde)
  15. Use biodegradable ceiling and/or wall panels
  16. Add a trash compactor
  17. Caulk your office windows, apply weather-stripping or replace them with energy-efficient models
  18. Replace your old 30-gallon hot water heater with an efficient 10-gallon model

Switch to green products

  1. Buy paint that does not contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
  2. Purchase office furniture made from recycled or reclaimed wood
  3. Choose reusable stainless steel high- and low-volume, surgical/endodontic suction tips as an alternative to disposable plastic
  4. Stock reusable glass irrigation syringes as a substitute for disposable plastic
  5. Order biodegradable disposable cups instead of regular paper cups
  6. Use only chlorine-free, high post-consumer recycled paper products instead of traditional paper products
  7. Make it a mandate that disposable, plastic or paper barriers are only used when necessary
  8. Switch to stainless steel prophy heads with disposable prophy-containing cups
  9. Buy LCD computer screens instead of CRT screens
  10. Place water-free hand disinfectant around the office
  11. Drink tap water, not bottled water
  12. Use shredded paper for packaging material
  13. Purchase recyclable letterhead stationery, envelopes, fax paper and business cards
  14. Hang LED or electroluminescent (LEC) exit signs to improve energy efficiency
  15. Use ceiling fans to promote air circulation and reduce the need for air conditioning
  16. Choose less harmful surface disinfectants to clean and sterilize
  17. Purchase sealants, adhesives and other restorative materials in package sizes that allow all of the contents to be used during the procedure

Reuse and recycle

  1. Recycle the big five: aluminum, glass, plastic, paper and steel
  2. If traditional x-rays are taken, recycle lead foil, fixer and developer solutions
  3. Recycle or refill toner cartridges
  4. Clearly label recycling containers in accessible areas for patients and staff to encourage recycling and reuse
  5. Recycle computer parts and electronics
  6. Change and recycle vacuum pump filter screens at least once per month or as directed by the manufacturer
  7. Have a licensed recycling contractor or hazardous waste hauler remove your amalgam wastes
  8. Reuse rechargeable batteries
  9. Consider using recycled sheetrock and denim for acoustical insulation
  10. Clean or replace heater/air conditioner filters

Conserve energy and other resources

  1. Replace high-energy consuming office lights with energy-efficient fluorescent lighting
  2. Research local, state and federal tax incentives for earning Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification
  3. Turn off lights when you leave the room
  4. Turn off your computer when you leave the office for the day
  5. Go paperless: Use a virtual office system for patient charting, billing and radiography
  6. Consider using windmill-generated electricity for power consumption
  7. Run the dishwasher only when it’s full
  8. Pay practice bills online
  9. Cut back on the number of printers in the practice and print double-sided, when possible
  10. Run a practice energy audit
  11. Remove TVs from the waiting room
  12. Use digital versions of journals and publications
  13. Eliminate electronics that sleep on a standby setting; they continue to pull a current even when "turned off"
  14. When you wash your hands, turn the water off while you lather
  15. Consider solar chargers for charging cellular phones, PDAs, laptops, etc.

Educate your staff and patients

  1. Teach your patients to turn off the faucet when they brush
  2. Provide brochures to patients that contain green tips in the waiting room
  3. Post signs in practice restrooms and break areas encouraging water conservation

Check out these examples of carbon neutral dental practices: