Reducing the environmental impact of dentistry
The idea of reducing our environmental impact has gained momentum in recent years. As the consequences of climate change become more apparent, so too does the need to change the way we live.
Environmental impact of dentistry
Healthcare is the largest emitter of carbon in the UK. It contributes an estimated 4.5% of the UK’s total carbon emissions.[i] Up to 64.5% of emissions result from staff and patient travel, 19% from procurement and 15.3% from energy use.[ii]
For obvious reasons, reducing environmental impact in these areas is challenging. The purchasing of specialist dental products is a necessity. We are actively trying to improve attendance at the practice among patients, while staff also need to travel in. In addition, the energy used for lighting and powering equipment are mandatory aspects of a modern dental practice. However, there are things dental professionals can do.
Be energy conscious
Something as simple as replacing traditional lightbulbs for energy saving LEDs can reduce power consumption by up to 80%. Similarly, turning lights off when rooms are not in use, or switching off stand-by appliances like kettles and microwaves can help reduce your environmental impact too.
Other energy saving ideas for the home and practice include:
- Not turning the fridge temperature down further than necessary
- Defrosting the freezer regularly
- Keeping windows and doors closed when the weather is cooler
- Only start the dishwasher when it’s full
- Walking or cycling to work instead of driving or getting the tube (this is also much healthier for you!)
- Servicing cars and equipment regularly
- Turning off equipment or appliances that won’t be used for a couple of days
Going organic, where possible, can also lower your environmental impact. The production of organic products involves natural goods, less energy and more respect for the natural environment. Subsequently, it promotes animal welfare, fewer pesticides and more environmentally sustainable processes.[iii]
One of the greatest benefits of going organic is the impact on wildlife. Organic farms have 50% more plant, insect and bird life than their conventional counterparts.[iv] In addition, there are positive implications for combatting climate change, because this organic farming considerably cuts greenhouse gas emissions.[v]
The use of more organic products doesn’t have to be difficult. Just try replacing one or two products at a time. For example, swap one daily cosmetic solution for an organic alternative next time you go shopping. Alternatively, you could buy more clothing made from organic materials, or change your soap and the products used to maintain your garden. The Soil Association is currently promoting Organic September. Why not see what you can do to live more organically and reduce your carbon footprint this month?
Looking after the planet
It only takes small changes to start reducing your carbon footprint. By making just one change at a time, we can all lower our environmental impact and make a real difference to the planet.
[i] BDA. News Centre. Can we be more ‘green’ in dentistry? Sustainable dentistry in your practice. May 2018. [Accessed August 2019]
[ii] Duane B, Lee BM, White S, Stancliffe , Steinbach I. An estimated carbon footprint f NHS primary dental care within England. How can dentistry be more environmentally sustainable? October 2017. BDJ 223, 589-593
[v] Soil Association. Organic Living. Why Choose Organic? Better for the planet. [Accessed August 2019]