Medical practices in America generate millions of tons of solid waste each year. We tell you how to use your purchasing power to buy products that you can reuse instead of replace.
Hospitals and physicians’ practices in America generate millions of tons of solid waste each year. A pile of garbage that big takes a huge toll on our resources and the environment. Being resource-conscious is better for the environment, and your wallet. Greener is cheaper. Use your purchasing power to buy products that you can reuse instead of replace, as well as efficient appliances that last longer and save on energy bills.
Here’s how to start:
1. Place paper recycling bins in administrative parts of the office, and plastic/glass recycling bins in kitchen and break areas. Find out from your building manager or municipal office the easiest way to get those recyclables picked up.
2. As light bulbs burn out, replace them with LED bulbs or other long-lasting, efficient alternatives. Install motion sensors so that lights come on when someone enters a room and go off automatically when the room is empty.
3. Switch to a programmable thermostat, so you can save both money and energy by limiting heating and cooling during off-hours and weekends.
4. Whenever possible, buy products made of recycled materials. Easy targets are paper towels, toilet paper, tissues, and printer paper. The higher percentage of post-consumer material used, the greener the product is.
5. Use green, nontoxic cleaning products and ask your cleaning service to do the same. Many non-green cleaners and disinfectants emit harmful toxic chemicals that worsen air quality. Green ones work just as well without the side effects.
6. Replace paper patient gowns and drapes with cloth ones. Yes, you may need a laundry service - but it’s still cheaper over time.
7. Consider reusable clinical tools where appropriate. Easy-to-use sterilizing systems work great.
8. Swap the paper cups and plates and plastic utensils in your office kitchen for reusable glasses, mugs, dishes, and silverware (found cheap at a dollar store or in a box in your basement).
9. When renovating or redecorating the office, choose greener options, such as nontoxic (or low-VOC) paint, furniture made from sustainable materials, and PVC-free exam tables.
10. Institute a medication disposal program in your office for your patients’ unused drugs and samples as a way to keep more of these drugs from being flushed into the water supply.
11. Consider investing in an EHR and e-prescribing system. This will save reams of paper and file folders, and ultimately trim your practice’s supply costs.
12. Get staff involved by creating a “green team” to lead greening efforts, and encourage staff to bike, take the bus, or carpool to work.
Abigail Beckel is managing editor for Physicians Practice. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sara Michael is an associate editor for Physicians Practice. She can be reached at email@example.com. This article originally appeared in the January 2010 issue of Physicians Practice.