Family Dentistry - Charlotte
2024 Lansing Road
Charlotte, MI 48813
Ph: 517-543-5230 Fax: 517-543-5011

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Article written by Dr. Lisa Knowles

 History and Perspective on Being and Environmentalist

My first solid commitment to the environment began in high school when I joined the young environmentalists group. We made posters educating others about using less, conserving more, and we explained the basics of recycling. My knowledge broadened on the “green” topics and now, today, I have a hard time throwing away something that is recyclable. Conserving and thinking of my long term impact on our environment is now a part of me. So, naturally, when I got out of dental school and observed the obscene waste that often occurs in a dental office, I knew I had to formulate some action plans. As a junior associate fresh out of my residency and into my first private practice, I prodded my older colleagues to turn the water off while they brushed their teeth. We began to recycle white paper. And, yes, I emptied the boxes each week, and took them home to my curbside recycling bins.

Later, when I purchased my own practice, the reality of me maintaining this role became difficult because larger tasks began to invade my recycling duties, such as completing payroll and making equipment purchases. I knew I needed to delegate this task.  Fortunately, my part-time after school employee embraced this in her job description: She now coordinates, sorts and delivers our recyclables to the recycle center in our town each week. We recycle caviwipe containers, glove boxes, corrugated cardboard, and reams of paper (shredded, of course, to follow privacy policies), among other things. We conserve in multiple ways as well: we keep the office temperature at 76 degrees in the summer and 69 degrees in the winter—and we open the windows whenever possible to avoid air conditioning. Our latest suction unit purchase included a water miser feature that greatly reduces our water usage. We have an amalgam separator that takes the mercury out of the water prior to it entering our water system. We recently completed the transition from incandescent lighting to fluorescent lighting, with hopes of saving 20% on our energy bill. Our main large, energy drawing, small office machinery is plugged into surge protectors, and they are shut off each night (except our computers which back up at midnight). We are trying out cloth patient bibs, instead of the throw away paper ones and hope to completely transition to using cloth within the next year if they hold up well.

With all of these conservations going on in our office, we have reduced our dumpster pick up to monthly--instead of bi-monthly-- we’ve reduced our consumer’s bill significantly, and I sleep better at night knowing that 50 caviwipe containers and 80 glove boxes are not clogging our landfills every month because of what we do. It somehow helps me balance out the waste of disposable materials that we HAVE to use each day, such as gloves and masks.

I believe my staff understands recycling more now; the education I provide in my small way does trickle down. I received the W.R.A.P. award from our tri-county recycling authority and proudly display my award in our reception area. Many patients comment on how much they appreciate the efforts we put forth.

I dream of solar panels, geothermal heating and a wind turbine in my office’s backyard. I cannot wait to sell MY energy back to Consumer’s energy some day.  Go green, keep green, or expand your green-ness. Whatever level, you will enjoy the financial reimbursement as well as the personal satisfaction of using less and conserving more.

Lisa Knowles, DDS is a member of the Eco Dentistry Association.