We recently hosted our first #ecodentistry tweetchat in honor of Earth Day and invited Waxahachie Family Dentistry, currently going through GreenDOC Certification, to be our expert on all things green dentistry. We know Waxahachie, TX might not seem like one of the “greenest” places in the U.S., but prepare to be amazed. This practice is going to great lengths to reduce their environmental impact and run a green, wellness-based dental office.
We were blown away by the response and participation in our #ecodentistry chat (30,000 Twitter accounts reached!) and are even more thrilled about the thorough and thoughtful responses that Angie, the practice manager, at Wax Fam Dental offered. We know there’s a lot of information here, but trust us… every word is a juicy green tip.
As far as small steps go we do the normal stuff: paper, plastic, aluminum recycling and turning off the lights when we aren’t using them. Simple things we do that really apply to dentistry would be reusing lab boxes, wearing our cloth lab coats, and using compostable impression trays. Our clinical team also participates in hand instrument recycling and the use of cone socket hand instrument. We also take all of our used/shredded paper to local elementary schools and donate to their recycling programs here in the city (the schools get money back for every pound they collect). We also donate all of our expired magazines to the VA Hospital or donate them to teachers for school projects. I know it may sound like a lot but it’s really easy and just a part of our life!
2. What are some of the bigger green initiatives you’ve taken?
Luckily I work for a doctor who loves technology and most technology today is more environmentally and patient friendly than it used to be, i.e. digital x-rays. We’ve also installed an amalgam separator (keeping mercury from reaching local wastewater facilities) and a waterless vacuum system (saving 350-500 gallons of water a day!). We are also a chartless office (note: I didn’t say paperless!). It was quite a process to go through but I would NEVER want to return to paper charts again! If you have any questions about converting to a chartless office, let us know.
3. How have patients responded to your green transformation?
Our patients seem to respond well! Some could care less and seem to take no notice at all while others are very impressed and have actually found us from the Eco-Dentistry Association website. No one has ever said anything negative about it, that’s for sure!
4. Have there been challenges?
Yes, there have been challenges. To be honest our biggest (or my biggest) challenge has been from within our office- not everyone has the same care and concern for our planet as I do or as many of you do. It’s not always easy to remember or understand that you may be ahead of the curve, but you and I both know it’s a great cause!
5. How have you overcome these challenges?
One of our doctors once said to me, “Angie you can’t expect everyone to feel the same way you do or have the same passion as you do.” He is so right! This made me stop and think about what I really want to express to patients or my team.
I realized I want them to know this: If they just start thinking a little differently, then they are already becoming more conscientious, which will in turn start to make an impact. I can tell team members are really proud of themselves when they do something green–they are always so happy to tell me about it!
I would like to mention that after our initial Green Dentistry 101 Class given by the EDA , I had two team members approach me about green initiatives and ideas they had and it helped inspire me more! If we are all trying to take green baby steps it will eventually equal one big foot.
As far as a technical/equipment challenges go we were pretty discouraged with our Amalgam Separator that we had originally installed. We were about to throw in the towel when our Patterson rep begged us not to give up and helped us work through the kinks!
6. How do you engage your team in your green efforts?
In the past I have actually engaged our team with a fun game. I devised a game plan that anytime a team member came up with an idea to green our office, their idea and name went in to a box. Whoever had the most ideas that month received an eco-friendly gift from me at our monthly meeting. Incentives have been the most effective for me.
7. Has going green helped you connect with new patients?
Yes, I think it has been helped us connect. We are very active on Social Media and posting green info has been one more way to pass along information and keep our name out and visible to our patients and the community. Just this week we took pictures of ourselves with our Save 90 a Day buttons to encourage everyone to turn off the water while they are brushing. I even found out how much water we could save by practicing this at home with our immediate families as well as the combined efforts of our whole dental office… and the results were amazing!
8. Have you seen cost savings from implementing green initiatives?
I can’t say that I see that much of a savings “yet” only because we had some initial expenses in the beginning of our certification process but I do believe that over time we will save money, but for me it is more about the environment and the good we are doing for our patients, community and world. However, I’m sure the cost savings are very enticing to the dentist!!
9. What’s your best piece of advice for dentists aspiring to go green?
Just do it! It’s so much easier than you think- “being green” in your office is not something that will drastically change your day to day. What it will do is make you feel better about yourself and what you are doing for humankind. You should try to find ways to inspire your team and surround yourself with people who are forward thinkers and see the bigger picture!
10. How does a green, wellness based model affect patient care?
It’s healthier for our patients! The dental processes and office environment is better thanks to the steps we have taken. I think a green wellness based model gives a patient more options! There are so many new products for patients and doctors to choose from. Have you ever heard the saying “It’s hard to teach old dogs new tricks.”? Well the same could be said for dentists. Every one of us gets comfortable with how a product is used and will perform. It’s predicable and that makes us comfortable. I think for most people change is hard but if you believe in a green, wellness-based model you are going to have to learn and try new things. In the process you will find that some products will work better than you expected and others won’t work at all. Keeping your eyes open to new products! Practicing dentistry this way also improves conditions for your employees and provides a healthier work environment. It’s a win-win for everyone!
11. What do you do to market your green office?
We use our Social Media pages: Facebook, Twitter, Blogger and so forth. We also use Demand Force and our electronic newsletters as well as in-office signage stating that we are a green practice and what that means. We also have a dedicated tab on our website about green dentistry and our philosophy!
12. As a green dental office, what are you most proud of?
I am extremely proud of what we are trying to do for dentistry! I’m proud that we bring awareness to the public about conservation and how we as a company are trying to set an example in our community. Personally, I get the most excited about saving water! I’m also proud of our recycling program, which started 4 years ago. Everyone (all 15 of us) are very careful about what gets thrown away. I read last night that a family of four over the course of one year throws away an average of 67 lbs of paper a year. That is an incredible amount of waste! However, it’s reassuring to know that more people than ever are recycling and I imagine it will only get better and better as time goes by.
13. In one word (or a few!), what’s the best thing about being a green office?
This actually came from a conversation that I had with the EDA and made so much sense that I shared it with my team:
- You need to remember you are doing something new and unique in dentistry and you are a part of an elite group. This is something for you to take pride in.
- It may not seem that important to you now to be one of the first people in dentistry to be in a certified green dental practice, but it will eventually. You are ahead of your peers and one day you will take pride in the fact that you were one of the first in the nation to be a certified office!
- This certification does/will not come easily. Many people may not be willing to go through all the steps required to achieve this recognition, so be proud of this accomplishment.
Good luck to all of you trying to achieve this.
I will leave you with this quote that I recently came across:
Don’t blow it – good planets are hard to find. ~Quoted in Time
Waxahachie Family Dentistry