How to reduce your carbon footprint

TerraCycle Include USA B+L
As you grapple with the new normal of the pandemic crisis and prepare to hit the ground running once practices reopen, you might not be thinking about Earth Day 2020, the worldwide environmental movement's 50th anniversary. However, it's always a good time to consider tips to go green and safeguard the planet when your practice reopens.   AOA Focus asked green-conscious doctors of optometry for tips on how to get started if you're looking to reduce, reuse and recycle in your office.  
  1. Reduce energy use.
G. Michael Murphy, O.D., has graduated to solar panels on the roof of his practice, but even he had to begin somewhere.   "If you have an older building, insulate and tighten up leaks," Dr. Murphy recommends. "Check with your utility company, which may offer assistance with installing more ef­ficient HVAC equipment and lighting. A local power company in my area offered an instant rebate on LED replacement tubes for my fluorescent lights."   He put each tube's retail cost at $6.99, but with instant rebates and a volume discount, his cost dropped to 99 cents apiece. "Considering that each tube now uses 15 watts instead of 32, the cost of energy in our locale is about .12/kWh and the lights operate roughly 40 hours per week; that's a savings of 8 cents per week per bulb. That means that the upfront cost of those replacement lights was recouped in one year."   2. Recycle contact lens packaging. Start by educating patients on contact lens disposal. Once her patients are enjoying the visual freedom of wearing contact lenses, Pamela Lowe, O.D., says they sometimes ask about the environmental impact of disposing of them.   Dr. Lowe, who is chair of the AOA's Contact Lens and Cornea Section, says, "Using up to 365 pairs of contact lenses per year for the everyday contact lens wearer has raised the question of how to ef­ficiently and environmentally dispose of the packaging and waste these lenses create. Our practice is proactive in educating patients on how single-use lenses actually have a positive impact on keeping America green. We also point out that, if patients have a recycling program in their community, the disposable, single-use packs are recyclable, and if they do not­ have a recycling program, we encourage them to save and return their contact lens packaging to our of­fice and we dispose of it in the Bausch & Lomb TerraCycle program. The company graciously provides, at no charge, containers for practices to collect contact lens foil and plastic packaging, no matter who manufactures the lenses, and will ef­ficiently recycle these materials at no charge to practitioners." At-home recycle containers for patients also are available.   3. Conserve plastic and paper. Start by saying no to plastic water bottles and yes to recycling. "Disposable water bottles are one of the least environmentally friendly, nonessential items you can eliminate. Buy a water dispenser and use paper cups," says Dr. Murphy.   He suggests a giveaway: reusable water bottles or thermal cups with your practice information on them. For at least 20 years, the practice of Douglas Melzer, O.D., has recycled. "Oregon is a very 'green' state and had one of the ­first bottle recycling bills in the nation that provided financial incentive to customers for returning the bottles for deposit." Recycling and garbage bins are conveniently side by side throughout his practice. Cardboard boxes from deliveries are flattened and placed in recycling bins.   "Almost all paper gets recycled-of course anything that contains protected health information is shredded," says Dr. Melzer, noting that the cost of the mobile shredding service is shared with the chiropractic of­fice next door. "Start with the simple stuff (cardboard, mail, magazines and such) and watch how much space you save in the garbage."