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DISPENSING OPTICIAN

How Green Is Your Office?

“Green” and “sustainability” have become the buzzwords of this new century. Along with “eco-friendly” and “environmentally safe”, we are constantly reminded of the impact of humans on the environment. But what do those words actually mean?

Going green means consciously reducing the overall impact that you and your business have on the environment. Sustainability means that the product or practice is renewable, like solar power or frame materials that are either recycled or harvested in a way that allows the source to regrow. Eco-friendly and environmentally safe are more difficult to define because there is no official definition.

This holistic approach includes compliance issues that protect you and the environment and energy efficiency policies that conserve natural resources, making your business more efficient and lowering costs.

There are 4 major areas of concentration for greening your business: Energy, Materials, Compliance, and Purchasing.

ENERGY

In the early 2000’s, Vision Ease Lens (www.vision-ease.com) made a conscious effort to increase what the company saw as good corporate citizenship by launching A Vision of Sustainability. Since 2008, the facility in Ramsey, Minnesota has operated on 100% renewable energy, reducing its carbon emissions by 99.5%.

Highlights of VELs award-winning initiatives include “eliminating 10.5 pounds of CO2 emissions per pair of lenses produced with renewable energy. 10,000 pairs equal the reduction of carbon release of the electricity to power six homes for one year and saving 799.2 metric tons of CO2 emissions through energy-efficient fluorescent lighting.”

What kinds of changes can your business make to reduce energy consumption?

Ask your energy company to perform an energy assessment of your office. This on-site assessment can identify areas of concern and offer recommendations for improvements. Some companies will offer rebates for specific equipment usage, such as EnergyStar-rated equipment.

Upgrade your lighting. Use energy-efficient T8 fluorescent tubes and replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent lights (CFL).

Install motion sensors in less used spaces like restrooms, storage areas, and breakrooms. Motion sensors will activate lighting when someone enters the room and deactivate when no motion is detected.

Find “energy vampires”. Energy vampires can add more than $100 per year to the average household energy bill. Imagine what an office full of vampires can do. Energy vampires include computers, TVs, surround sound systems, cable or satellite boxes, and household items with clocks.

Make sure that HVAC duct-work is clean and that air filters are replaced on a regular schedule. This is especially important if you are operating an in-house lab which can add both dust and unpleasant fumes to your space.

Make sure that furniture does not block floor or ceiling vents and that it doesn’t cover any air return vents which could put unnecessary strain on HVAC units.

Install a programmable thermostat. These can vary in both price and features. However, you want to conserve energy when the office is closed and maintain a comfortable temperature during working hours.

Install UV and solar protective film on your windows. Not only will the film reduce the impact of sunshine on the room temperature, it will also save your flooring and furniture from fading. There are a wide variety of UV and solar protective films currently available that can reduce your energy by up to 80% and reduce UV light by up to 99%.

MATERIALS

This category includes the consumables that are a part of everyday business. Fortunately there are multiple products that are environment-friendly.

Paper products that are produced all or in part with recycled content. These items are readily available from most office supply stores. Everything from copy paper to paper towels are now available with recycled content.

Whenever possible, print on both sides of the paper. So long as protected content is not exposed, use the back side of printed paper as scratch paper.

Invest in reusable cleaning cloths for the dispensary and the lab. Large lab-sized microfiber cloths can be washed and reused almost indefinitely and are available from most optical supply houses or through your wholesale lab. Or you can go old school and use cotton handkerchiefs or cloth diapers that can also be washed and reused.

When it’s time to replace your office printers, consider purchasing ones that use soy-based inks rather than traditional petroleum based inks.

COMPLIANCE

These are the regulations and procedures that we love to hate, but keep us and our environment safe.

Keep your MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) information current and accessible. This is extremely important if your office has an in-house lab. Lab waste must be disposed of properly to avoid OSHA or EPA violations, especially with regard to edger waste water or dust. If you are not sure about what to do, contact your equipment supplier, wholesale lab, or The Vision Council (www.thevisioncouncil.org) for information and advice.

Ensure that any hazardous/biological waste is contained and properly disposed of, including cotton swabs, bandages, sharps, and paper tissues from exam and treatment areas.

PURCHASING

Buying green isn’t limited to paper products or electronics, it also includes other products and services.

If you employ a cleaning service for your office, make sure that the products they use are safe and are used properly for an indoor environment. If your staff is also responsible for cleaning, make sure that they use proper protection from splashes or spills and that the products are used safely. Also, make sure that any cleaning products are stored safely and securely.

Many practices supply bottled water for patients and staff. Investigate your water delivery service and their commitment to the environment. For instance, Sparkletts (www.sparkletts.com) makes its commitment visible on their website, highlighting their efforts to reduce waste in packaging and increase its practice of recycling plastic containers. You can find out what those recycle numbers and symbols mean by visiting www.goodhousekeeping.com. It will make you think twice about reheating your lunch in that take-out container.

To put a very public face on your commitment to the environment, there are an increasing number of frame manufacturers using recycled products in their frame lines. Many manufacturers are using sustainably harvested wood to fashion frames or frame parts, often including bright colors that also highlight wood grains (www.feb31st.it). One manufacturer, Vinylize is recycling old vinyl records into one-of-a-kind ophthalmic frames and sunwear (www.vinylize.com). Mosevic (www.mosevic.com) is a new player, developing a small line of sunwear using resin-infused layers of denim from recycled jeans. The ECO line from Modo (www.modo.com/eco-content) features 95% recycled content and 63% biobased material. Additionally the company plants a tree for every frame sold. In fact, once you begin researching frame lines you will be amazed at the variety of styles and materials being offered.

Going green requires a commitment from everyone involved in your practice. Begin by meeting with your staff to discuss changes that can be made immediately. They probably know more about the basic changes than anyone else. Draft a plan to gradually decrease your practice carbon footprint. Once you make the commitment, tell everybody. Tell your patients and your community about your vision of good corporate citizenship. Now, in addition to telling your story of excellence in eyecare, you can tell your story of environmental responsibility.

Going green makes sense and cents.

Judy Canty
ABO/NCLE

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