Earth Day Bonanza: How Green is Your Practice - Part I

Your money's lost and is wandering away into everybody's elses pockets. Lucky for you you're a Physician's Money Digest reader. We've got the map to lead it back home to your bank account: greening your office. Do a little good for the environment and save a couple bucks in the process? Can't go wrong with that.

Coverage of the act of “going green” is all over the media; if you haven’t been hit in the face with it by now, you must be living under a rock. But most of the coverage has focused on how to make your home an eco-friendly place, with little information out there on what to do in the office environment, and even less on the physician office.

So, maybe you’ve made some changes at home (eg, turning lights off when you leave a room, making a more conscious effort to recycle paper, plastics, and cans), but what can you do in your office to make a difference and pocket some savings in the process? Let Physician's Money Digest show you the way!

Why?

For starters, the world’s natural resources are quickly vanishing, with people in 2050 expected to have just 25% of the resources per capita as those enjoyed by people just 100 years earlier. As long as we want future generations (our kids and grandkids) to enjoy the standard of living that we have, we need to make sure the finite amount of natural resources isn’t used up before they can enjoy them.

“We save for college education, orthodontia, and weddings, but what about saving clean air, water, fuel sources and soil for future generations?” reads text at the Go Green Initiative website. So, how do we save these natural resources?

How?

Without a doubt, the authority on going green in the healthcare sector is Health Care Without Harm, “an international coalition of hospitals and health care systems, medical professionals, community groups, health-affected constituencies, labor unions, environmental and environmental health organizations and religious groups.”

With the mission to “transform the health care sector worldwide, without compromising patient safety or care, so that it is ecologically sustainable and no longer a source of harm to public health and the environment,” as well as a robust, informative site surrounding this mission, Health Care Without Harm served as a key source for the following points on how to go green in your medical office.

Be sure to download, share with colleagues, and print Physician's Money Digest's Going Green Physician Office Checklist.

Mercury

Mercury—known as “a potent neurotoxin that can affect the brain, spinal cord, kidneys and liver”—is found in thermometers, blood pressure devices, lab chemicals, cleaners and other products used in healthcare. Do your part by working with pharmacies that don’t use mercury-containing products and becoming one of the more than 1,400 healthcare facilities that have pledged to go mercury-free. Learn virtually all there is to know about the mercury issue from Health Care Without Harm.

Laptops vs desktops

Even an oversized laptop runs more efficiently and takes less energy than a desktop computer.

Communication

Use e-mail, attaching necessary documents when possible, instead of sending faxes and letters through “snail mail.” You’ll reduce the use of paper tremendously.

Prescriptions

EPrescribing, provided for free by NEPSI (National ePrescribing Patient Safety Initiative), eliminates the use of paper scripts, which will usually end up in the trash and not recycled.

Printing

When you have to print something out, program your printer to use both sides of the paper. You’ll use half the paper—duh!

Drinking water

Bottled water isn’t just expensive; it produces large quantities of wasteful containers. Instead, put a filter on your tap—if necessary—to obtain drinkable water.

Cups

Styrofoam cups will be sitting in our landfills long after we’re all dead. If you insist on using them, refill your cup throughout the day, instead of tossing it out and grabbing a new one when you want more water—because you’re not drinking bottled water anymore—or coffee. An even greener option is to bring in a mug or cup that can be refilled throughout the day, taken home to wash, and brought back (maybe even use a rotation of a couple so you’re not washing a mug every night).

Online billing

Paying your bills online not only reduces paper waste significantly, but is quicker and easier than paying via the mail. Of course, you’ll want to bill for your services electronically as well.

Electronics recycling

Cell phones, computers, PDAs, and other electronics can all find a new purpose when you’re done with them. Look into a local or national organization serving your area that will refurbish them for low-income families.

Paper recycling

This has to be the most obvious means of going green. If you’re not at least recycling paper, then shame on you!But that's not all...click here for Part II