Going green: Eco-friendly measures reduce costs, attract new patients

February 1, 2009

If your practice hasn't jumped on the eco-friendly bus already, maybe it's time to catch a ride. 'Going green' can make good business sense. Savvy dermatology practices recognize that consumers gravitate to businesses they perceive as socially conscious. In addition to attracting patients and helping the environment, being environmentally friendly may also help you reduce costs.

Key Points

Simple steps

Unplug your electronic equipment after business hours. Even a computer that's off uses energy. To ease the burden of unplugging multiple cords, use a power strip to plug in multiple devices.

If you're planning a new office or a remodeling project, explore Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for the project.

Switch to high-efficiency, low-flow toilets to cut down on water use, and install water-efficient faucets. When decorating, look for paints that don't contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that degrade air quality.

Get rid of the conventional wet loop floor mops. Not only are they heavy and cumbersome for your janitorial staff to use, they use a tremendous amount of water. Switch to microfiber mops and use more environmentally friendly cleaning products.

Outdoors

Encourage your landscaping service to use more environmentally friendly fertilizers and lawn treatments.

Ask about installing landscaping that is consistent with your area's climate - it will require less water to maintain. Consider installing rain barrels to capture storm water runoff for outdoor watering.

Lighting

Use low-energy bulbs. Lighting products consume a significant amount of space in our landfills. Conventional lighting also eats up a lot of energy. Switch to low-energy bulbs to make a significant reduction in the amount of waste and energy used. Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) are not only energy-efficient, but they are cost-effective because they last up to 10 times as long as traditional bulbs. Because they contain trace amounts of mercury, it's important not to toss them in the trash. Instead, take them to your local Home Depot, which launched a CFL recycling program.

Reduce, recycle

Reduce your paper use. Don't print e-mails unless necessary. Add the phrase "Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail" to your signature line on e-mails to encourage others to do the same. Copy documents for meetings using a two-sided ratio. Scan lab and imaging reports, and transfer the data directly into the patient's record.

Save reams of paper in the billing office by choosing to receive payments by electronic remittance and funds transfer. Encourage vendors to stock your supplies using bins, not boxes. And give more thought to purchasing an electronic medical record, which will eliminate the need for folders, tabs, paper, plastic outguides, labels and so forth.

Recycle. After you scan old documents for records retention, use a shredding company that recycles paper. Store recyclables such as bottles, cans and paper in a bin in your practice until it's time for the recycling pickup. If there's not a municipal or private pickup service, take the bin to the local recycling center yourself when it gets full. Some communities have sites that pay for recycled products.

Skip the plastic foam. Replace plastic foam cups and paper plates in the break room with durable, inexpensive plastic or glass dishes. Instead of water bottles, order a water cooler for the break room or put a water purifier on your sink tap.