Going green: Patients demand more than token environmental efforts

August 1, 2008

As consumers' environmental awareness grows, dermatologists must at least keep pace, experts say. Put more bluntly, adopting environmentally responsible practices can help dermatologists protect both the planet and their bottom lines, they explain.

Key Points

EDITOR'S NOTE: Are you looking to add a deeper shade of "green" to your practice? In this issue, Dermatology Times looks at some of the options available, from eco-friendly design and construction to elimination of excess paper and Styrofoam cups. We also take a look at "natural" and "organic" products and treatments (page 20), and we spotlight facilities in several states that are putting it all together.

"Consumers, especially in the up-and-coming generation Y, tend to patronize and work for companies and individuals who share their vision. And we know that regardless of age or party affiliation, the environment and environmental protection are becoming increasingly important to people," says Jill Buck, founding partner of Buck Consulting of Pleasanton, Calif., which provides environmental consulting services to physicians and other businesses.

However, sources say most physicians hardly know where to start when it comes to "greening" their enterprises.

Architect Jeffrey K. Griffin, A.I.A., principal with Atlanta-based Medical Design International, says his M.D. clients generally express interest in constructing green or sustainable buildings, "but they don't really know anything about it."

Mr. Griffin is also accredited in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), having met requirements set by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

Ms. Buck says that when she asks physicians if they're using low volatile organic compound (VOC)-emitting carpets, which are healthier for patients and staff, "They have no idea what I just said."

"To actually go green is an intense process, if somebody is trying to have a completely green office," says Kelly Costa Gravitt, a spa consultant with Natural Resources Spa Consulting and head of the company's medical and wellness division.

For instance, the challenge of eliminating mercury from medical practices alone is "much bigger oftentimes than we consider," potentially involving everything from contact lens solution to medical batteries, scales, blood analyzers and pacemakers, she says.

Whether a practice pursues certification or not (most don't), he says the key is deciding what a practice wants to achieve in terms of sustainability.