Happy (Early) Earth Day!
Apr 22, 2018 is Earth Day and we couldn't be happier that more and more people are taking an interest in caring for the environment.
However, we'd be the first to admit that not everything can be "Zero Waste" - especially in the field of dentistry. YES, our practice will obviously continue using single-use disposables like gloves, gauze, etc, because patient safety and preventing cross-contamination is of utmost importance. But, even we can do our part in reducing the waste we create as consumers.
Here are some tips:
1) Use up any non-eco-friendly products you have already acquired before you go for "eco-friendly" versions. It doesn't make any sense to throw away what you already have, when it actually still has life in it. Once you finish off your supply of toothbrushes, etc, then go for the eco-friendlier versions that we'll outline below.
2) While we still recommend changing to a new toothbrush every 3 months or after you get sick, you can find a second use for it before tossing. Reduce, reUSE, recycle is the saying. So, find another way of using it before it ultimately goes to landfill. For example, used toothbrushes can scrub crevices clean - e.g. window sill mold or around the sink. You can use it to clean jewellery. You can use it in crafting - for example, texturizing clay. The bamboo ones can be used as markers for your herb garden - just make sure to break off the bristles, if they're not compostable! Be creative! Please note, it does go without saying that after these secondary uses, the brush should not be used for teeth again!!
3) Some eco-friendly brands make toothbrushes out of bamboo - which are biodegradable and because bamboo grows so quickly, it's also sustainable. Depending on the brand, you do want to check what the bristles are made out of. If they are plastic bristles, these would have to be removed before you toss it into the compost. If it's animal hair, it's not vegan but fully biodegradable. Soooo, there are arguments on both sides. Make the decision that works for you and your family.
4) If bamboo and boar bristles are just too 'natural' for you, consider getting a toothbrush that has replaceable brush heads. You keep the handle and just replace the top every 3 months - which, at the very least, reduces the amount of plastic you toss. They make electric as well as manual versions (where manual are more eco-friendly), so definitely do your research.
5) Another option is getting a brush made from recycled plastic. It’s not the best solution, but at least you’re using fewer virgin resources from the earth.
6) Biodegradable plastic toothbrushes may or may not turn out to be as ‘eco-friendly’ as we think. Many ‘biodegradable’ plastics out there are labeled as such because they worked to degrade in laboratory conditions only. If they end up in landfill (which they will), they are mixed in with a bunch of different materials - synthetic and natural and that environment might not be conducive to the full breakdown of the ‘biodegradable’ plastic. Not sure how far we’ve come since the writing of this article, but it’s definitely something to consider.
7) In terms of floss, some manufacturers sell refills separately. This will reduce the amount of packaging you throw out every couple of months.
8) Some people also go for silk floss sold in recyclable cardboard, both of which break down better than plastic floss and plastic boxes.
9) YES, we still give out tiny travel-sized boxes of floss when you come in for routine hygiene appointments. One way to repurpose these boxes is to build your own travel sewing kit. The centre makes a perfect spool for thread - which you can wind, and the floss-cutter can also cut your thread. Do neutral colours first, and as you accumulate more, build yourself a rainbow.
10) Remember to turn off the tap while you're brushing your teeth! You *should* be brushing at least twice a day for two minutes each time, so think of all the water you'll save in the long run - especially multiplied by all your family members! It saves water, PLUS, you're technically paying for it!
11) Before we print out your receipt(s) and insurance replies, ask us to email it to you instead. Because most of our patient base still expect a printed copy, we automatically provide it - so just stop us before we do.
12) Otherwise, our x-rays have been digitized, read about it here.
We want to know, how are YOU reducing waste this Earth Day?