Product manager Rebecca Waters shares her advice on cost-effective changes you can introduce in your clinic to make a difference to the planet
As we continue to witness intense environmental challenges across the globe, from climate change to plastic pollution, efforts to be more sustainable are now more crucial than ever. Over the past decade, ‘sustainability’ has become the buzzword for the future, and is fast becoming a necessity. People have become more receptive to green messaging, and the growing number of eco-friendly options now on the market proves that the interest is there. A 2022 survey by Deloitte found that of 2,000 UK adults surveyed, 40% chose brands that have environmentally-friendly practices and values, suggesting that sustainability is becoming more important to the consumer.1
Within the aesthetic clinic, many areas can be assessed and improved upon to enhance sustainability. This includes reduction of single-use plastics and energy consumption, as well as looking closely at suppliers and
As the war against plastic rages on, we’re still seeing worrying reports, statistics and news stories about the damaging effects plastic has on habitats and ecosystems. For example, it’s estimated that five million tonnes of plastic are used every year in the UK alone, with nearly half coming from packaging.2 It comes as no surprise, then, that microplastics (fragments of plastic less than 5mm in length) have been found in both human lung tissue and deep-sea sediment.3-5 A plastic bag has been found in the Mariana Trench – the deepest point in the ocean at around 36,000 feet.6
Within the healthcare sector, plastic continues to be a prevalent issue. Prior to the pandemic, the NHS produced 11,300 tonnes of waste daily, 2,500 tonnes of which was plastic waste.7 Of course, during the pandemic, the demand and consumption of plastic products such as masks and personal protective equipment (PPE) was immense for the general public and healthcare professionals alike. The need to protect human health largely superseded environmental concerns, with many plastic reduction policies and waste management strategies being temporarily put on hold.8
Now, aesthetic practitioners and clinics must be vigilant when it comes to cutting down on single-use plastics. The health of patients and staff members is of the utmost importance, and there may be concerns about whether more environmentally appropriate alternatives provide the same level of protection and quality as disposable/reusable materials. Indeed, single-use plastic items meet the requirements of the industry, whereby patients are partly protected from the spread of infection by using disposable sterile products. Nevertheless, a balance must be achieved between human and environmental health.
There are various areas within the clinic where plastic usage can be reduced. For example, in the staff room, you can stock up on reusable cups, dishes and cutlery, and encourage
Going paperless is a great way to reduce waste and streamline processes within the clinic on a larger scale. Many professionals have now automated procedures within their clinic, whereby patient forms, payment receipts and recalls can all be handled electronically with no paper required. There are countless digital solutions that can support your decision to go paperless, including clinic management software apps Pabau, e-clinic, Rushcliff, Collums clinic software, Zenoti and Sellsio.
It can be challenging to source a supplier whose sustainable vision aligns with yours, but nowadays more and more companies are recognising the significance of providing greener options. As such, there is more choice and it’s worth exploring
Many clinics will have worked with one manufacturer for a long time, and if you are reluctant to look elsewhere just yet, address your concerns with them and see if they are open to making changes to their products, as prioritising sustainability will increases products’ appeal to consumers. For example, many skincare manufacturers are using packaging that is made from recycled materials or is reusable, so make sure to ask your supplier about this.
Further positive switches can be made with the cleaning products you stock. From
Another common conversation within healthcare revolves around energy consumption. Fortunately, encouraging better habits among the team can be cost-efficient and highly effective. Machines which aren’t used
Similarly, swapping your lightbulbs to more energy-efficient alternatives can not only reduce your energy consumption, but also prove a far better long-term investment for your clinic and the environment. According to the Energy Saving Trust, switching from a 50-watt halogen bulb to
Around 9.5 billion miles of all road travel in England is related to patients, visitors and suppliers of the NHS, contributing to approximately 14% of the service’s total emissions.12 This goes to show the additional emissions created by the healthcare industry in general. There are many ways team members could reduce their own environmental impact when travelling to clinic, which will help create a more sustainable workplace ethos. For instance, could those who drive to work take public transport, walk or cycle? Could they team up with other colleagues and carpool? A study noted that a 5% shift to walking and cycling in staff commuting would help reduce carbon and air pollution emissions by more than six tonnes of nitrogen oxide and 0.4 tonnes of particle matter, which are both harmful to health.13 This would avoid around £300,000 in costs to healthcare and society.13
Staff engagement is highly important when making your clinic an environmentally conscious establishment. Consider getting
These changes are all cost-effective, with most taking minimal time to implement. In fact, many clinics may already be utilising these tips without even realising. Making switches from single-use plastics to more sustainable alternatives, in addition to prioritising reusing and recycling, can radically reduce the environmental impact of your clinic. Turning off lights and devices when not in use and encouraging staff to establish more positive habits are also simple practices.
Starting small is a great way to recognise how straightforward sustainability can be. Alongside these small changes, you can start planning for larger adjustments further down the line, which might include investing in solar panels, for instance. The topic of environmental sustainability within all areas of the healthcare sector has been firmly brought to the fore, and it’s here to stay. Plastic pollution and climate change seem like insurmountable challenges, but only continuous efforts (big and small) can trigger long-lasting, positive change for the planet.
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