A greener silver lining?
A greener silver lining?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, governments around the globe significantly restricted travel among their populations and closed businesses down. Consequently, daily worldwide CO2 emissions decreased by up to 17% in early April 2020, compared to the average levels for the same period in 2019. At the peak of global lockdowns, global emissions were down by approximately 26%. There certainly were not many silver linings from the pandemic, but perhaps the positive impact on our environment was one?
While the priority for dentistry is to get back to work and resume essential dental care for the general public, there may be opportunities to maintain some of the green momentum established during the lockdown.
Many practices adopted new protocols and technologies during or after lockdown. These changes were a necessity, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t offer advantages now we are back in business. In particular, virtual communication tools have become popular across the profession, providing a way to initiate and then support the patient journey remotely. The same technology could be used to enhance communication with colleagues for better case collaboration, or they could provide access to educational events and sessions in a safe and effective way.
Not only do these options remove physical distancing barriers, but they also minimise the need to travel for permanently reduced CO2 emissions. In addition, many of the platforms used for virtual communications are free to download and use, so there are cost-efficiencies involved for clinicians, practices and patients as well.
It’s the little things…
There are various other steps you can take to reduce your carbon footprint for life. Among these is further investment in digital, which can decrease the material and product wastage while also boosting infection control standards at this difficult time (through innovations like digital impressions, for example).
Some options are much simpler and easier to implement, like installing energy-saving light bulbs, controlling the temperature of the practice to avoid overheating, switching off lights when rooms aren’t in use or using timed flow water taps in bathrooms. You may also review your recycling processes in order to encourage both staff and patients to be greener in this way. In addition, you could take the opportunity to buy local wherever you can in order to support the British and local economy, while reducing the need for imports.
Like anything, it is always easier to find new solutions when you speak to others and find out how they have overcome a challenge. Why not see what colleagues are doing by catching up with friends and peers at the British Dental Conference and Dentistry Show 2021? You can share your experiences of the past year, discuss the solutions you’ve found useful and learn how others have overcome the challenges you continue to face.
The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 may not conjure many fond memories in the years to come, but if we can use it as a catalyst to permanently reduce global CO2 emissions, at least that’s one positive. A greener silver lining, some may say.
 Le Quéré, C., Jackson, R.B., Jones, M.W. et al. Temporary reduction in daily global CO2 emissions during the COVID-19 forced confinement. Nat. Clim. Chang. 10, 647–653 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-020-0797-x