Waste not, want not
An award-winning family-owned dental practice in Victoria is demonstrating that good business practice and sustainability can go hand in hand.
The team at Beaconsfield Dental from Berwick are as passionate about the environment as they are of good dental hygiene, having purpose-built their dental practice with sustainability at its heart.
“It’s not just good business, it’s the right thing to do — it’s where the future lies,” said dentist and practice owner Dr Robert Panjkov. “It’s nice to do the right thing.”
While the ultimate goal is for the business to be entirely energy and water self-sufficient, Panjkov and his practice manager wife Lisa are proud of their environmentally friendly achievements to date. Their efforts have been recognised repeatedly, with Beaconsfield Dental winning the Casey Cardinia Business Award for Sustainability and the Environment three years in a row, from 2015 to 2017.
They are also this year’s winners of the prestigious 2018 Victorian Premier’s Sustainability Awards in the Health category, and finalists in the Casey Cardinia Business Awards for Health, Education and Well-being.
To date the Panjkovs have installed 126 solar panels for the practice, positioning them to take advantage of the morning and afternoon sun. Over 4.5 years, the panels have generated 96 megawatts in electricity, saving 10 tonnes of CO2 in 2017 alone.
“It’s still not enough for us to be self-sufficient; we have four sterilisers and thermal disinfectors and they use a lot of power,” Dr Panjkov said. More solar panels will be installed in the future, to help achieve their goal of self-reliance.
The practice also gains energy efficiency through its insulated walls, double-glazed windows, LED lighting, solar hot water and judicious use of heating and cooling systems in conjunction with closing window blinds against summer heat, or opening them on cooler days.
They have even installed an electric car charger so that patients with Teslas can charge their cars while visiting the practice.
Beaconsfield Dental has water tanks with 17,000 litres of capacity, used for toilet flushing and garden irrigation. Having installed a meter to track water usage, they were delighted to learn that they’d saved 40,000 litres of water within a seven-month period.
Their garden is filled with indigenous plants local to the area, which are drought tolerant and attract native fauna. The plants are sustained with a carefully managed irrigation system, along with mulch from their four compost bins filled with plant and vegetable matter generated within the business.
Old becomes new
Patients are encouraged to bring in their old toothbrushes, as well as empty toothpaste and floss containers to be recycled by Colgate. But it’s not just patient waste that is recycled — everything that can be repurposed is saved by the business. Shredded paper is taken to the local pet shop for use as bedding or placed in the compost bins, while amalgam waste, batteries, printer cartridges and old computer products are collected and dropped off at recycling collection points.
Wherever possible, biodegradable and environmentally friendly products are sourced, such as patient cups and bibs, suction tips and cleaning products.
The whole team at Beaconsfield Dental is on board with their environmental policy, understanding that sometimes it can be the simple things that contribute to sustainability, such as ensuring appliances and computers are in sleep mode when not in use, and turning off lights when leaving the room.
It’s not just the practice team who are on board — patients are impressed with the team’s sustainability program and regularly ask advice for their own schemes.
To those patients and healthcare practices wanting to take a leaf out of Beaconsfield Dental’s book, Panjkov’s advice is to start with solar panels and, if possible, to install water tanks. “You’re generating something from nothing,” he said. “If you can’t do that, use biodegradable products and recycle everything and anything you can.”
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