We have all heard the news over the past few months about the blaze through Amazon rainforest; Greta Thunberg's speech about climate change; plastic pollution in our ocean; and extinction of species. These issues are raising real concerns amongst our population about sustainability and changes in our ecosystems. Despite the high-levels of concern, according to an Environmental Sustainability Study in 2018 by HP and Planet Ark, only half of Australian consumers and businesses think they do enough in their daily lives when it comes to sustainability. So, how can we make a difference?
What is sustainability?
Sustainability is a development that satisfies the needs of the present generation without risking the needs of the future generation. Environmental sustainability doesn't mean living without luxuries, but rather being aware of your resource consumption and reducing unnecessary waste.
Is Australia sustainable?
During the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) meet in 2015, Australia was only ranked 20th in the world sustainability ranking. For Australian lifestyle to be sustainable, we require four times earth's resources when compared to other countries. This is based on a report that measures the ecological footprint per person comparing our carbon emissions and footprint. Although we as a nation is doing well in education, health, diversity and economic growth, some areas require improvement such as climate action, obesity levels, hazardous waste generation, greenhouse gas emissions etc. Together with other countries, Australia has agreed on Agenda 2030 which aims to improve sustainability through economic, social and environmental means.
Sustainability in dentistry
Did you know in Australia, 30 million toothbrushes are used and disposed of each year? This amounts to 1000 tonnes of landfill each year. Instead of being part of this problem, we must try to be part of the solution. Together with Terracycle, we can recycle or upcycle pl e recycled and made into new products. For each piece of waste they collect, they contributing back to the community or for a local cause. Terracycle is currently accepting toothbrushes, interdental brushes (piksters), toothpaste tubes and caps, floss containers and any outer packaging for toothbrush and toothpaste. When you come in for your next appointment, feel free to bring in these items so we can recycle these for you. There are also sustainable alternatives to plastic toothbrushes available in the market nowadays with companies coming up with brushes made out of bamboo and sugarcane bio-products.
Another initiative to improve sustainability is saving water. Many Australians, leave their taps on while brushing their teeth. Research by U.S Environmental Protection Agency reported that nearly four gallons (15 litres) of water can be wasted if the tap is left running while brushing. Dental companies like Colgate have been running its 'Save Water' Campaign for nearly three years promoting the importance of saving water. If we all pledge to stop the tap from running while brushing, together we can each save 15 litres of clean drinkable water.
What are we doing at Bite?
At Bite, we are always looking for ways to improve sustainability.
- We have switched from plastic bags to paper bags/boxes for your complimentary hygiene packs.
- We have switched from manual to digital x-ray processing to reduce the use of toxic processing chemicals
- We use alternatives to amalgam (silver) fillings
- We also replaced plastic cups in the waiting area with glasses
What can we do outside of dentistry?
The simple changes in your lifestyle can have a big impact on improving sustainability.
- Reducing food waste
- Saying no to straws and plastic bags
- Recycling and disposing of waste properly
- Going paper-free
- Being water efficient
- Walk, bike or use public transport whenever possible
- Planting more trees
Together, if we act responsibly, the resources on this planet will be able to support many generations to come.