Greening your Business
Mitch Kennedy, ND
The editors of this August publication cut me a lot of slack with this column. I try to line up relevant toxins with the main theme of each issue; it just doesn’t always work out. And in my mind, we humans need to think of ourselves more as an integral part of the environment and less as separate or above it. So subjects like global warming, green building and renewable energy are intimately tied to my patients’ health inside my head, even though it might cause the editors to scratch theirs sometimes.
So this month I am talking about “walking your talk.” If you detox sick people, you should have an environmentally safe clinic. If you preach about organic foods, you should have organic snacks and drinks at your clinic. And if you are an island of progressive thinking in your town, city or state, then you owe it to yourself and your business to take it one more step: Green your bottom line.
The “bottom line” is a term used to describe the profitability of a business. Traditionally, people have pitted profit vs. clean air, water, soil, etc. The truth is that environmentally responsible business practices actually boost profits and the health of employees.
To show that doing right for the Earth is also good for your patients and your pocketbook, let’s look at the impacts of replacing an incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent one. The commonly known benefits include keeping:
- Carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere (good for the polar bears)
- Mercury out of the atmosphere (good for children’s IQs)
- Money in your pocket (good for your business).
Table 1 shows how much it really costs when you compare these two types of lighting over equal lifespans (10 years). After you add in the extra cost of running the incandescent light and replacing it 10 times before the compact fluorescent bulb wears out, you end up saving $32.20 for each bulb you change.
Burning coal, oil and natural gas to generate electricity releases mercury into the air. The older the power plant, the more pollution it will emit. Mercury is a known neurotoxin and shown to decrease the IQ of children, induce autoimmune diseases and damage kidney function. Some opponents decry compact fluorescent bulbs, because they contain mercury. This is true for most fluorescent bulbs. The amount is about 5mg. To put that in perspective, the thermometers recently pulled off the market contained 2,000mg of mercury.
Using compact fluorescent bulbs keeps 75% of the mercury out of the air that would come from the electricity used to light the bulbs. Over the lifetime of a compact fluorescent bulb, more mercury is avoided than is emitted into the environment, even if the bulb is broken or improperly disposed of at the end of its life.
Carbon dioxide reductions are huge with a compact fluorescent bulb as well. About 900 pounds are kept from entering the atmosphere over its lifetime!
More Ways to Save
Other improvements you can make to green your bottom line include:
- Using recycled content tissue, toilet paper and paper towels.
- Re-using the blank side of copier paper, and/or cutting the paper into small squares for memos and notes instead of using “Post-Its.” (However, be sure to shred any paperwork containing patients’ personal information, in compliance with HIPPA.)
- Using refillable or recycled printer ink cartridges, which cost 30%-70% less per cartridge than new ones.
- Purchasing environmentally friendly cleaning products.
- Eliminating dead and phantom electrical loads using cutoff and power switches. Many TVs, VCRs, stereos, radios, computers and cell phone chargers have a constant draw of electricity. Those small amounts of electricity add up for your wallet and for CO2 emissions.
So look to your operations and utility bills for ways to be green, save green and stay healthy, because they go hand in hand!
Mitch Kennedy, ND has a family practice in Avon, CT, and is the first ND with clinical privileges at the University of Connecticut, a teaching hospital. Before graduation from SCNM, Kennedy earned an international reputation as a leader in pollution prevention, showing industries around the world how preventing pollution saves money.