'Green' can help you keep in the black

April 1, 2011

A green office environment is not only healthier for you, your staff and your patients, but also for your practice's bottom line.

"I realized that there was nothing out there for optical professionals about how to green their business," said Ives, a San Diego-based blogger. Her blog, Green Eco Services, at http://www.greenecoservices.com/, offers tips for creating a green office and living a green lifestyle. Her second blog, The Optical Vision Site, http://www.theopticalvisionsite.com/, is for the eye-care business.

On average, an optometry office can easily save $5,000 a year, she said. This comes from enhanced worker productivity and lower utility and office supply bills.

Ives recommends five key tactics:

1. Go paperless. This ranks No. 1 on Ives' to-do list. "The average office worker goes through 10,000 pieces of paper a year," she said. "Do everything you can to eliminate the use of paper."

The federal government has already been encouraging practices to do just that. The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act offers incentive payments for providers who convert to electronic health records (EHR) and, beginning in 2015, reduces payments to those who are not using EHR.

Meanwhile, there are more immediate things you can do:

2. Conduct an energy audit. Ask the electric and gas company to come to your office to offer energy-savings tips. Perhaps you need to replace the weather stripping under the front door or replace your windows with Low-Emissivity, or Low-E, glass to prevent heat from escaping the building. Also, use energy-saving light bulbs wherever possible.

Another consideration: Do you and your employees shut off computers, copiers, and other office equipment when the office is closed? "By turning off computers each night, the average optometry office can save $500 per computer a year," Ives said.

3. Recycle. It's almost impossible for any practice to become completely paperless. Place a recycling bin for paper in a visible area so that patients know they're in an environmentally friendly office. Another tip: Buy products-such as stationery and envelopes-that are made from recycled materials. Also, place bins for recycling glass and aluminum, such as soda cans, in your staff area or lunchroom.

4. Open the windows or doors. Whenever possible, air out your office. That may mean propping open your front door for 10 minutes several times a day. Air exchange is important to the health of you and your staff. Just make sure to adjust your thermostat.

5. Change cleaning supplies. Avoid using products that contain strong chemicals, such as ammonia or bleach. Replace them with safe and equally effective products, such as vinegar, baking soda, or borax. Baking soda, for instance, is a great cleanser for sinks and costs much less than traditional cleansers. Ives said a 12-pound bag of baking soda can cost as little as $12.99.