By Carol Bommhardt
Excerpt from an article featured in AGD Impact, September 2008
As Kermit the Frog likes to say, “It’s not easy being green.” Unfortunately, he’s got a point. In today’s throwaway society of convenience, gigantic SUVs, and plastic galore, being “green,” or environmentally conscious, certainly is not the easiest task to take on. Making an effort to change the way we live may not always be easy, but luckily for Kermit and the rest of us, many people seem to be seeking out and embracing greener ways of life.
According to a Washington Post article (2008), on June 23, 1988, a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) scientist first told a U.S. Congressional hearing that global warming was a certainty, and it was already happening. Twenty years have passed, but only recently has “going green” become popular. The term is popping up everywhere these days, along with endless opportunities to contribute to helping the environment.
As more people become aware of the importance of caring for the environment, more are taking steps to do their part. Although it easily could be considered a passing fad, going green is much more than that, and may very well be the most important concept of our time.
From grocery stores selling reusable shopping bags to car manufacturers creating more energy-efficient vehicles, the world is catching on to what some have been warning about for years. The amount of information can be overwhelming when discussing global warming and its implications for the earth. One term that is particularly significant is carbon footprint. This refers to the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted as a direct or indirect result of an activity. Every day, almost everything that we do—from turning on lights in our homes to traveling to work—results in carbon dioxide emissions.
Problems occur when these gases are released into the atmosphere faster than they can be absorbed. Currently, CO2 is being released about three times faster than it can be reabsorbed and concentrations of greenhouse gases are higher than they have been at any point in the past 800,000 years, according to How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint (2008). The Natural Resources Defense Council says that the consequences of this include spread of disease, extreme weather patterns, and drought, and they are not to be taken lightly.
Concerns for the environment have been voiced for decades, but the world has been slow to get the message. Now, many people are eager to move toward a greener way of life, including several dentists who believe that going green can and should be incorporated into every aspect of their lives, including their profession.
Patient awareness and education
Carey O’Rielly, DDS, and his wife, Victoria, founded Integrative Dental Practice, a holistic dental office in Encinitas, Calif., which focuses on prevention and overall health. “Holistic dentistry is ultimately a green approach, whether you are talking about the environment of the body or the overall environment we live in. There is a tie-in between the two approaches,” says Victoria. The practice is environmentally conscious, using fresh air ventilation, extensive air filtration, and non-chemical steam sterilization.
The practice emphasizes the relationship between holistic dentistry and the environment, because the mouth and the body are environments in and of themselves. Special attention is paid to what materials are used and what goes into the body—only biocompatible materials are used in the practice, and patient-specific materials testing is done upon request.
To the O’Riellys, the organic movement is an important indicator of future trends. “People are becoming concerned with what they are putting into their bodies and they want to be educated,” says Dr. O’Rielly. “The green movement is a paradigm shift. This is the next wave and it’s going to be patient-driven. Dentistry would be well-served to be at the leading edge.”
In adopting a greener approach to his profession, Dr. O’Rielly affirms that he truly enjoys the way he practices dentistry. “I wouldn’t practice any other way, because it is aligned with my personal lifestyle,” he says. “In this day of specialization, having a niche like environmentally friendly dentistry also is a great way to differentiate oneself. By adopting a more holistic or green philosophy, I enjoy a more engaged, loyal client base and a better working environment. This is the future. You have to stay a little progressive in order to stay competitive.”
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For more information about these practices, check out their Web sites:
Carey O’Rielly, DDS, and Victoria O’Rielly
Integrative Dental Practice