How green can the Dental School be?

 

by Dawn Quirk

A newly formed group hopes to find out.

In light of the recent economic downturn, it’s hard to imagine the green initiative gaining much ground. In a culture that sees initial payments rather than economic benefits down the line, people are less likely to shell out larger amounts of money to build and buy green even if these eco-friendly materials can pay for themselves in less than a year. With Tufts hit hard by the Madoff Ponzi scheme, the university has a good excuse to not spend much cash, even for something as important as building green.

But Tufts is not using its financial problems as an excuse for ignoring the environment. The green initiative is alive and well on this campus in Medford and others run by this university that continues to be recognized for its eco-conscience. We were rated one of the top 25 greenest schools by the 2009 Kaplan College Guide and given many other environmental distinctions and are living up to that reputation as well as extending our tradition of eco-excellence to our graduate schools.

 

The Tufts University School of Dental Medicine is a recent addition to our green crusade. Its new green initiative web page has all the information an environmentally minded student or prospective student would need to know. From basic recycling tips to ways to get involved, this short page is comprehensive and helpful from start to finish. One interesting link is to the school’s plan to make their vertical expansion LEED certified. The school plans to add five floors to a building in the greenest possible way. Whether it’s the high-tech toilets and heat sensors or simply using recycled building materials, this sector of Tuft’s graduate schools seems well on its way to becoming greener and more responsible for its environmental impacts.

 

Along with building an environmentally friendly addition, the dental school is trying to make its daily practices less environmentally harmful. In a recent green initiative meeting, concerns about electricity waste voiced by Steve Witkus, the Clinic Business Manager, were discussed. Currently, a large amount of clinic equipment is left on over night, a practice that is hugely wasteful in terms of electricity and damaging to the actual equipment itself. Witkus has touched on an important point for environmentalists everywhere, what’s bad for the environment usually has some other negative impacts that even an eco-unaware person might care about. Whether it’s the degradation of an x-ray unit or the extra money spent on electricity, being conscious of energy use is helpful in the long run. The initiative hopes to combat this energy-wasteful practice by encouraging people to take responsibility for turning the machines off themselves, adding this step as protocol in a manual, and developing signs to remind people to turn off the equipment.

Another issue brought up at this meeting is the way the student dentists’ infection control packages are assembled. Many students feel that each package contains excessive amounts of materials that often get thrown away after each patient appointment. The school hopes to change this practice by discussing reasonable quantities of supplies to be placed in each package. They hope to get data from the student dentists through surveys taken in Group Practice meetings that will help them determine the need per appointment.

 

On the whole, through viewing the minutes from the green initiative meeting and the new green page on the website, it is apparent that the Tufts Dental School is taking commendable leaps toward an environmentally friendly learning and practicing environment. It is clear that they are open to suggestions, appealing to contributions both on the website itself and through the green initiative meeting’s minutes, which were distributed via email. This transparency is important in making a campus or any environment more eco-conscious. Everyone can have a green idea and shouldn’t have to search for ways to give his or her feedback or get more involved. Eco-awareness will hopefully begin to creep up a prospective student’s list of criteria and, as it does, the Tufts Dental School will give others a run for their money.