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Going green makes good financial sense

Going green is not only socially responsible but can save you money, says Dr John Couch

Going green is not only socially responsible but can save you money, says Dr John Couch

Green issues are the same for businesses as they are for private householders. The same areas are covered – efficient use of energy, reduction of pollution, recycling and the disposal of waste.

Yet few businesses are focused on going green. As purveyors of health, general practice is in a unique position to set an example. Although we all have plenty on our practice agendas, we could at least look at easier options to action in the short term while considering longer-term projects later.

Consider reduction of energy use. Strip lighting is reasonably energy efficient, but just how many old-fashioned light bulbs do you have in your building that could be replaced with energy-saving equivalents? The cost of energy-saving bulbs is falling, and there are further reductions when you buy in bulk. Energy-saving bulbs last much longer and reduce the practice electricity bill.

Even if all your lighting is energy efficient, money is wasted if you leave lights on. Walk around your building late on a winter afternoon and see how many empty rooms are lit up unnecessarily. Encourage the use of the off switch if the room is going to be vacated for more than a few minutes.

Energy survey

Heat loss from buildings is often considerable. There are few new purpose-built premises nationally so GP buildings on average tend to be old. You are likely to have at least one of your patients involved in the building industry: perhaps they would do you a favour with a cheap energy survey!

How much insulation is there in your loft space? Insulation is not expensive to top up. And how many single-glazed windows do you have? Internal double glazing is cheaper than new windows. If your building has an un-insulated cavity wall, foam injection is once again an economic investment.

Who controls your central heating thermostat? Turn it down a degree or two – most occupants won't notice the difference. Any rooms with individual radiator controls should also be checked. Is your system timed to stay off at weekends? If your boiler is more than 15 years old a more economical replacement could pay for itself in around five years.

Check that cleaning products, hand towels and toilet paper have green credentials. Once again make sure you buy in bulk. Re-use stationery wherever possible. Paradoxically few local councils are yet geared up for waste recycling from businesses, but this is inevitable in the near future, so why not start now with special bins in each room. GPs certainly get enough paper to warrant this.

Thinking laterally, it may be possible to reduce emissions costs on visits by ensuring they are allocated geographically and encouraging the use of small cars. One of my partners does near visits on a bike!

Select a practice member who is idealistic, has zeal and is interested in matters green. Most practices won't have far to look. Do your research carefully and give this person a realistic budget. Your green shoots will then grow, to the environment's advantage and also to the advantage of your pocket.

Dr John Couch is a GP in Ashford, Middlesex

Green money saversGreen money savers Green money savers:

• Use energy efficient lighting
• Keep lights switched off where possible
• Use energy efficient heating
• Do you need a new boiler?
• Reduce heat loss
• Is double glazing needed?
• Is thermostat set too high?
• Are some rooms heated unnecessarily?
• Reduce emission costs on visits
• Use a smaller car
• Use a bicycle
• Re-use all stationery wherever possible
• Buy in bulk wherever possible

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