Simple changes to embrace personal sustainability

In celebration of Campus Sustainability Month this October, the ASDA Council on Professional Issues developed a three-part series discussing what it means to be clinically, personally and environmentally sustainable. Last week, we dove into clinic sustainability and provided you with a printable PDF to spark ideas for your school’s clinic.

As I prepared to contribute to our series, I realized how much I did not know about this specific topic. I was surprised to see the pollutant effects of some dental materials we frequently use, and I didn’t even consider the contribution of single-use plastics. The number of gloves I go through in a clinic setting is appalling. This topic caused me to self-reflect and consider what steps I can take to practice personal sustainability outside of school. I thought to myself, “How can I truly advocate for sustainable clinic practices when I don’t have any of my own?”

Being personally sustainable not only enhances your health and wellness, but it will have a lasting impact on our environment for years to come. Initially, I felt like implementing this new lifestyle would be difficult to do, but with further research, I realized I only needed to make small changes to my daily routine. I started by searching simple solutions and came upon an article titled “Personal Sustainability 101.” The author provided a compiled list of ways to reduce plastic waste, greenhouse gas emissions, water use and pollution, and deforestation.

Some simple practices included using reusable water bottles, enrolling in paperless billing, making cashless or card-less payments, and buying locally grown produce. A few changes I didn’t consider were taking shorter showers, turning off air conditioning and heat while I’m not home, and returning unused and expired medications to the pharmacy. As much as I felt like I didn’t know how to practice personal sustainability, most of the actions he suggested were already a part of my daily routine, leading me to believe that most dental students are more sustainable than we know, yet with more intention behind our actions, we will learn to better appreciate the importance of these simple lifestyle changes. 

Adopting better sustainability habits will influence us as we try to implement better practices throughout our training. It often seems difficult to change the way we practice dentistry, but when you really think about it, dentistry is constantly changing. All of the advancements that have been made seemed far-fetched when they were initially proposed, yet through the willingness and determination of dental professionals, some of the most dynamic diagnostic tools and materials have been created. I encourage all dental students to be intentional about adopting a sustainable lifestyle and research ways in which they can emphasize the importance of moving toward a “greener” dental clinic at their respective schools.

I look forward to doing more personal research on how to continue my sustainability habits. It is essential to change our mindset in our personal lives so that we can be serious about the changes we want to see throughout dentistry. 

~Aierress Hanna, Meharry ’21, ASDA Council on Professional Issues Associate

Download the “Promoting clinic sustainability” flier.

Aierress Hanna

Aierress C. Hanna, MHS, Meharry '21, graduated from the University of Central Florida with a bachelor's degree in health sciences and a double minor in chemistry and African American studies. In 2017, she received her Master of Health Science degree from Meharry Medical College and began her predoctoral career with an interest in periodontics. Aierress has served as Meharry ASDA president, District 4 annual meeting coordinator and is currently an associate on the ASDA Council on Professional Issues.

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