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"We've been implementing numerous green programs and changes to our operations over the past two years and, as a result, we're saving approximately 10% per month on our entire operating budget," says Sandy Stuart, president, First Impressions Dental Lab, Inc., Mount Vernon, Washington. The lab's many green practices include:
- A recycling program that's cut the lab's waste and waste management costs by 75%.
- With hot water being the lab's second largest source of energy consumption, it reduced the temperature of the hot water tank to 110°F and, during long weekends, uses the "vacation" setting which turns down the temperature.
- Burnout ovens are turned on for assigned blocks of time instead of leaving them on all day long.
- The last person out is responsible for unplugging all the printers, radios, etc. "Anything with an LED eats electricity overnight," says Stuart.
- A switch to energy-efficient lighting. Her energy provider recently implemented a short-term program that allows Stuart to turn in old light bulbs for free energy-efficient bulbs.
- It installed rain barrels for watering outside planters.
- Burs are sent from metal finishing to the model room to be used until they are really dull. "They may no longer be usable in metal but the burs cut like butter through stone for tissue relief," says Stuart.
- Finished work is batched by doctor location to consolidate shipping needs and local deliveries are coordinated with pickups for more efficient gas usage.
- Located one hour north of Seattle, the lab is taking advantage of the relatively mild climate by using fans instead of air conditioning in the summer. Most of the windows have screens and are opened early in the morning to cool the lab. The average temperatures in the winter range from 40°-55°; by turning down the heating system by just two degrees, there is no noticeable difference in comfort but the savings add up. Total savings for the lab's heating and cooling efforts is around $4,000 per year.
The lab's future plans include installing electronic eyes in outside lights so they turn on/off as dictated by sunset and sunrise; switching to a more efficient hot water tank; installing more rain barrels and soaker hoses to capture rain gutter water for sheltered plants; adding additional insulation throughout the building; and installing screen doors for summer cooling instead of using the air conditioning system.
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