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When Dental Practice Meets Carbon Neutrality

By Pianpian Wang

“Our mission is to serve five key stakeholders, patients, team, suppliers, community and environment”, says Scott Andersen, the co-founder of Artisan Dental.

Artisan Dental, founded by Scott and his wife Dr. Nicole Andersen, is located in downtown Madison, Wisconsin, with 23 staff and 4 dentists. Having started the practice in 2014, Artisan was quickly recognized by Madison Magazine as a ‘Best Place to Work’ in the small company category from 2017 to 2019. In 2019, Artisan Dental was selected as a winner in the Wisconsin based, ‘Force for Positive Change’ award. These awards affirmed that Artisan successfully incorporated their stakeholders.

On November 18th, Scott Andersen and Artisan Dental hosted a webinar to share their experience becoming a carbon neutral practice. He was joined by Olivia Fussell, Founder and Managing Director of Carbon Credit Capital, and Robert Banner, Senior Project Manager of Green Trees.

The Journey to Carbon Neutrality

Before Artisan went 100% carbon neutral, the team had done a lot of work to reduce carbon emissions. In the first year that the dental office was established, they purchased Energy Star Appliances, using energy-saving light bulbs and maximizing natural daylight. In 2015, Artisan purchased 100% of electricity from renewable sources. This move helped them reduce 83% of total carbon emissions. To encourage team members to use public transit to reduce carbon emissions from their commutes, since 2018, Artisan has offered an alternative transportation subsidy of $1.00 per person per day.

“Environment is a key element to our practice and that’s the primary reason why we wanted to become carbon neutral… But we think we can still do more,” Scott said. “As a concerning issue in environmental protection in recent years, climate change is one of the most significant threats to ecosystem stability. To better align with our values and fully understand our supply chain’s carbon footprint at the microlevel, we work with professionals to measure all the products we purchase for the office operations and patient care.” In 2019, Scott reached out to Carbon Credit Capital (“CCC”) and stated his request.

“After listening to Scott’s plan to go carbon neutral. We immediately researched if there is any dental practice in the world doing the same thing. That was in the middle of October in 2020,” said Olivia. “After doing thorough research, it showed that Artisan Dental could make a first if they committed to going carbon neutral.”

“The journey to carbon neutrality became clearer after the talk with the CCC team,” Scott told the audience. “CCC helped us outline the scope of the emissions and send us a data-collection sheet to fill out relevant data for carbon footprint calculation”. When Artisan received the carbon footprint report compiled by CCC, they decided to offset the remaining unavoidable carbon emissions without hesitation.

As of October 2020, it is CCC’s understanding that Artisan Dental is the only carbon neutral general practice dentistry operation in the United States of America. “This is the first in the US! We think Artisan truly integrated the environment into their practice. ” Olivia added.

We Can Make the Dental Industry More Sustainable

One of the takeaways of this year’s COP 26 in Glasgow was that businesses and individuals are also responsible for their carbon footprint and should be supported in taking action to do their part.

Like any other business, the oral healthcare industry also “creates a significant carbon footprint that is not limited to the actual intervention itself, but it is the sum of the emissions created by each stakeholder in the supply chain,” according to researchers Nicolas Martin et al. They found that barriers to implementing sustainable practice were identified as “ lack of professional and public awareness; carbon emissions arising from patient and staff commute; lack of knowledge and education into sustainable healthcare provision and; the challenges from the manufacturing, use, and disposal of dental materials.”

General individual awareness for carbon emissions and their impact on the environment is high, albeit translation into the professional oral health domains is not as pervasive. “Evidence for the effect of the carbon footprint of dentistry is noted with an appreciation for lack of practical action and the need for education of the profession at all levels”, found by the researchers.

“That’s why we wanted to share our experience with the dental industry, and I genuinely think carbon neutrality is achievable.” Scott advocated that dental offices can start with some easy and basic adjustments for low carbon practice, including:

– Reduce energy use through more energy efficient equipment, appliances, HVAC, and insulation.
– Purchasing 100% renewable electricity from a public utility or renewable energy credits.
– Fewer larger shipments from suppliers.
– Identify suppliers with carbon neutral shipping.
– Measure your total carbon footprint.
– Offset all or a portion of footprint by purchasing carbon offset credits.
– Educate your team and patients on low carbon living.
– Offer alternative transportation subsidies to your employees.

Furthermore, the American Dental Association (“ADA”) listed 80 recommendations for improving a dental practice’s sustainability.

Reward for Going Green

Artisan decided to purchase carbon offsets generated from the Green Tree project to mitigate their carbon impact. The project’s goal is to obtain underproductive land and restore it to forest. Robert Banner said “Trees are good. They can pull the carbon out of the air and stabilize the nutrient in the soil at the same time.”

Artisan’s carbon neutral move shows their determination to environmental protection, and now they are receiving rewards because of that. In 2020 and 2021, Artisan was the winner of the Climate Champion in Dane County in Wisconsin. Their patients, team, and suppliers are all very supportive of their low carbon momentum. “Artisan Dental is a particularly responsible business in today’s world,” Robert applauded.

“A few months ago, in our treatment rooms and at our front desk, we displayed a sign that said ‘Your care is powered by solar and wind’. We wanted to use this opportunity to educate our patients,” Scott told us. Now he can proudly add a tree to that sign to represent the forest that Artisan Dental is helping to protect here in the United States.

For the full webinar, please click here to watch.

To learn more about our Carbon Neutral Checkout program, please click here.