Environmental sustainability isn’t a new idea, but for many businesses, it’s one that’s becoming more and more important. Amid ongoing climate concerns, many businesses want to do their part to reverse course, take a stand, and protect the environment.
In fact, over 2/3 of small businesses are willing to make changes to promote environmental sustainability. Is your independent pharmacy one of them?
As a pillar in the healthcare system, your pharmacy plays an important role in protecting the environment and the people who live in it. Whether it be reducing waste, using digital platforms instead of paper ones, or creating new sustainability programs for patients, you can make a positive impact in the fight for a cleaner (and greener) world.
Read on to learn about how pharmacies impact the environment, how those practices can be changed, and how you can make your pharmacy more eco-friendly.
How Traditional Pharmacies Impact the Environment
While many pharmacies are taking steps to become more sustainable, that isn’t the norm. In fact, when we take a closer look at how traditional pharmacies operate, we’ll see more than a few practices that harm the environment. Some of the most notable include:
- Medication waste: Unused or expired medications contribute to water contamination and disrupt ecosystems when they aren’t properly disposed of.
- Energy use: Traditional pharmacies often use excessive lighting, heating, and cooling to run, which uses excessive energy.
- Packaging waste: Most traditional pharmacies use non-recyclable packaging materials that contribute to the growing problem of packaging waste.
- Single-use plastics: Medications packaged in individual plastic bags or containers add to plastic pollution and landfill waste.
Practices like these not only negatively affect the pharmacy itself; they ripple out to the community and those beyond.
The situation may seem grim, but all hope isn’t lost. There are many simple fixes that your pharmacy can make to decrease its environmental impact, practice sustainability, and promote a healthier world. Here are just a few:
How Your Pharmacy Can Be More Eco-Friendly
1. Reduce Waste
One of the easiest and most effective ways that you can be more eco-friendly in the pharmacy is by reducing your waste. Pharmacies use many kinds of materials (from packaging to medication to cleaning supplies), but when they finish using those materials, they don’t always dispose of them properly.
To combat this, try starting a comprehensive recycling program that covers not only paper and cardboard waste but also plastics, glass, and other recyclable materials commonly found in your pharmacy.
This kind of program not only keeps waste out of landfills, but it also creates a culture of responsible waste management among pharmacy staff and patients alike.
2. Try Reusable Packaging
You can also minimize waste by using reusable packaging solutions. Many types of packaging are made from single-use plastics, so making the switch to a more sustainable option can make a big difference.
Biodegradable packaging materials, which come from plant-based plastics or paper, are one of the best options. But even if you can’t access biodegradable packaging, you can benefit from using less packaging overall.
Options like refillable medication containers can reduce reliance on single-use packaging and contribute to waste reduction efforts.
This shift isn't just about cutting down on waste — it’s also about reaching patients who are looking for eco-friendly choices.
3. Dispose Medications Properly
Pharmacies deal with hazardous materials — like chemotherapy drugs or certain antibiotics — every day, so it’s essential that these materials are disposed of in accordance with regulatory guidelines.
Following local, state, and national regulations prevents these drugs from infiltrating the environment and disrupting waterways. Learn more about proper drug disposal here.
As you properly dispose of drugs, encourage your patients to do the same, especially when it comes to expired medications. Drug take-back programs are a great option to get the word out and prevent unintentional environmental harm.
This year, National Drug Take Back Day is October 28, 2023. Learn how to host your own program via the DEA’s Diversion Control Division.
4. Use Energy More Efficiently
The EPA reports that using energy more efficiently is one of the fastest, most cost-effective ways to save money, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and meet growing energy demands.
One important thing you can do in this effort is ensure your lighting is eco-friendly. Swap out old-fashioned lights for energy-efficient LED ones. Energy-efficient lights use less electricity and last longer, which means less waste.
Also, pay attention to heating, cooling, and air conditioning. Smart systems that adjust the temperature based on how many people are around can help you use just the right amount of energy to stay comfortable.
Apart from lights and air, you can choose energy-efficient gadgets with an “Energy Star'' label. By swapping out old-fashioned refrigerators and computers with energy-efficient ones, you can cut down on your environmental impact (and your electric bill, too).
5. Reimagine Your Layout
Creating an eco-friendly pharmacy environment isn't just about what happens inside – it's also about how the space is designed. If you want to be more eco-friendly, you might want to move a few things around (literally).
One way to do this is by making the most of natural light. Try placing windows and skylights throughout your pharmacy to let sunlight in during the day and reduce the need for electric lights. Using light-colored paint on walls and ceilings can also help bounce that natural light around and create a calm environment for patients.
Ventilation is another ace in the hole for eco-friendly pharmacy design. Positioning your vents strategically can maximize natural air circulation, helping to keep things cool without cranking up the A/C. Certain types of plants, which are natural air purifiers, can double as décor while they improve the air quality around you.
When it comes to all things shelving and storage, think vertically. Tall shelves make the most of the available space while keeping the floor area open. Plus, using materials like glass or transparent plastics for display shelves can allow more natural light to flow through the space.
But don't stop at the interior. If possible, consider setting up a small seating area just outside the pharmacy – a place where patients can sit and wait for service, surrounded by plants. It's a nice touch that also leads to a greener world.
Environmental sustainability is more important than ever, and your pharmacy has a part to play in it. By making simple fixes — like reducing waste, swapping out packaging, and rethinking your space — you can make a difference.
And it’s not just for the good of the environment: nearly 90% of consumers are willing to spend an extra 10% or more for more sustainable products and services.
So if you want to do your part, boost your profits, and contribute to a greener world, do your part in and out of the pharmacy. The planet (and your patients) will thank you for it.