HOW TO MAKE YOUR LAB GREEN

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Santinelli’s LFU 220 Hybrid Filtration Unit can be added to any of its retail edgers to recycle processing water.
Digital controllers like the one on the OptiSafe Digital Super Tinter help to keep the power bill lower.
Hot air frame warmers, like this one from PSI, use far less energy than traditional frame warmers and also prevent frame damage.
National Optronics’ 7Ex edger can accurately dry cut any lens material without the need for messy coolants.
First Insight offers a software program called MaximEyes so ECPs can manage all aspects of patient and insurance billing electronically.

ECPs can make a conscious effort to adopt more environmentally friendly processes.

The goals for my in-house lab have always been to create less physical waste, use less energy, have no harmful waste sent to municipal waste water systems, prevent airborne toxins, and to have zero safety and health risks to my staff and patients, and do all this while still making a profit!

I’ll bet there are a few ECPs who could still teach me a thing or two, but after 42 years as someone who loves to improve the vision of myopes, hyperopes, astigmats, presbyopes, and strabismus sufferers, I have a renewed vision of my own. That vision is to provide a nice place for my grandchildren to live in. Here are a few tips that seem to make sense as I look to achieve this goal.

LESS ENERGY
In an effort to use less energy I have found that programmable timers are very helpful. I have one set to turn off all unnecessary electricity in the lab when my shop is not open. This helps me to sleep better at night knowing that the tint unit and chemical treatment oven are off. It also prevents unnecessary cycling of my air compressor. If, for some reason, I forgot to turn the lensometer off, no problem, the timer does it for me. All other unnecessary machines are also disabled at night. An added benefit to using programmable timers is that my light bulbs last longer, my computerized machines are protected against a power surge, and my power bill is lower.

Hot air frame warmers use far less energy during any given day than traditional “salt pan” style frame warmers. They also prevent frame damage, are easy to use, and actually are more effective in spot heating frames for precise adjustments. When they are on, they are on with instant heat and when they are off, they are off.

I also use a foot pedal switch on my hand edger so that it does not get left on for long periods of time when it is not being used.

Early on I learned that the new “curly fries” light bulbs and LED lights need less energy, last longer, make a measurable difference to my power bill, and are easier on the eyes after a long day at work. However, I have since learned that they require disposal at one of our local hazardous waste centers.

WHAT YOU CAN USE IN YOUR GREEN EFFORT

· Programmable timers
· Hot air frame warmers
· LED lights
· Dry edgers or an edger with water coolant
· Heat Transfer Fluids and Lens Neutralizers for dying
· Recycled packaging supplies


PESKY DISPOSAL

At the heart of every in-house lab is the finishing system. This is where most of the lensmaking waste is generated. Because of this, I made a conscious decision to purchase a system that cuts “dry.” Even if lens waste is permissible in your local waste water system, it must be filtered out at a waste water treatment facility before that water can be returned back into the water cycle. With a dry system, lens waste is never put into water at any stage of the process. The downside to “dry” edging is the creation of plastic lens dust.

Unfortunately the building we are in does not allow an exterior industrial vacuum, which is what I would prefer. Because of this, I have an industrial fume hood over my edger that I turn on each time I edge. After a pre-determined number of lens cycles, I empty the under- the-cabinet shop vacuum bag into a dumpster, not the water system.

This being said, I do have my eye on one of the new multi-tasking edgers that uses a water coolant system. If I choose to purchase one of these great new systems, I plan on getting my own waste water filtering system so that I can put as much solid waste as possible into the garbage rather than the sewer. There are waste water filtering systems available that can filter fine particles as well as harmful chemicals and heavy metals that we just don’t want to put back into the water cycle.

SAFE LENS DYING
This is one area where I insist on purchasing products that are not harmful to the municipal water system. First I check out the Safety Data Sheets of each product I use to determine if it is petroleum-based or naturally synthesized. I have found that heat transfer fluid (HTF) and lens neutralizers are the two solutions that come either way. When I choose the safer glycerin based HTFs, I know that they are not going to put toxic fumes into the air and they can be disposed of into most city sewer systems because they are basically products that are used in food. Similarly, lens neutralizers that are drain safe will cause less impact to the water system and not irritate skin and eyes. Ultra-violet treatments and lens dyes are usually vegetable-based concentrates that are safe for disposal down a sink drain.

A SWEET SCENT I like using one of those dye tank scents to keep the aroma in my lab pleasant and fresh. Even though the “natural scent” of glycerin-based heat transfer fluid is non-toxic, it does not exactly smell like a rose garden. The pleasant scent that I add creates a nicer environment in the lab and that’s worth the few cents it costs!


RECYCLED PACKAGING

Thankfully, the trash collection system in my area offers curbside recycling bins so I am able to send paper and plastic waste that I am not reusing to a local recycling facility. I have, however, made it a goal to reuse, wherever possible, the boxes, plastic ziplock bags, and polystyrene packaging that my frames, lenses, and supplies come in. I also have started to be more conscious about ordering supplies that come with less packaging, such as products that are available in bags rather than boxes and larger bottles of solutions, which cut down on the volume of physical waste.

One other way that we are working on reducing our paper waste is by changing to computerized “paperless” billing, ordering, and information dispersal. While I have found that it is nearly impossible to go 100% paperless, we have made huge strides in reducing the use of paper for information.

I may not be the poster child for being the “Green Lab of the Year,” but I do sleep well at night knowing that I have made a thoughtful effort. I hope my grandchildren will someday have grandkids of their own who will hopefully enjoy a planet that is as nice as the one where I live.

Michael Frandsen is the owner of Quality Performance Ophthalmic, Inc., a custom service optical laboratory in South Jordan, UT.

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