Sustainability: a journey not a destination

As many of us look to make more environmentally-friendly and sustainable choices in our personal and professional lives, OT  finds out what developments are taking place in optometry

Green planet
Getty/Malte Mueller

A few weeks on from the UK recording its hottest day ever – with temperatures peaking at 40.2 degrees in London’s Heathrow – the warm, sticky air continues to surround us and the once green grass view from my study window has long turned to straw. The short bursts of rain and hail that were felt during the mid-July week when temperatures continued to soar daily have passed and millions of households now face hosepipe bans as another heatwave is tipped for the coming weeks.

There is no denying that the uncharacteristic and prolonged high temperatures have got us all thinking about climate change and the impact that our habits are having on the environment around us.

Over the last few months OT has been speaking to people from across the profession – from manufacturing to High Street practice – about the changes they have been making to reduce their carbon footprint and make their businesses more sustainable.

“It is a journey not a destination,” James Conway, CEO of Millmead, told me when we spoke over Zoom about the changes big and small that the company he heads up has been making over the last five to six years.

It is a journey that began with changing the light bulbs in the company’s Liverpool headquarters, to one that has extended to consolidated shipping methods, biodegradable demo lenses, recycled packaging, and the creation of case and frame collections made from recycled PET (to name a few). Conway is passionate about making sustainable changes and is clear that it is an ongoing process, with a number of larger, long-term goals, particularly when it comes to plastic waste, still to be achieved.

During Millmead’s journey to date, Conway says that the business has learnt the importance of always questioning itself, what it is doing and the decisions it is making.

This is something that can be transferred onto the High Street, as I learnt when speaking to optometrist and practice owner, Simon Berry. Berry’s sustainability journey began when he started to question where the frames his practice stocked came from – how they were made and what they were made from. This has now extended to other areas of his practice, from using a green energy supplier, being classified as being carbon neutral, installing new windows and using TerraCycle to recycle frames.

While Berry acknowledges that when his practice began to tread the path of its sustainability journey a number of years ago, it was not a conscious one. Today that has changed somewhat and he is always considering what he can do better next.

To practice owners considering making sustainable changes, he encourages them to simply start. “It doesn’t cost anything to start asking questions of manufactures,” he said.

OT is keen to hear from practitioners about the sustainability steps being embraced in practice, so please do get in touch to share your stories via our news desk email.

The content from our August/September Sustainability and optics edition, which lands in print next weekend (13 August), is already becoming available online. Be sure to visit our website regularly for the latest updates