Beaconsfield Dental has won multiple awards for their industry-leading commitment to sustainability, but principals Dr Robert Panjkov and his wife Lisa are not stopping their quest to create a fully self-sufficient, off-grid practice. By Shane Conroy
Dr Robert Panjkov is a man of seemingly endless energy. He founded Beaconsfield Dental with his wife Lisa Panjkov more than 25 years ago and built it into a highly successful practice that today employs a busy team of six dentists. He recently moved the multiple-award-winning practice into a brand new state-of-the-art building and filled it with cutting-edge technology.
He and his team also visit local schools and kindergartens to promote good dental health. The new building has been thoughtfully designed with wheelchair access, a low front desk, wide corridors, and signs in braille. For the hearing impaired, dentists’ conversations are automatically transcribed and displayed to patients in text on TV monitors.
You’d think this would be enough to qualify the Panjkovs and their team for dental sainthood. But they’re far from done—they also want to save the planet.
“I think we all want to leave the planet in the best possible shape for the next generation, and businesses can play a major part in that,” says Dr Panjkov. “And with benefits like a significant reduction in energy bills, creating a sustainable practice is really a win-win. It’s good for the environment, and good for the practice.”
The Panjkovs have already had 126 solar panels installed on the new building that are capable of generating up to 200 kWh in one day. The practice also features energy-efficient double glazing, full insulation, solar hot water, LED lighting and seven rainwater tanks that supply the practice’s toilets and garden. Speaking of the garden, it is entirely indigenous and boasts six onsite compost bins. The practice even had a Tesla electric car charger installed in the parking area.
Such a long list of sustainability innovations leaves little wonder why Beaconsfield Dental won the Casey Cardinia Business Award for Sustainability and the Environment in 2015, 2016 and 2017, and the Premier’s Sustainability Award in 2018.
Creating an action plan for a sustainable dental practice
The Panjkovs commitment to building a sustainable practice also extends to every aspect of day-to-day practice management.
“Creating a sustainable practice really requires a strong commitment from our whole staff,” says Dr Panjkov. “How we deal with waste and behaviours as simple as turning off lights and equipment when they are not in use can be just as impactful as larger solutions like having solar panels installed.”
“I think we all want to leave the planet in the best possible shape for the next generation, and businesses can play a major part in that.”
Dr Robert Panjkov, owner, Beaconsfield Dental
But Dr Panjkov is quick to point out that sustainable practices don’t happen by accident. He says practice owners need to communicate their sustainability goals to their employees and encourage all team members to buy into the mission.“Then you need to formalise the sustainability processes you expect your staff to adhere to, ensure they have access to the document, and provide training where necessary.”
As part of its formal Environmental Policy, Beaconsfield Dental has a 12-point staff directive that sets out exactly how employees can support the sustainability of the practice.
For example, energy-hungry thermal disinfectors consume significant amounts of energy, so employees are reminded to never turn them on unless they are full of instruments and autoclaves are put on timers to ensure they run during off-peak periods.
Staff are also instructed to source biodegradable products including patient cups, suction tips and cleaning products wherever possible, and the practice has a thorough recycling policy in place that governs the proper disposal of everything from shredded paper to printer cartridges.
A particular point of pride for the Panjkovs is the practice’s large garden. It is filled with drought-tolerant plants that are indigenous to the local area. Beaconsfield Dental has also recently added a vegetable garden to promote sustainability and healthy eating, and Dr Panjkov has recently sourced native and indigenous edible plants for the garden beds and vegetable patch.
A drip sprinkler system connected to the practice’s tanks conserves water, and employees are actively encouraged to assist with the maintenance of the garden.
“Sustainability is also about conservation and preservation, so we’ve decorated the practice with photos of some of the plants to “bring attention to the importance of indigenous flora”, says Dr Panjkov. “There are also paintings of Victoria’s Leadbeater’s possum, the Pink Heath, the Helmeted Honeyeater, weedy sea dragon and the Baw Baw frog on the water tanks. The first four are Victoria’s floral and faunal emblems and the Baw Baw frog is only found in Victoria. We believe that active promotion of these emblems is vital to their preservation.”
They have done so much already but the Panjkovs believe that there is still more that they can do. “Our ultimate goal is to become a completely self-sufficient, off-grid practice,” says Dr Panjkov. “We have a plan to increase the number of solar panels and water tanks at the practice, and we have plenty of room to store back-up batteries.
“Sustainability is really important to everyone at the practice. I’d love other dentists to know that creating a sustainable practice is possible. It makes excellent environmental and business sense.”