Contact Lenses

Sustainability is a Contact Lens Practice Differentiator

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By Katie Greiner, OD, MS, MBA, FAAO

Sept. 25, 2019

When I was just out of optometry school and serving a residency 11 years ago, I first started to hear it: When I recommended daily disposable contact lenses as the best option with many ocular health and convenience benefits, my patients hesitated and asked: “Well, what about all this packaging and waste?”

Today, I hear that concern all the time: “Wait a minute, I’m throwing away 365 lenses a year times two? That’s a lot.” I’ve even had patients say, “I’d rather have LASIK than deal with all of that contact lens stuff.” Others say they would choose rigid lenses over soft lenses to lessen waste.

I have a proactive message that turns these legitimate patient concerns into a pro-environmental differentiator. “I am prescribing a lens that is manufactured in an environmentally sustainable manner, and I’m going to show you how the lenses and packaging are easily recycled.”

I work in a busy MD-OD practice with three locations in northeast Ohio. I fit a great many contact lenses and specialty lenses, and I am a major daily lens advocate. This is especially true for the many children I fit in contact lenses. I explain that a daily disposable lens is the healthiest way to wear soft contact lenses. My go-to lens is clariti® 1 day, which offers all-day comfort1, convenience and are a silicone hydrogel material for high oxygen delivery.2

Now there is an additional message: We all can be responsible by recycling the packaging of these lenses, as well as the lenses themselves. It’s simple and easy.

That resonates with our patient base. We are in an environmentally aware community, with one of our offices practically across the street from Kent State University. Education about recycling begins in pre-school and kindergarten. My kids are 3 and 5, and we read books and sing songs about recycling.

Show Recycling From the Start
When I conduct a contact lens exam fitting, I open a trial lens–in fact, I often open a number of lens packs–and from the very start I show how the lenses and packaging are recycled. It’s baked into my presentation, and our contact lens technicians are trained to communicate our common message: “The lenses and packaging all are recycled, and here’s how we do it.”

We have a large contact lens recycling bin in our waiting room and smaller mini-bins around the office. In addition, we provide contact lens patients with small containers to take home and bring back to our office at their convenience for us to recycle the contact lens waste for them.

This message goes beyond contact lenses. We encourage recycling of all plastic and glass bottles. We put lids and labels on all trash receptacles to separate recycling from waste. Also, our staff is trained to say to a patient: “Oh, let me take that empty soda bottle and recycle it for you.” At our coffee station, we eliminated plastic stirrers in favor of wooden ones. We walk the walk.

Overcoming Objections
My role as a clinician is to prescribe what I determine is the best option for my patients–and to help patients succeed in that choice. By prescribing clariti® 1 day, I know my patients get a comfortable and breathable lens, one they will replace daily, all at a good price point.

When I first prescribed daily disposables, I got two push-backs: excess packaging and cost. CooperVision provides clariti® 1 day at an affordable price point, so prescribing this option is not an expensive step-up for my patients. This is great news for first-time wearers, two-week and monthly wearers that I try to move to daily disposables, and for families.

Some families have three or four kids in contact lenses, and both packaging and cost can add up. Here, I utilize CooperVision’s LensFerry that allows payments to be spaced out monthly, and where lenses are shipped at three, six or 12 months. This makes a yearly exam almost automatic. It’s a win-win for our families and our practice.

Tell the Sustainability Story
We have a great story to tell with clariti® 1 day, one that meshes with our overall commitment to wellness. I tell patients about a recent trip I made to the CooperVision clariti® 1 day plant in a high-tech free trade zone in Costa Rica. “I’ve seen how these lenses are made, how waste is minimized in the clean-room production lines, how virtually all excess materials are recycled into traffic cones or park benches. Even rainwater is collected and used in the toilet system. The whole country of Costa Rica is environmentally conscious, with 98 percent of their energy coming from renewable sources.”

A friend texted me recently, saying she saw how she can get contact lenses cheaper online, can I help her?

“I don’t know how those lenses are made, and I don’t fit them in my office,” I told her. “The lenses I recommend, I recommend with confidence because I’ve seen their clinical performance, and I’ve seen how they are made in a sustainable manner.”

Today our patients, like so many consumers, are changing behavior to conserve our planet, and being part of that is a powerful practice differentiator.

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