Optician Awards: Sustainable superheroes

Sustainable Practice Award, sponsored by CooperVision
Winner: Woodhouse Opticians

  • Pearce and Blackmore

Patients can see Woodhouse Optician’s eco-credentials as soon as they walk through the door. From its eco-artwork and environmentally conscious global brands to the reminders for recycling, this is an independent that strives daily to do more to help the environment.

The family-run practice, located in South Shore, Blackpool, was praised by the Optician Awards judging panel for providing ‘great detail on the importance of sustainability and its relevance to the future of the practice’, as well as ‘outlining the practical steps it had taken to avoid waste and save energy’.

‘It felt fantastic to win,’ says director Sukie Woodhouse, ‘not only because we have not entered any awards for many years, but also because this is a subject that defines and underlines all our working practice. That said, the very fact that there is now an award with this title in the industry is the biggest win of all.’

The awards night was ‘amazing’ and the food was ‘particularly good’, according to Woodhouse. ‘It was great to network and be with our peers,’ she adds.

Woodhouse believes that high street businesses have a duty to lead the way in protecting the environment. Not only does Woodhouse Opticians meet existing environmental laws and regulation, but it also endeavours to introduce techniques and approaches that position it at the forefront of the sector. Last year alone, the independent developed its first environment policy, set up an environmental management system, achieved internationally recognised environmental certification, ensured all staff were studying and achieving a ‘Level 2 Certificate in Understanding Sustainability’, expanded its list of environmentally conscious suppliers and launched a test campaign to reduce lens plastic going to waste.

All Woodhouse Opticians staff contributed to the practice’s Environment Policy, which patients can download from the practice website. The policy objectives include: continually monitoring and improving environmental performance and reducing environmental impacts, incorporating environmental factors into business decisions, and increasing employee awareness and training. To reduce its environmental impact, the practice set up an environmental management system and implemented immediate positive changes, including switching to low energy light bulbs, filling gaps through which heat escapes and installing a smart electricity meter to monitor usage and set reduction goals. It also switched to a greener energy supplier, environmentally friendly cleaning products and biodegradable refuse sacks.

The practice is part of Johnson & Johnson’s contact lens recycling programme, it recycles personal protective equipment through reworked.com, along with frames through Lions London, and offers patients 100% sustainable and pre-loved frame cases. Patient records have been transferred to the cloud and Woodhouse has transformed single-use plastic into expressive wall art. The practice even fills eco-bricks with plastic wrapping. ‘We plan to use them to build a retaining wall and seating in our back yard so we can plant some trees to encourage wildlife and provide a pleasant recreational area for staff in the summer,’ Woodhouse explains.

Social media is used to champion the environment. Each weekend the practice posts under #SustainabilitySaturday. Furthermore, the practice has achieved internationally recognised Green Mark certification to reassure customers that business is being conducted to high environmental standards. Woodhouse is one of Green Mark’s ‘heroes’. The practice also scored ‘Gold’ on the Association of British Dispensing Opticians sustainability self-assessment test.

Eco, Sea2See, Zeal Optics, Wolf and Stepper Eyewear are among the environmentally friendly brands stocked at the practice. Woodhouse Opticians has worked with Wolf Eyewear to trial whether removing lenses from frames and reducing unnecessary waste has any detrimental impact on customer choice. Woodhouse says, generally, suppliers are not keen on the idea, but describes Wolf as sustainable and forward-thinking.

‘Honestly, the feedback we get from patients is they haven’t even considered the plastic lenses and choose based on our recommendation and styles they like. No one notices,’ she says.

For other practices intending to become greener, Woodhouse advises doing ‘just one thing a month’. ‘Most definitely it is worth investing in some sort of programme, such as Green Mark, to keep you accountable and help set targets. Sustainability does not just mean recycling. Working towards being completely sustainable and carbon neutral is a long journey,’ she says.

This year, Woodhouse has launched several new schemes to track down more reliable local recycling waste companies and started reaching out to the wider Blackpool community to see what can be done to help improve the community. ‘The whole point of being sustainable is that we are mindful of this approach in everything we do. 2050 is not so far away. We cannot afford to be passive or fatalistic. Sustainable futures for our children really do have to start today, with us,’ she says.