"Go green, watch your carbon footprint, save the planet, and recycle"—I just can't take it anymore. I secretly wonder how many of those who spend their time and effort recycling like crazy find their business slowly slipping below the surface of the tumultuous ocean we call the business world?
Is there any room to embrace the "go green" mentality within the O&P community? For the most part, owners are just like me—small business owners trying to eek out a modest living as we fight ever-shrinking fee schedules. Recycling ranks almost dead last on my list of priorities.
Case in point: Every Saturday morning in my trendy suburban neighborhood, my cozy little street is festooned with brightly color-coded recycling bins. And then there's me—the recalcitrant hold-out.
As my eco-friendly neighbors decorate their front yard with recycling accoutrements, the only tell-tale sign of recycling in front of this O&P facility owner's house is three to four days of soggy unread newspapers littering the driveway. And, sin of all sins, every few days I toss these unread papers into a trash bag to further crowd our landfills.
What's a closed-minded, crotchety old O&P business owner to do? Don't get me wrong—I'm all for doing what I can to leave a little piece of the planet for my children, but I'd also like to leave them a little inheritance as well. I recently discovered a solution that would enable me to help the environment without feeling as if I had been sucked in by all the do-gooders and their doomsday prophecies. I discovered that not only do we in the O&P industry have a unique opportunity to help save the environment, but we also have within our grasp the opportunity to change people's lives for the better.
Here's how I stumbled upon my method of recycling the O&P way. Several years ago, I pondered what to do with the ever-present piles of used limbs and various old componentry that were collecting dust and cluttering up my fabrication shop. The piles of components grew like weeds in my fab-shop garden, but for some reason I couldn't bring myself to throw away what had once been so valuable to their previous owners.
The solution? Kill two birds with one stone. Eliminate my old junk and offer hope to deserving amputees at the same time. The old limbs that were once littering my facility were recycled via the charity Limbs of Love and used to give deserving amputees a new lease on life. Our charity, Limbs of Love, is one of many that provide artificial limbs to amputees who do not have the resources to pay for a prosthetic device.
In its infancy, Limbs of Love was confronted with a challenge, as the cost of providing limbs free of charge grew quickly and our financial resources dwindled. Then it hit me: the piles of old limbs cluttering up my fabrication shop could be given a second life and significantly reduce the cost of providing prosthetic devices, freeing up valuable funds to help even more amputees in need.
And talk about making an impact—just like an empty aluminum can is recycled and recreated as a new product, used limbs can be born again as a prosthetic device for an amputee who would have otherwise gone without, giving them a new lease on life.
I learned by necessity that "one man's trash is another man's treasure" when the piles of used limbs began to shrink as amputees who had once resigned themselves to sedentary lifestyles were delivered the gift of slightly used components that they so desperately needed.
How can you join the ranks of your trendy recycling neighbors and do the same? The Amputee Coalition of America (ACA) offers a listing of charitable organizations like Limbs of Love that accept donations of used limbs and componentry. Most of these charities provide donors with a receipt, which later can be used to get a tax deduction.
When your patients see that your facility gives back to the amputee population, the giving spirit becomes contagious as patients and their families want to help you in your efforts to help less fortunate patients.
So even though you may not be as trendy as your environmentally conscious neighbors who sort paper, plastic, and glass into multicolored bins, you can still do your part. You can recycle in your own unique way for a cause that we should all be passionate about—giving back to the amputee community, from whom we humbly make our living.
Joe Sansone, is president of TMC Orthopedic, Houston, Texas.
For a list of charities that recycle prosthetic limbs, visit www.amputee-coalition.org/fact_sheets/pros_limb_donations.html