Going Green as a Senior Living Community
Although the United States makes up only 5% of the world population, we rank among the highest of all nations in terms of waste production. The average American produces over 4 pounds of trash per day—the equivalent of 25 million tons of trash by our population over the course of a year. For scale, this is enough trash to reach the moon and back—25 times!
Knowing ways to reduce our carbon footprint and live sustainably starts in each of our homes and communities. According to the Pew Research Center, around 75% of Americans want to live sustainably, yet only “1 in 5 say they make an effort to live in ways that help protect the environment all the time.” Senior living communities can lead the way in going green—individuals aged 65 and older are 3 times more likely than younger generations to make ongoing eco-friendly lifestyle choices.
Want to make a positive impact? Here are some ideas to help get you started!
- Consider forming a group within your senior living facility dedicated to spreading awareness about environmental issues and researching ways to make the community more sustainable.
- Many people are unaware their local recycling center policies—have a community recycling night that provides helpful “how to” instructions on what is recyclable and what is not. Make recycling easy by setting up recycling bins in places next to trash cans with clear labels as to what can and cannot be recycled.
- Food waste is huge in America—if your local municipality does not already have a composting program in place, research a program for your community’s dining facilities. Families throw out 14 % to 25% of the food and beverages they purchase (that’s like throwing out $1300 to $2200 each year!) and most disposed food ends up in landfills. The landfill decomposing process causes methane—a greenhouse gas that is not good for our climate and atmosphere. Around 23% of our nation’s methane emission comes from food in our landfills.
- Spread awareness about how to responsibly sustain our water supply. Be mindful of how long you shower, use energy- and water-efficient appliances and don’t leave faucets running. Stay hydrated but stop drinking bottled water—plastic water bottles take over 1,000 years to biodegrade and U.S. landfills alone house over 2 million tons of discarded water bottles. Get creative within your community: provide access to reusable water bottles—they could even be specially designed for your community. Stock washable glasses and cups for community centers, and add fresh fruit to water jugs at events to encourage the use of reusable cups. Coffee stands should also be set up to encourage the use of reusable beverage holders, perhaps by providing mugs and a bus bin rather than Styrofoam cups.
- Energy use is a large contributor to greenhouse gases—reduce your impact in the following ways:
- Turn off the lights if you are not using them.
- Unplug unused electrical devices, even ones that are not technically “on”—these still use energy!
- Ask to replace incandescent lightbulbs with energy efficient alternatives.
- Don’t leave the television on as “background noise” if you are not watching it.
- Use old maps, newspapers or paper bags as gift wrap for birthdays and holidays.
- Use reusable cloth bags instead of paper or plastic when grocery shopping.
- Plan your meals a week at a time to help cut down on food—and money!—waste.
- Reuse and repurpose “disposable items” such as plastic sandwich bags, cups and food containers.
There are many ways to help the environment. Once we form good habits and pass it along to others, we can begin to make an impact.