9 Ways to Create a Greener Assisted Living Home
Eco-friendly assisted living communities can be hard to get into and harder to afford. Most assisted living homes that market themselves as being eco-friendly meet the stringent requirements of LEED certification, which is hard to pull off. But green living exists on a spectrum.
If you care about green living and want to help your assisted living facility move in the right direction toward greater sustainability, here are nine things you can work on to make that happen.
- Put together a green committee.
Becoming a greener assisted living facility will work best if multiple people are involved and on board. See if you can find a mix of people who are interested in working with you to make your assisted living home greener.
The committee should include staff, residents, and maybe even family members of residents. Having more people involved means more minds to brainstorm methods you can take to make the facility more environmentally friendly. And the more people you have on board, the better a case you have for making the investments – both financial and in terms of labor – required to realize your ambitions.
- Build a garden.
A garden brings a number of immediate benefits to an assisted living facility. Gardening can get residents outside, doing something healthy and active together each day. Research has specifically shown that gardening is good for dementia patients. And, as relates to the larger goal of going green, growing some of your own food is great for the environment.
Hopefully the menu at your assisted living facility already included plenty of fruits and vegetables, but with a garden you can add in vegetables you know are as fresh and local as possible. And over time, the homegrown food will cut into the facility’s food costs, so you can make up the costs of building the garden in your savings.
To recap, a garden is good for the health of your residents, good for the facility’s long-term budget, and good for the environment.
- Encourage staff and residents to recycle.
A growing number of cities throughout the U.S. now provide recycling pickup, but even in places where that’s not an option yet, you can work to encourage more recycling at your assisted living home.
Make it easy for residents by adding recycling bins next to trash bins, clearly labeling them, and educating them in what items can be recycled. You may need to either find a volunteer in the community or enlist a staff member to collect the recycling and drop it off at the closest recycling center, but if you can find someone enthusiastic about green issues, then they may not mind making the trip.
- Replace old and failing appliances with Energy Star rated ones.
Replacing all of the facility’s appliances at once would be extremely expensive, but you can make the decision that all new appliances installed to replace old, failing ones must be Energy Star certified. In addition to helping you meet your green goals, it will also save the assisted living home money on energy costs each month.
- Install energy-saving tools.
You can find a lot of products available that help you save on energy use. One of the easiest, most obvious moves you can make is to replace all your old light bulbs with newer ones that are more efficient.
Many utility companies will provide energy saving tools that help you track your usage to better understand where you can make cuts. Talk to your electricity provider and consider setting up an energy audit of the facility to see what options are available to you. Some will likely be pretty cheap to implement, even as they quickly offer monthly savings. Others might be more of an investment, but still worth taking into consideration.
- Install water-saving tools.
You can also find a number of tools specifically designed for reducing water waste. Low-flow toilets are functional without using as much water as conventional toilets. High efficiency showerheads allow residents to enjoy their showers without worrying as much about their water use.
As with energy-saving tools, talking to your utilities company or looking into a water audit can open your eyes to different options you can implement to reduce your facility’s water use.
- Consider solar panels.
This is one of the most expensive suggestions on the list and, as such, might not be within reach for a lot of assisted living facilities. Nonetheless, it’s worth at least doing the research to see if you can pull it off.
A lot of cities provide rebates for solar panel installation. In addition to saving money on your energy costs each month, many energy companies will go so far as to pay you if your panels generate more energy than your facility uses. Depending on the particulars in your area, the upfront cost may pay off faster than you think, so don’t discount the idea before doing some research.
- Replace current landscaping with local plants.
If you’re working to keep plants alive that aren’t native to your area, you’re probably wasting water and resources, particularly if your facility is located in a geographic area that’s prone to drought. Re-design your landscaping so that non-local plants are switched out for native, drought-resistant (if relevant) plants. You might even look into xeriscaping some of the area.
You should be able to find local professional landscapers can that provide advice on the best plants for the area and how to re-design the space affordably for the most sustainable results.
- Buy organic and local produce.
In addition to growing food in your own garden, seek to buy primarily local and organic produce for the assisted living home’s cafeteria. You might not be able to easily reach the point of only using 100% local and organic produce, but you can at least take steps to increase the proportion of food you serve that meets those standards.
While helping you in your quest to become a greener assisted living facility, it will also mean tastier, healthier food for your residents.
Don’t sit on the sidelines wishing you could figure out how to do more for the environment. Take the initiative to turn your assisted living facility into a place taking active steps to become more environmentally friendly. Seniors may not have as much time left on this earth as the younger generations, but you still have plenty of reason to help improve the circumstances for all the kids and grandkids that will be around for many years to come.