Recently Green Seniors was contacted by a volunteer working with a local community council in New York, USA. She was looking for ideas for a "greening initiative" to educate the community about the importance of conservation and recycling. Greengranny replied immediately with ideas off the top of her head. Since these requests are fairly frequent, we decided to organize our thoughts and share a set of ideas with everyone.
Volunteers (of any age) who work with communities that include seniors, or paid staff who work with senior residential organizations of all kinds, this post is for you.
Have Fork Will Travel
Let's begin with a real-life example, Denise D'Anne, pictured above with her take-away plate that cost $1. She aptly titled the photo "Have Fork Will Travel" even though she rarely drives her car out of concern for the environment. Denise wrote in,
I am a senior and am on the Board of Directors of a Senior Organization. I see many areas in which seniors can help the planet for the benefit of their children and grandchildren. For instance, senior centers provide lunches for seniors and almost all use plastic and paper material. I use a covered take away plate and fork leaving no throwaway material.
Little things mean a lot especially when you times it times millions.
Denise didn't stop with her personal action, but actively helps others to change. She received an award for her environmental work that you can view here, along with her speech.
General Strategies for "Going Green" Actions
Don't underestimate your senior clients. Giving up the use of a disposable item here and there matters in the sense that it all matters--but when it comes to going green, be ambitious. Dream big dreams. If your senior group becomes determined to pursue a challenging goal, it will excite others in the community. It will be newsworthy. Before long, many additional people, and the resources they bring along, can be applied to the mission. The whole community can change for the better. (See How To... Build Communities on this website.)
For example, one of the most valuable disposable items in America is the aluminum beverage can. It takes the mining of ore plus a lot of energy to manufacture the can, and unlike many other "recycled" items, the returned cans actually are made into other products. However, one estimate said that half of all aluminum cans in the USA end up in landfills from which they are never reclaimed.
Now, your senior group could take actions on a number of levels. They could decide to stop buying beverages in aluminum cans. They could take steps to insure that any cans used by their group are turned in for recycling. Or they could choose to launch a campaign in their larger community to bring awareness of the wasted energy and resources from the use of aluminum beverage cans. The same strategic approach could apply to bottled water, an increasingly "hot" topic lately. Don't let your vision for change end at the boundaries of your senior group. Empower them to act more broadly, and they will reap the benefit while giving something of value to the larger community.
The List of Going-Green Actions For and By Seniors
The list of ideas is kept short on purpose to stimulate your own thinking. Please, use the Comment feature of the blog to send in your own ideas for going green activties, events, and campaigns by and for seniors.
1. Tackle the problems connected with one shared experience of the group, such as the communal meal. Brainstorm with the group, evaluate suggestions, bring recommendations to the attention of management, and work together to get changes made. With that mission accomplished, choose another goal that can be addressed with the same strategy, perhaps one that involves the larger community.
2. Hold an event that helps reuse items. The classic is the "rummage sale" as it was called when I was a child. In the Middle West it's called a garage sale. In the American West it's called a Swap Meet. But you can be more creative. One Senior Center group collected donations of jewelry for several months and cleaned and repaired the items. Then they held a publicized sale open to the community, with the items nicely displayed. Such activities not only help the senior center but they help minimize the purchase of new goods. Many venues are needed for passing items from those who no longer need them to those who do. Our culture needs to value vintage and second-hand items more than things that are new and trendy, and seniors are naturals at doing this.
3. Establish a group to look into energy usage including transportation. Does the senior organization provide bus transportation, and if so, it is fully utilized? Does electricity come from coal fired or natural gas power plants, and if it does, can greener energy be obtained? Are prudent energy conservation measures in place for the heating and cooling of the Senior Center building or residential facility? Residents can initiate an energy audit--these are usually provided at no cost by the local energy utility, or at least, directions for self-audits.
Remember, please comment with activities you have thought up or have tried.