senior couple potting plant outside

The younger generation has the energy to spearhead eco-friendly movements, buy carefully selected eco-friendly products and food, and speak out about environmentally friendly corporations they support. Seniors who rely on others for help, or who live in assisted living facilities, may not have that freedom.

If you’re finding it harder to maintain your eco-friendly habits as you age, here are some suggestions to help.

Creating Systems for Eco-Friendly Habits

Any of us can get overwhelmed by the many aspects of living in a responsible, sustainable, and environmentally friendly manner.

Make your changes manageable. Start with one action that you can handle, and create a system for it. Once that’s established into your routine, you might find you’re ready to take on another. And another.

Contribute Your Kitchen Scraps to a Friend

If you can no longer manage the physical tasks of maintaining a compost pile, you don’t have to throw your food scraps in the garbage. If your city doesn’t pick up compostable food and yard waste, ask your gardening friends if they would like your compostable food scraps.

When you find somebody, create a system that makes it easy for them to pick up your compost scraps. For example, place your food scraps in an old yogurt container or other reusable container with a tight lid and establish a weekly or monthly pickup. Put the containers in the freezer if it’s a while between pickups and you won’t be bothered by the smell.

And don’t be afraid to ask if they’ll share some of the delicious veggies your compost helped grow!

Stay on Top of Your Recycling Game

Whether you’re living at home or in a senior community, it is likely that your local waste management offers some recycling service.

Recycling rules have been changing recently, so it’s a good idea to confirm what your local recycling service will accept and how to sort materials properly. For instance, some cities require glass to be placed in a separate container from all other recyclables. These tips will help you create a daily recycling routine in line with your city’s requirements.

Donate Packing Materials

When you get packages in the mail, save the packing materials, including packing peanuts, paper, bubble wrap, and other materials for reuse or recycling. Most UPS Store outlets and independently-operated shipping stores accept clean packaging materials to reuse.

If your mobility is limited and/or you don’t drive, call a local shipping store to find out if they will pick up the packaging.

If you live in a senior community, ask the other residents to save their packing materials to provide the store with as much clean, reusable material as possible. You’ll feel great getting others on board.

Start a Small Indoor Garden

If you love gardening but find an outside garden harder to manage, or if you live in a senior community that doesn’t have a community garden, create one in your living space. Start with a small herb garden that takes up only a small portion of space. Plant the herbs you love most like basil, oregano, cilantro, and even chives. If you don’t cook your own meals, you’ll at least be able to season the meals you get.

You can grow other produce in container gardens as well. Grow vegetables and fruit that do well indoors like microgreens, green onions, tomatoes, strawberries, and spinach.

And it you do live in a senior community, it doesn’t hurt to ask the facility director if you could start a small community garden for everyone to share.

Choosing an Eco-Friendly Community

Are you considering moving to a senior living community where you can get assistance? Living an eco-friendly life in an assisted living facility is easier when you live in an eco-friendly city, the building was crafted with eco-friendly infrastructure, the management supports sustainability efforts, and the community residents are of like mind. Eco-friendly senior communities are in growing demand, so it’s good to plan ahead — there may be a waiting list.

A quick way to investigate potential locations is to look for a community’s eco-friendly score in the AARP’s Livability Index. You can look up any neighborhood to discover the availability of public transportation, clean air and water ratings, and how that neighborhood prioritizes the environment through policy.

Find an Eco-Friendly Facility

Finding a senior living community with a physical structure built to eco-friendly standards isn’t hard. Senior living developers have been obtaining LEED certification for their communities for over a decade by using regionally-sourced materials, low-VOC paint and carpet, energy-efficient HVAC systems, and recycling and material reuse programs.

To find a community built to high standards, call around and ask each living center if they’re LEED certified. If you can’t find a LEED-certified building, you still have the opportunity to find a community of like-minded people.

Learn About Community Members & Practices

The backbone of a positive environment is a caring staff and management team. When evaluating assisted living communities, look for indications that the management is involved in the betterment of the community. Ask plenty of questions while touring the facilities, including questions about community members and activities.

Ask about the facility’s recycling practices, and whether they compost food waste. Is there a garden area for residents who want to grow fresh produce or just spend time outside? Other questions you might want to consider:

  • Does housekeeping use nontoxic cleaners?
  • Does the facility run on renewable energy sources, if available?
  • Do the apartments have EnergyStar appliances?
  • Do the groundskeepers use herbicides, pesticides, and gas-powered lawn equipment?
  • Is there low-maintenance or natural landscaping that doesn’t require a lot of water, chemicals, and noisy equipment to maintain?

Talk to the residents. Ask them about things that matter to you in community living. You might even ask them about their eco-friendly habits. You’ll get a better idea of who you’d be living with by connecting with people personally.

Adopting Eco-Friendly Habits: Never Too Late

Whether you’ve been living a sustainable lifestyle or not, you’re never too old to start. Every effort toward preserving the environment counts. Do what you’re able to do, and your actions will help inspire others around you.


By Jenna Cyprus

Jenna is a freelance writer and business consultant who covers business, technology and entrepreneurship. She's lectured for several universities and worked with more than 100 businesses over the course of the past 15 years. She's a mother of two kids, and loves to go camping, hiking and skiing with her family.