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Going Green: How Downsizing and Moving Into Senior Living Benefits the Earth

You might have read a number of articles explaining how retirement communities are great for your physical and emotional health. And you may have come across all kinds of blogs that outline the many ways downsizing to a smaller living space can make your life less stressful and reduce your overall living expenses.

But have you ever heard that living in a retirement community can be environmentally friendly? Or that downsizing can actually reduce your carbon footprint? 

It’s true: By choosing cohousing — a community environment with both private and shared spaces, like that found in a senior living community — you could be making a positive contribution to a more sustainable environment.

What cohousing is

Cohousing is actually a Danish term that originated in the 1960s to describe an intentional community of private residences clustered around shared spaces like dining and recreational areas. It was initiated by several families who were dissatisfied with existing housing and communities that they felt didn’t meet their needs.

Each household would have independent incomes and private lives, but neighbors would participate in community activities, come together for meals, share transportation or carpool, and gather for parties, games, movies or other events. The idea is that cohousing would facilitate interaction among neighbors, ultimately providing social, practical and environmental benefits.

All of this certainly sounds a lot like a retirement community.

So how does a model for family living that began in Denmark nearly 60 years ago have any relevance to American retirement living and sustainability in the 21st century? As it turns out, cohousing may be even more relevant today. Take a look at these four ways living in a retirement community can help you reduce your overall carbon footprint and enjoy a more eco-friendly lifestyle:

Environmentally friendly living at a retirement community

Moving boxes for downsizing

1. Downsizing. Almost every older adult will consider downsizing their current living space to a smaller footprint. There are lots of upsides to a downsize — but one you may not have thought about is, you’re contributing to a lower carbon footprint. 

When you downsize your furniture, home furnishings, appliances, lawn equipment and clothing, you’re contributing to the sharing economy, which is very important to the downsizing movement. You’re preventing those items from ending up in a landfill or contributing to environmental waste by allowing the item to have a second or third life. And people who would rather buy your used item that’s already available instead of consuming a brand-new item that uses up raw materials are making a conscious decision not to contribute to further waste.

2. Reducing or rethinking your transportation. If you move into a retirement community, you may not need your car as much — in some cases, you may not need it at all. Nearly every retirement community offers its older residents some type of organized group transportation to go shopping, out to eat and on day and weekend trips. This means you could reduce your gas consumption and overall vehicle emissions. And for every mile you don’t drive, you save one pound of carbon from being released into the environment. If you choose to sell your car, you’re also contributing to the sharing economy, which we talked about in the previous point.

Something else to consider: You may find yourself walking or riding a bike to get around, simply because it’s easier and faster when you’re trying to get from one part of your senior living community to another. And both walking and bike-riding are not only good for you physically and mentally — they also help reduce your carbon footprint. To see how much you could reduce, use this handy carbon footprint calculator.

3. Reducing your food waste. Here’s a sobering statistic: An estimated one-third of all food produced in the world goes to waste, enough calories to feed every undernourished person on the planet. And this is both a humanitarian and an environmental issue: In the U.S. alone, the production of lost or wasted food generates the equivalent of 32.6 million cars’ worth of greenhouse gas emissions. And if food goes to the landfill and rots, it produces methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide.

Some retirement communities — like those offered by The Ridge Senior Living — are beginning to practice culinary sustainability, protecting resources so that food sources remain available for generations to come. Generally, sustainable practices involve efforts like reducing the carbon footprint (whether directly or through the products used), supporting local growers with farm-to-table menu options, reducing food waste and using organic ingredients.

At The Ridge’s three communities, the culinary and leadership teams’ passion for sustainable dining led them to create a sustainability scorecard to hold themselves accountable to the standards they know matter most to their residents. For example, the communities use locally sourced food, along with hormone-free eggs and milk.

At The Ridge Pinehurst in particular, uneaten food scraps don’t go into the landfill. Instead, those morsels are collected after meals to be made into dog biscuits, which the community then provides for residents’ dogs and donates to local animal shelters.

Solar panels for sustainable energy

4. Using renewable energy and reducing energy usage in practical ways. A number of senior living communities are moving away from traditional fossil fuel-sourced energy toward renewable energy. Solar energy is a perfect example of how green energy is becoming more accessible, affordable and efficient. At The Ridge Foothill in Salt Lake City, for example, we use solar-generated power across our campus for a greener footprint.

Our communities also recognize that reducing energy usage can contribute to creating a more ecologically friendly living environment. Our maintenance crew properly maintains all HVAC systems in community buildings and in residents’ apartments to improve performance and reduce energy consumption.

Get to know all the advantages of living at The Ridge.

If you’re an older adult interested in living more sustainably and reducing your carbon footprint, The Ridge Senior Living is a great place to start. We’re committed to creating senior living communities that help you flourish today, and contribute to a better tomorrow for everyone. Learn how you can enjoy a greener, more fulfilling lifestyle — and it starts with a friendly conversation with our helpful people at The Ridge.

Seniors having coffee together

Looking to make the most of your retirement years? The Ridge Senior Living can help. From a wide variety of life enrichment activities to meeting new people, we’re committed to creating senior living communities that help you flourish in retirement. Every Ridge Senior Living community is designed to reflect the best of the local surroundings. To discover how you can enjoy a more fulfilling lifestyle, contact our team today.