The retirement years are a great time for seniors to develop, continue with, or expand their eco-friendly habits. Caring for our planet is not only good for the soul and the environment; it can have a positive effect on the finances too.
A few simple ways to start going green
There are several simple ways that seniors can start to change their daily lifestyle habits and go green. Use compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs in light fixtures and lamps; these use 75% less energy and last up to ten times longer than standard light bulbs. Turn the lights off in rooms that are unoccupied, and switch appliances off by unplugging them instead of leaving them on standby. Turning the thermostat down a few degrees will save both energy and money, as will installing separate thermostats in rooms that are rarely used and setting them lower than the rest of the house.
Hand soaps that contain the chemical ingredients triclosan and triclocarban have been found to keep a person no cleaner than soaps without them, so opt for cleansing products that contain more natural ingredients. PVC shower curtains also release unpleasant chemicals into the atmosphere, so swap these out for bamboo or cloth curtains if possible. Install water-saving showerheads and faucets throughout the home, and periodically check for leaks.
Seniors who are avid gardeners can look in their own kitchen cabinets to find natural products that are effective weed killers; for example, mixing vinegar and dishwashing liquid yields a very effective, environmentally friendly alternative to harsh weed-killing chemicals. Speaking of dishwashing liquid, recent studies have shown that dishwashers are actually more efficient and environmentally friendly in that they use less water and soap than washing dishes by hand; just ensure the dishwasher is fully loaded each time you use it.
Cooking and food
When it comes to cooking, it seems that the old-fashioned ways are the best. Modern, nonstick pots and pans employ chemicals known as fluoropolymers, which are released and contaminate the air during cooking, and which have also proven to be carcinogenic. Opt for heavy cast-iron skillets instead, as they have a natural nonstick property.
Freezers that are only half-full have to work harder to keep the food in them frozen, so go shopping and fill the freezer up. Stocking up on food will not only help the environment but may also help to cut down on food bills and reduce the number of trips one has to make to the supermarket. When paying a visit to the supermarket, invest in reusable bags and be sure to leave them in the trunk of the car for the next visit. Even better than driving to the big stores, embrace the local community and when possible shop for food that has been locally sourced. A local farmers’ market is always an excellent option; not only will fruits and vegetables usually be less expensive, but the produce will also be fresher and in most cases taste better.
A bigger lifestyle change can be to ensure that the home is fully insulated. A great deal of energy and heat can be lost through gaps in doors and windows, as well as through basement and attic spaces. Ensuring adequate insulation can be a large financial outlay, however, so it may be worth moving to a place that has already been fully insulated, thereby saving money and energy consumption in the long term. Downsizing may also be a good option if the children have left and you have more house room than you need – or can keep up with on a regular basis. A small house or condo will usually be more cost effective, and far less work to maintain.
Many modern senior retirement communities are embracing an environmentally friendly attitude not only with effective building insulation, but also with other green heating and cooling methods, making it easier for seniors to go green in their retirement years. Some senior living communities also utilize permeable asphalts and native grasses to create insect-friendly outside spaces that will benefit the environment.
If you decide to move to such a community – or simply downsize from a larger home to a smaller one – do not throw away unwanted items that will only end up in landfill sites, but donate them to charities instead. If the items are worth money, offer them for sale on the Internet or have a garage or yard sale. You could also consider ‘freecycling’ them – offering them to people free of charge who are prepared to come and pick the items up.
There are plenty of ways that seniors can help the environment, often by making only simple changes to their day-to-day lives. These changes often have an added benefit of putting money back into their pockets; so green living becomes a win-win way of life.