Ah, Spring! The time of year when we welcome back the birds, the flowers and the warm sunshine. And as the grass and trees outside each Sunshine Retirement community become greener, the thoughts of the residents inside also become greener – in terms of being more considerate toward our environment.
For the entire month of April, all Sunshine communities are celebrating our 4th Annual Go Green Give Back program, where every resident is given incentives and useful tips to help them practice sustainable, earth-friendly habits. Each resident has received a flyer listing numerous ways to reduce, reuse, recycle and give back.
They’ve also received a "Pledge to Go Green" card, which includes green footprints, that represent those four categories (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Give Back). When residents do something beneficial in one of the four categories – like carpooling, shopping with reusable bags, and properly disposing of used batteries and light bulbs – they get their card punched. When all four footprints are punched, they will be recognized and awarded a green prize.
It’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of Earth Day/Earth Month happenings. Many communities have been organizing activities like art & craft programs with recycled materials, garage/rummage sales, workshops to eliminate junk mail, planting projects, eye-glass donation drives and “dark hours” when all electronic devices are turned off.
For example, on April 4, The Clairmont in Austin, Texas, hosted Cub Scouts Troop 159 for their first-ever Garden Plant & Play. Together they planted seedlings and flowers, and then rewarded themselves by playing games.
At Summerfield Estates in Tigard, Oregon, they planted an organic herb garden and began composting on April 5. This week, they also started having weekly Garden Gatherings where they will discuss sustainable practices on Tuesdays throughout the summer. Then, to top it off on April 26, Executive Chef Robert Parker will be doing his Farm-to-Table Cooking Demo, featuring a Corn Panna Cotta w/ Salted Dulce De Leche, all created with products from local farm stands.
On April 17, Fountain Crest in Lehigh Acres, Florida will celebrate the re-opening of their beautiful butterfly garden with an Earth Day Workshop. Residents will learn how to start their own butterfly garden complete with a personalized terracotta pot with milkweed seeds.
The following day, Carriage House at The Verandah in Lake Charles, Louisiana will kick off their Recycled T-shirt Bag Project, a creative way to turn outgrown or unwanted T-shirts into colorful and handy tote bags.
“I chose to use this idea because it falls under the ‘Reuse’ category of our Go Green Event,” said Merry Beth Grant's, Life Enhancement Director at Carriage House. “I ask each resident to bring in their own shirt for the project. The great thing is, it only takes one shirt to make the bag and it doesn’t require any sewing at all. The residents can use the tote bag to carry their crochet or knitting materials, or it can handle light-weight groceries.”
Finally, every Monday this month, Waterford Terrace in La Mesa, California is working on their own “Reuse” project that they call “In Stitches.” They’ll collect thousands of used plastic grocery store bags and recycle them into sleeping mats for the homeless. The bags are cut and made into plarn, a strong yet foamy substance. Then residents use a crochet needle to weave it into a mat. It requires over 2,000 small bags to create a seven-foot mat and takes a person about 40 hours to complete one mat.
“Residents participate because they enjoy giving back to the community,” says Muzit Sebhatlab, Life Enhancement Director at Waterford Terrace. “Additionally, it’s a very easy and fun project for those who enjoyed knitting and crocheting but are unable to do so due to physical limitation.”
At the end of this month, the mats, as well as toiletry/personal hygiene bags and sandwiches, will be donated to the Newbreak East County Church, who will be responsible for distributing them to the homeless.
“Even though many grocery stores are charging for plastic bags or not offering them at all, more than a trillion of them are used and discarded worldwide every year,” claims Sebhatlab. “Considering that it takes about 300 years for each of those bags to biodegrade, our residents are very happy to do their part in keeping a significant number of them out of our landfills. And knowing that their mats will be helping those in need too, it further demonstrates that going green and giving back at Sunshine is a win/win for all of us on this little planet.”
No wonder Mother Earth always likes us best.
*This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, April, 2018.