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Retirement communities have many of the opportunities for efficiency provided by communal living; multi-unit buildings often have lower per-person heating and cooling costs, and close proximity and similar shopping needs means fewer trips necessary for more people. Real sustainability is going to take more than recycling what we consume. Re-using and re-purposing can be far more efficient in the long run. Look around your community, and you’ll probably find many opportunities to share and trade and keep things out of the landfill:

1. Toy and Games: do you have grandchildren visiting, on occasion? Do you need to keep a closet full of distractions, or would it be possible to share them with the entire community? Consider keeping toys and games in an area available for the whole community, so that they don’t need to be purchased by everyone.

2. Ride sharing: carpooling isn’t just for commuting to and from work. Try posting a sign-up sheet on your community bulletin board where residents can list the time and place of an errand they are taking and how many seats are free in their cars. If you do happen to be on the road during commuting hours, you may be eligible to use high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes in your area. Of course, public transportation may still be the most efficient option available.

3. Perpetual Swap Meet: one (at least) of Gray Is Green’s member communities has an area in which residents can put any household items they don’t need anymore, freely available for any other residents or staff that might need them. Depending on how much this is used, it can cut down on waste and save money throughout the community.

4. Up-cycling: this new term refers to creating new things out of other finished products. Artists and artisans have become very creative at using old materials in their work. On the Gray Is Green resource page, there are instructions on how to turn plastic shopping bags into yarn for crocheting.

Recently, swapping and sharing has moved onto the internet. Sites like Craigslist and Amazon have been helping people unload their un-needed merchandise for a while, but a new generation of websites are helping to share in more specific ways. Our friends at NRDC have put together and list of some of these newer websites and provided excellent reviews of their services. Check it out now…