Residents go green at local retirement community


At Goodwin House Baileys Crossroads, a nonprofit retirement community, a dynamic group of seven residents “known as the Green Team” is helping to make their home more environmentally friendly.  

While environmentalism in local communities has been widely publicized in recent yearsand especially in recent monthslittle has been discussed about earth-friendly efforts taking place at retirement communities.   

In the media, we learn about green initiatives in our childrens schools.  We hear about green buildings being constructed with grassy rooftops and bamboo floors. We may have friends who drive green cars.  And we may even be asking ourselves whether to choose paper or plastic bags at the check-out line of our grocery store.   

But how often do we hear about eco-friendly initiatives at retirement communities?   

Recently, the Goodwin House Baileys Crossroads Green Team set up shop in the lobby of their community to sell energy-saving, compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs).  These bulbs, equivalent to 60 watts and 100 watts, last up to ten times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs and provide soft white light, while using 66% less energy (electricity).  CFLs also produce 70% less heat, which means they can save air-conditioning, which also requires electricity.  When we had our first sale here on campus, we sold out in 30 minutes, said Betty Allan, a Green Team member.  The demand far exceeded the supply, she added.  By the end of a second sale and delivery of orders, a total of 211 CFLs were sold to residents and staff.   

Additionally, the Green Team gave the nine residential trash rooms on campus a face-lift.  Patrick Burns, a staff member, first repainted the trash rooms.  Then, after having researched recycling guidelines for Fairfax County, the Team distributed illustrated, user-friendly recycling posters to staff and residents, and affixed these new signs in the trash rooms. 

The Green Team also met with Morrison Senior Diningthe dining services provider for both Goodwin House communitiesto encourage the use of washable, non-Styrofoam cups.  Styrofoam cups are not the best choice because of how theyre manufactured and also the oil used in that process, plus the fact that they end up cluttering landfills, said Mrs. Jane McKeel, a Green Team member.  The Team also posted a notice in the communitys in-house newsletter reminding residents and staff that avoiding the use of disposable cups and dishes (Styrofoam and plastic), when washable ones are available, is one small step they can take towards saving energy and reducing landfill pollution.   

During their discussions with Morrison Senior Dining, the Green Team was heartened to learn that Morrison was already doing their part to minimize ecological impact.  They learned that Morrison and its parent company, Compass Group, have partnered with the Monterey Bay Aquarium to ensure that all of the fresh seafood supplied to GHBC is done so in accordance with the Sustainable Seafood Program.  This program ensures that any seafood purchased is a breed of fish that is abundant, well managed, and caught or farmed in environmentally friendly ways.   

The Green Team is a delightful group of people to talk to, and they openly share stories about how they have been keeping it green throughout their lives.  Some members have a history of involvement in civic and church groups, and were sometimes involved in environmental efforts of their own, back in a time when environmentalism was less widely embraced.  My husband and I started recycling in the early 70s, explained Mrs. McKeel.  Back then, people would laugh at us, she admits, lightheartedly.  A good friend of mine even gave us the contents of her wastebasket to recycle, since back then we had to drive a distance to get to a recycling center.  We knew we were on the right track though, so it didnt matter.   

Green Team members are passionate about what they do.  It is energizing to work with those who have taken the initiative to do the right thing, said Mrs. Mary Ellen Ekblad, a Green Team member.   Mrs. Mary Lathram, another member, has been a leading figure in several of the Teams skits and presentations.  Also among the Teams ranks is Mrs. Nell Buell, Ph.D., a retired university chemist who co-authored a textbook on environmental chemistry. 

Whats the secret to their effectiveness?  Strategy and diplomacy, they say, have been integral in achieving the Teams goals.  We have had very good support from both residents and staff, said Mrs. McKeel.  Overall, this organization is very enlightened and wants to do whats right for the earth.

Goodwin House  is a nonprofit, faith-based organization with two continuing care retirement communities that offer life care through a continuum of services and health care.  This year, Goodwin House Alexandria is celebrating its 40th anniversary, and Goodwin House Baileys Crossroads is celebrating its 20th anniversary.  The Goodwin House organization serves more than 1000 residents and employs 700 staff members.  For more information about the Goodwin House communities, call 703-926-5025 or go to the website