Container collection bin at Lutheran Village of Miller's Grant
Lutheran Village of Miller’s Grant staff pick up reusable carryout containers from residents to sanitize and reuse later. (Image courtesy of Lutheran Social Ministries of Maryland)

A Maryland-based continuing care retirement / life plan community operator is moving its green initiatives into the kitchen in an effort to reduce food waste and lower its carbon footprint.

Lutheran Social Ministries of Maryland has adopted a series of initiatives at its two communities, including reducing printed materials and food waste, and promoting the use of fewer disposable goods. The communities are Carroll Lutheran Village in Westminster, MD, with 500 residents, and Lutheran Village of Miller’s Grant in Ellicott City, MD, with almost 350 residents.

The CCRC began implementing green practices in 2021 — including transitioning to LED lighting, adding solar panels and installing electric vehicle charging stations — in an effort to preserve the “natural beauty” of its communities.

The culinary teams use the LeanPath program software to measure food waste — such as food scraps, expired items and overproduction — by means of scales and tablets. Since February, Lutheran Village of Miller’s Grant has reduced its food waste by 64%, and Carroll Lutheran Village has reduced its food waste by 28%.

The communities also moved from printing weekly menus to making them available in digital formats via email, a resident portal on its website and digital TV displays throughout the communities. The approach reduced Carroll Lutheran Village’s printing by 3,000 pages per week.

REsident picking up reusable carryout containers.
Lutheran Village of Miller’s Grant moved to resuable carryout containers. (Image courtesy of Lutheran Social Ministries of Maryland)

Lutheran Village of Miller’s Grant reduced the use of disposable containers in favor of reusable products almost a year ago. Residents were given reusable bags for carryout items in lieu of plastic bags, and the community’s restaurants recently began using reusable carryout containers made from 100% sourced bisphenol A-free plastic. Residents rinse out the containers when they are done with them and place them in a specially marked reusable bag outside their residence for staff to pick up, clean and sanitize for reuse.

Those culinary green initiatives have helped reduce the communities’ carbon footprint, according to LSMMD President and CEO Jeff Branch. 

“These initiatives not only benefit the environment but also empower our residents, team members and the broader community to actively engage in building a greener and more sustainable future,” Branch said in a statement.

For any green project, Branch told McKnight’s Senior Living, buy-in from team members and residents is crucial.

“While green projects like solar energy can provide large benefits to an organization, it’s often the programs like culinary green initiatives that resonate with residents the most,” Branch said. “Resident participation allows for ownership and creates a collaborative process with real-time results.”

Senior living organizations looking to start green initiatives should start small and at the community level, Branch advised.

“There has to be an understanding of the benefits, such as expense reduction, greenhouse gas reductions, etc., and how each person plays a role in achieving the desired result,” Branch said, adding that regular updates on progress can help everyone share successes and celebrate.