Breakfast awaits in a sustainable container used by Kisco Senior Living.

As senior living communities adjust their services to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kisco Senior Living found a way to streamline the transition from dining room to room service in a more cost-effective and sustainable way.

The California-based company was spending more than $170,000 on disposable containers each month for room-service meals to residents across 20 senior living communities in six states after suspending dining room services. This change created more than 3,000 cubic feet of Styrofoam waste each day — enough to fill 4,000 bathtubs each week. 

That’s when one of Kisco’s North Carolina communities — already taking initiatives to reduce their footprint — approached the company about adopting a more sustainable meal delivery solution.

“We did some research into eco-friendly, reusable containers, and were pleasantly surprised at the impact switching over could make not only financially for the short-term, but also for long-term quality,” Director of Culinary Services Randall Lonoza said. “We see this as a standard going forward, not just a reaction to our current situation.”

Kisco invested about $100,000 in eco-friendly, BPA-free and nontoxic microwave-safe food containers that are washable in their industrial machines and can be reused 1,000 times. The company bought three containers of each type — three-compartment serving, side dish/dessert and soup containers — for each resident. An unexpected added benefit, according to Kisco, is the unique snapping lids that prevent leaks and optimize temperature control, unlike Styrofoam and one-time use containers.

The switch saved the company more than $50,000 in the first month. Lonza estimates that only two weeks of use is required to break even.

Every Kisco community is being trained in new best-practice protocols for room service, including sanitizing and disinfecting, and keeping outgoing and incoming carts separate.