Everyone is talking about sustainability these days, but what are they really looking for? For some seniors and their families, your approach to sustainability could be the key difference in choices that generate revenue for you.

Healthcare and Sustainability Today

Healthcare and nursing have a particularly complex relationship with sustainability, as the very practices that are meant to ensure quality and safe care (such as single-use PPE) may seem at odds with sustainable behaviors. Science-minded folks in the medical field are likely to be particularly concerned with the science of climate change and sustainability, too, so what gives?

Fortunately, innovators are already on it! One 2020 analysis from the Nursing Times noted the push to develop more sustainable and reusable products, as well as getting nurses involved in supply decisions. For instance, one team was able to reduce waste by simply locating higher-quality wash bowls; previously, every use required two bowls at once because of leak problems. The Clinical Trials Arena, meanwhile reported how companies from pharmaceuticals to medical device production to hospital systems and more are looking into sustainable possibilities, whether that’s reducing carbon emissions, producing devices that consume less energy, or identifying potential issues earlier in the process when they’re cheaper to fix.

It’s all about thinking outside the box for creative solutions that preserve high standards of safety and care while reducing waste.

The Sustainability Generation Gap

It’s worth keeping an eye on some generational differences in opinions of sustainability, especially in senior care, where companies must balance the needs of seniors and of the younger, caretaking generations. In general, younger generations (Millennials and Gen Z) are focusing more on sustainability and are more willing to make bigger changes. A 2021 study reported by Business Wire revealed the following differences among consumers:

  • 24% of Baby Boomers and Gen X have “significantly” changed their behavior towards being more sustainable, compared with 32% of Millennials.
  • 24% to 29% of older generations will intentionally choose a sustainable alternative, compared with 1/3 of Millennials.
  • 26% of Baby Boomers and 31% of Gen X will pay a premium for sustainability, compared with 42% of Millennials and 39% of Gen Z.
  • Baby Boomers will pay a 14% premium, and Gen X will pay a 21% premium for sustainability, while Millennials will pay a 31% premium and Gen Z will pay 32% more.

Small Steps to Sustainability

While much of the focus in the headlines is on “big” solutions to sustainability questions, there are plenty of steps that senior care and related facilities can take to improve their commitment to sustainability. Consider some of the following:

  • Reducing waste and streamlining processes: Not only can these options help move the sustainability needle, but they also save time and money – both very appealing to everyone! Look for higher-quality products that can reduce the number used, in situations where that is possible and in line with safety protocols.
  • Choosing sustainable partnerships: When choosing partners, suppliers, and other associates, target other companies that have a strong sustainability commitment themselves.
  • Listening to frontline workers: Nurses, medical technicians, doctors, and other personnel know what they need more than anyone. Getting them involved in sourcing decisions can produce improved results, both from a clinical and a sustainability perspective. For example, consider the practice of using different colored washcloths specifically for peri-care vs. disposables. Even if half are returned to laundry (and the other half are discarded) it would reduce landfills while also providing cost savings that could be funneled back into wages!

At Aspen Associates Group, our senior care and assisted living partners prioritize finding people who care. That culture of caring isn’t just for each other – it’s for our entire world.

By Tom Zeleny, NHA