North Oaks Senior Living Goes Green

North Oaks in Pikesville is now foam-container-free and
supplying residents with compostable to-go food containers. (Provided)

Residents of the North Oaks Senior Living Community in Pikesville celebrated Earth Day on April 22 by launching the new community-wide Go Green Initiative.

After more than two months of meetings between a group of North Oaks residents and staff members, called the Green Team, the community’s food and beverage department will no longer provide plastic straws or foam cups and containers in the dining hall. Compostable and biodegradable containers are now offered instead.

“The best way to go is having compostable materials,” said Nathan Finney, food and beverage director and executive chef at North Oaks. Finney said he is not only working with his own staff to compost food waste, but also with the housekeeping department to switch over to three-compartment disposal bins for trash, recycling and composting in facility common areas.

Additionally, each resident at North Oaks received a reusable grocery-style bag with one large and one small food container, and a stainless steel coffee mug. This provides residents with the option bringing food back to their apartments without the waste of single use containers.

Switching from foam containers to compostable ones is not immediately a cost-effective measure. Finney said the compostable containers cost about five times as much as foam.

Edith Sherr, left, hands a bag with reusable food containers to fellow North Oaks resident.

“We’ve taken on additional costs,” Finney said, adding that a long-term goal is to reduce as much waste as possible, which could eventually end up being more cost effective.

Edith Sherr, a resident at North Oaks for 13 years and member of the Go Green Initiative, said she felt an obligation to make whatever change she could in the community.

“What can I do? What can my own imprint be to make the world better for my grandchildren and generations in the future?” she said.

Though the rollout of North Oaks’ Go Green Initiative is a joyous occasion, Sherr said it wasn’t without sacrifice from herself and other community members.

“I like Styrofoam. If I put coffee in it, it stays hot. If I put ice cream in a Styrofoam cup it stays cold,” Sherr said. “However, I know it causes harm. So I’m willing to give up those benefits for a larger benefit.”

The new initiative is popular amongst residents. Sherr said she couldn’t name any residents who disapproved.

“I’m all for it. I’ve been recycling forever,” said Lois Krengel, a North Oaks resident for seven years. “I’m glad they finally decided to do something here.”

Krengel also said each floor of the North Oaks building has a place for residents to separate and dispose of their trash and recycling. The recycling is single stream, meaning different elements like paper and plastic do not need to be separated.

Sherr and the other residents at North Oaks know they are not solving the problem of climate change, but are also aware that their part is not insignificant.

“We each have to do our bit,” Sherr said. “None of us can go and make big changes in industry, so we do what we can for the future. It’s not for today so much as it is for the future.”

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