11/14/2022 | By Kari Smith

Environmental problems, including climate change, affect everyone, and everyone can contribute to combatting the problems. Seniors can protect our planet for a healthier Earth, for a more healthful life for themselves, and for a brighter future for youth – and all people of the world. These easy ideas for being environmentally responsible can help us all.

Environmental concerns aren’t new for those over 50. Rachel Carson published “Silent Spring” in 1962, showing how pesticide overuse was harming the planet – and people – long-term. The 1960s counterculture nurtured a growing environmental consciousness, further fueled by a 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara and the Cuyahoga River fire. The federal government passed the first Clean Air Act in 1967, and Earth Day was founded in 1970.

On the flip side of 50, it’s easy to become apathetic about the Earth’s future. Unfortunately, young people don’t have that luxury.

In fact, a 2021 study found that nearly 60% of youth between the ages of 16 and 25 reported feeling either “very” or “extremely” worried about climate change. More than 50% said climate change made them feel “afraid, sad, anxious, angry, powerless, helpless, and/or guilty,” 77% consider the future to be frightening, and 56% agree that humanity is doomed. These negative feelings adversely affect their day-to-day lives.

Sadly, climate change is harming the vulnerable the most – including wildlife and poor individuals, communities, and countries.

In reality, environmental issues affect older adults as well, giving selfish reasons for seniors to protect our planet. Besides climate disasters, environmental stresses threaten health. Seniors are more susceptible to heat waves. Pollution can exacerbate current health conditions, cause diseases to develop, and even impact undiagnosed health conditions.

So what’s a senior to do? Isn’t the issue too big for individuals to tackle? Yes, and no. Yes, governments and corporations worldwide need to act, but individual actions can help. Whether you live independently or in a senior community, you can act!

11 easy ways seniors can protect our planet

Avoid plastics

To help protect our planet, avoid using single-use plastics and Styrofoam – once in the environment, they can take centuries to biodegrade. Instead, opt for reusable items, such as stainless steel water bottles, metal straws, and cloth shopping bags.

Save electricity

Our frugal Depression-era parents were right all along. Turn off the lights when you leave a room. And for a modern twist, use a programmable thermostat, energy efficient appliances, and LED bulbs.

Save water

Turn off water while brushing your teeth. Shave a minute or two off your shower routine. Don’t run a load of laundry or a dishwasher until you have a full load. If you garden, gather water in a rain barrel to water plants.

Related: Be green in the kitchen


Glass, aluminum, paper, and many plastics can be recycled – meaning they won’t hit the landfill and can be used in new products.

Give it away, don’t throw it away!

Church and charity drop-off sites and consignment stores welcome gently used goods, from clothing to furniture.

Use recycled and reused goods

From paper goods made with 100% recycled materials to thrift and second-hand store shopping, your purchase of these products saves energy and minimizes waste.

Choose local and organic foods

Food raised locally hasn’t traveled hundreds of miles from producer to consumer. Organic foods from environmentally responsible farmers don’t use chemicals that harm wildlife and the greater environment (and maybe even the consumer).

Go natural

Senior man putting yard debris in a compost bin. Image by Clearvista. Seniors can protect our planet for a healthier Earth and a better life for all, using these easy ideas for environmental responsibility.

If you’re growing your own produce, avoid chemical pesticides and herbicides. Compost kitchen scraps and smaller yard debris. Choose native plants for your yard.

Use chemical free shampoo, conditioners, detergents, and cleaning supplies. Chemical products end up in the water supply and may be harmful to the environment and to your health.

Walk or ride a bike

Use your own human power instead of a car or golf cart. It’s better for you as well as the Earth!

Plant a tree

Related: ‘Glaciers’ – An Excerpt

Trees benefit the environment by removing harmful carbon dioxide from the air. They benefit people by providing natural mental health support. If you don’t have a yard for planting, send money to The Nature Conservancy Plant a Billion Trees campaign or the US Forest Service Plant-a-Tree Program.

Be an activist, near and far

If you live in a community, encourage the administration to take sustainable actions (reducing plastic use, composting, planting trees, etc.). Suggest a garden space, which is great for the environment and residents.

Volunteer on clean-up days for local parks and neighborhoods.

Join senior-focused organizations working to protect the planet, including Seniors for Climate Action Now and Th!rd Act.

It’s never too late to protect our planet, and many of these suggestions are easy and inexpensive. Not only are you making an impact now, you’re helping to preserve the Earth for future generations.

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Kari Smith

Kari Smith is a frequent contributor to Seniors Guide, helping to keep those in the senior industry informed and up-to-date. She's a Virginia native whose love of writing began as a songwriter recording her own music. In addition to teaching music and performing in the Richmond area, Kari also enjoys riding horses and farming.

Kari Smith