Can assisted living really be green?

There are many green products and options when it comes to interior finishes for long-term care. The industry, however, is limited greatly when it comes to furniture, artwork, drapes, and signage. As designers, we are restricted when it comes to finding green materials that look residential and will hold up in a long-term care facility.

Don’t get me wrong, there are products that can be both green and suitable for long-term care. But the list is too short or expensive for the average client’s needs and budget. There are also green fabrics, but most cannot take the abuse a care facility can dish out. On the odd chance we find some usable products, it leaves us feeling like we’re back in the early 90s when there were 10 Crypton fabrics of all the same hand with printed patterns. It is difficult to create an interesting environment when the options are so limited.

Does it really matter? Should we, as long-term care designers, be striving for green environments? I have to wonder when I see our library get updated weekly with binders, books, and samples all headed for the dumpster due to new products replacing the old. We don’t even have the option of recycling them or the massive packing that is required for furnishings to be delivered without damage. We are throwing away Styrofoam and cardboard by the truckload.

I appreciate the effort made by the flooring industries to recycle and be green. Wall covering is more difficult for me to understand, but it’s a great effort. My largest concern is this has become a marketing campaign vs. a campaign against waste. What green materials can we use in assisted living that don’t look institutional and help reduce waste? Flooring seems to take the lead by leaps and bounds.

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