St. Joseph of the Pines has launched a successful pilot program to replace Styrofoam to-go food containers with those that Belle Meade and Pine Knoll residents simply rinse with water and return for reuse.

“Our residents love it,” said Executive Chef Lee Ruffier. “But that doesn’t surprise me because this program has been resident-driven from the start. I received feedback from both of our independent living campuses that residents were concerned about our usage of Styrofoam to-go containers.”

Pine Knoll resident Deirdre Newton was one of the first to approach Ruffier about a change.

“I just felt bad that we were using so much Styrofoam,” Newton said. “It’s so unhealthy for the environment and for us. I suggested switching to the cardboard containers that they have at the salad bar at Harris Teeter.”

Ruffier took the suggestion to heart but modified it after doing some research.

“Even if we switched to an eco-friendly container, it still goes to the landfill,” he said. “The containers that we selected are good for more than 1,000 uses before they get recycled. They are also commercial dishwasher safe and microwave safe for re-heating.”

Newton said she uses them “all the time.”

“We often bring dinner back to our apartment,” she said. “I can use it not only as a container but as a plate. The residents really like them. It’s a great solution to the problem.”

President Tim Buist said the program is “a perfect example” of how St. Joseph of the Pines collaborates with residents to improve their quality of life.

“It is one more way to make residents feel like every day here is going to be a great experience,” Buist said. “Our focus on wellness is critical because it is key to older adults keeping and enhancing their health, and quality of life.”

The “Go Green” initiative also exemplifies the company’s core value of fostering right relationships to promote the common good, including sustainability of Earth.

“It’s one thing to have core values, it’s quite another to live them,” Buist said. “We’re always looking for innovative approaches that nurture a vitality of everyday life. This program underscores our legacy of caring and commitment to the people who call our communities home.”

Ruffier said an added benefit of the program will be to save an estimated $8,000 by the end of the fiscal year, although that was not the motivation to start the program.

“The cost savings was never the goal for me, but a welcomed side effect,” he said. “Building a new program that aligns with our mission and core values is the goal. We also want to be forward thinking, so we are already talking about expanding the program to include soup, salad and dessert containers.”

St. Joseph of the Pines is an aging services network offering a full continuum of retirement housing, health care and community-based services for older adults as well as community outreach to those in need. It is a Trinity Health Senior Community continuing the legacy of the Sisters of Providence.

Courtesy photo: Executive Chef Lee Ruffier (left) and President Tim Buist hold one of the reusable food containers that have replaced Styrofoam to-go containers at St. Joseph of the Pines.



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