CIF Spotlight: Council on Aging

Community Innovation Fund (CIF) Project Spotlight

The Environmental Center awarded the Rethink Waste Program’s Community Innovation Grant to the Council on Aging of Central Oregon, to purchase reusable bags for the Council’s nutrition programs, in December of 2020. In the past, the organization has used plastic delivery bags for the Meals on Wheels program. This project involved purchasing 1,500 reusable bags to be used for packaging Meals on Wheels food and distributing it to community members. The bags are then returned to be used for the next delivery. The Council on Aging aimed to eliminate the use of disposable bags in their nutrition programming and is excited to make this commitment to reducing their environmental impact. We value their organization’s perspective on waste management and reduction and are excited to see the project in action. 

Since this grant was awarded right before the COVID-19 pandemic, the project’s progress has been affected by regulations put in place to keep our communities safe. Restrictions during the  early stages of the pandemic required food-handling programs across the country to revert to, or continue using disposable packaging. Unable to use the purchased reusable bags at the height of the pandemic, the Council regretted needing to use disposable bags to distribute its nutrition packages. Although disposable bags were not the step wanted from an environmental perspective, it was important to keep our community safe and reduce the transmission of COVID-19. Working safely within restrictions, the Council still used the bags to bring food in and out of the Meals on Wheels clients’ homes and used the bags in the Congregate Dining drive-through line when possible. 

The impacts of this project will be long lasting, with the use of reusable bags continuing into the future as a commitment to waste reduction. Council on Aging estimates that they have diverted 1,020 pounds of waste from the landfill in the recent past, diverting 170 pounds every month. As the project grows, and as the pandemic-related restrictions ease, they estimate diversion to be 525 pounds of waste per month, making an impact that will last for the coming generations. In the future, the organization describes having the option to purchase similar reusable products to expand sustainability and reduce even more waste across the nutrition program. The use of reusable bags has inspired and prompted community members to bring their own reusable options, creating a positive change for our town. 

Thank you to the Council on Aging for your creativity and implementation of this sustainable project, and for your commitment to waste reduction. We are excited to see what you do in the future! 

Stay tuned for more exciting updates on the expansion of the Community Innovation Fund and its growing impact on the Central Oregon community.

For questions about the CIF, reach out to Rethink Waste Program Manager