Five tips for an eco-friendly retirement

On April 22, a billion people - one in seven humans - will celebrate Earth Day 2012, according to organizers. Events around the world will include cleanups, rallies and gatherings, all aimed at making the planet a cleaner, more sustainable place.

If you’re a Baby Boomer or senior – or will soon become one –  here are five tips you can use to make the most of Earth Day, and to help ensure your retirement years are also environmentally-friendly:

1/ Look for environmentally-friendly retirement communities

Independent and Assisted Living Retirement Communities can be customized to be energy-efficient by installing low-flow toilets, energy-efficient light bulbs, eco-friendly heating and cooling systems, and even paints and carpet. If you are looking to make your retirement environmentally-friendly, make sure to ask the retirement community if they use any energy-efficient appliances and utilities. Many environmentally-friendly communities are LEED certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), so it’s worth asking whether the location you are considering has been certified.

2/ Find retirement communities close to your friends and family

For many people, long-distance travel is no fun. Traveling can be expensive and tiring, and hurtful to the environment. Try to retire in a place close to your friends and/or family, where you don’t need to take long flights every Thanksgiving or Christmas. Instead, you can be in the same city as your loved ones, and save the gasoline and pollution. Flying across the country on a commercial jetliner uses as much gasoline as driving alone in a medium-sized car, so flying less often helps reduce your environmental impact.

3/ Find retirement communities which are near excellent public transit systems

If you have places to go - the grocery store, the bank, the health center, or a coffee shop with friends - switching to public transportation can significantly decrease your carbon footprint. It can also save a lot of money, especially with cities and towns across the United States offering discounts for older passengers. Relying on public transit is a no-brainer in some cities, and in other places it’s a recipe for disaster, so research is needed before making any big moving decision.

4/ Consider an exotic retirement destination

If your retirement dream is to move away from the city, then for most, living close to family might not be the best option for you. Instead, consider something a little more exotic such as Thailand as your retirement destination; it can radically diminish your environmental impact. In many locales across Southeast Asia, you can walk everywhere you need to go, food is often produced locally, and there are even opportunities to live in eco-friendly huts in the rainforest.

5/ Grow your own vegetables

When busy with a career or raising children – or both – grocery shopping can be an inconvenient afterthought. But for Baby Boomers whose careers are slowing down, or retirees with extra time to spare, growing your own produce in the communal garden will help the environment keep pesticides out of the soil. With less reliance on your local grocery store, you will also make fewer trips there, saving you gasoline and money. Find out if your local retirement community has a garden where you can grow vegetables.