Yarmoffs living sustainable lives
Published 1:04 am, Wednesday, April 21, 2010
The Yarmoff family just may be the most environmentally and health-conscious family in Westport.
The front roof of the family's home on Stone Drive is literally covered in black solar panels, so much so that they deceive one into believing it's a black shingle roof. Installed a few years ago, the 56 panels earned the family bragging rights for having the most solar panels on a residential home in all of New England.
Capturing the sun's energy isn't the only way the family is doing their part for the environment. A geothermal heating/cooling system was installed around Christmas.
"Geothermal is more efficient than central air conditioning and oil heating," said David Yarmoff, who began to live more "green" around the same time former Vice President Al Gore released a much-acclaimed documentary focusing on the issue of global warming, An Inconvenient Truth.
The Yarmoffs are not burning oil or natural gas. "I don't use either fossil fuel," David said, proudly.
The family didn't have an electric bill for years, thanks to the solar panels. However, the acquisition of the geothermal system resulted in a bill for the months spanning January through March. David is hoping the efficiency of geothermal over air conditiong in the summer months will build up enough of an excess (of electricity credit) to cover winter electricity usage later in the year.
While everyone might not have the extra income to cover their roof in solar panels, or acquire a geothermal system, David said everyone can help make a difference by doing a little, whether it's improving the insulation in one's home, or removing "vampire loads" (unplug your electric cell phone chargers, toasters, etc., when not using them).
Making modifications to their Colonial house isn't the only way the Yarmoffs do their part for the world. David and his wife, Erika, own a Prius, a full hybrid electric car developed and manufactured by Toyota. The Prius, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is the most fuel efficient car currently sold in the U.S.
The Yarmoffs also save on gas and oil consumption of other vehicles. Whenever they hit up the local farmers markets and buy the natural food being sold, they're doing their bit to prevent the large food trucks from commuting from hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away to deliver their wares to supermarkets. The more people that follow suit will truly make an impact, David said. The Yarmoffs admit, however, everything in their home unfortunately doesn't come from a farmers market. But even so, when the family does shop at a well-known establishment, it's usually Trader Joe's, which sells many organic products.
David was the first in the family to make a conscious effort to become more environmentally-friendly and to strengthen his respect for the temple that is one's body. His example has led his wife, one daughter and two sons to follow suit.
"We eat little meat. He eats no meat," Erika said. Erika will eat chicken -- she's not anti-fowl -- but fish, grains and tofu are more the norm, and a dish of almonds for anyone's consumption -- rather than a dish of M&Ms -- is a staple of the kitchen table.
Sliced strawberries, watermelon, honeydew and other fruits, as well as soy milk, beans, black eyed peas, organic eggs, brown rice tortillas and whole wheat flatbread, to name a few things, take up much of the space in the fridge.
Erika said meat consumption has significantly lessened in the past few months. When they do eat some meat, it's meat that comes from grass-fed cows. When the family eats chicken, it's chicken that comes from Lancaster, Pa., where, Erika said, the chickens are grown more humanely. They're not cramped wing-to-wing in a cage that doesn't allow them to roam around.
"What we were doing before, with the food, wasn't a healthy way to eat," Erika said. "Too many chemicals. Too much meat and beef. Lots of processed foods."
The Yarmoffs are also part of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), whereby they and others receive food directly from the farmers who produce it. CSA members receive their produce at prices that are slightly cheaper than a farmers market.
There is very little junkfood in the Yarmoff home. Thirteen-year-old Scott said he hardly has any access to it nowadays. "We have healthier alternatives," he said.
Fifteen-year-old Jamie doesn't mind the changes that have been made as far as the food that's in the house.
"It's not tough. We get used to it, so it's really easy," she said. "Now I'll have some fruit instead of a bag of chips."
For this past Thanksgiving, the family purchased a more humanely-grown turkey. Did it taste any different than turkeys from past holidays?
"My kids said it was the best turkey they ever had," Erika said. "It was more tender. When my husband was slicing it, it fell off the bone. It was succulent, juicy and tender. And that's because it lived a better life. When animals are grown in cages, they never get to develop their muscles."
While tomorrow is Earth Day, Erika said the family tries to live every day like it's Earth Day. David used to be the frontrunner as far as healthy living. Now everyone is running with him.
"Everybody's on board now," he said. "What we're trying to do is buy more produce from local sources to reduce the transportational effect on the product."
There are some who might say, try as he might, David can't save the world.
"Enough of us together can," he said. "Everybody can make a contribution and hopefully with enough of those contributions we can make a difference."
David said more than anything, he's trying to inspire his children to respect the environment and respect the Earth.
"I have a responsibility to leave this world in a better place than I found it, and I want to leave that as a legacy to my children. I want them to emulate that as well."
The Yarmoff family is doing its best to live right, but Erika admitted they're not environmental saints yet. The family has two plasma TVs. Plasma sets consume more energy than LCD sets. Replacing their TVs is likely next on their to-do list. The geothermal system took precedence.