Personal Finance

Keeping Up with the Jones’ Garbage

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One day, Beth Yurich was working in her yard, when a neighbor from across the street approached her. “Okay, I get that you only have a half a can of garbage,” he said. “But I’ve been watching, and you don’t even have a bag of recyclables. Where is the stuff? Are you burying it?”

You have to love an era in which people covet their neighbor’s lack of garbage. Beth and her husband Dennis are known in the community for being environmentally conscious and together, they run Yurich Creative, a marketing communication design firm, out of their house. As part of their palette of services, they assist clients with making their offices greener through selecting sustainable materials for surfaces, carpeting and furnishings; designing efficient layouts; advising them to share one printer, and so on. Beth also teaches a class entitled “Sustainability + Design = ReThinking” at the Cleveland Institute of Art.

They have reduced the amount of household waste to roughly one kitchen garbage can on their tree lawn every Monday. By comparison, some of their neighbors routinely stack up mountainous piles of garbage, with Beth calling one resident “the six-can dude.”  Man, what are you consuming in there?

By replacing heavily packaged and processed products with items you can make yourself, you can reap significant savings, too. Beth rethought her grocery shopping practices several years ago, after opening a box of six cookies that had as many layers of packaging. She now bakes her own cookies in big batches that she can freeze and makes her own veggie burgers. Dennis makes his own cereal, his favorite being buckwheaties, from freshly sprouted and dehydrated buckwheat.

Other helpful tips to reduce waste and save money:

  • Beth recommends buying organic produce at farmer’s markets whenever possible, as grocery stores tend to charge more for their organic products.
  • Of course, recycling leftover food as compost will save on expensive fertilizers.
  • Pare down purchases of products that require excessive plastic and paper packaging. Say that three times fast, while evaluating common items that are “overpacked.”
  • Use aluminum foil, which can be recycled, or wax paper, which is now more biodegradable, instead of plastic to wrap food.
  • Drink tap water or use a filtering pitcher, instead of buying bottled and canned water or soft drinks.
  • Take your own food container to restaurants for leftovers to reduce use of the dreaded Styrofoam, which cannot be commercially recycled. Take your own cloth tote bags to the grocery store.

“Once you eliminate packaging, especially materials that can’t be recycled, you’ll be surprised at how much you can reduce your garbage,” Beth concludes.

Photo courtesy of Beth and Dennis Yurich.

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  • Patrice Aylward

    Something to aspire to. Our household has started down this path. Our original goal was to be more environmentally friendly but to our surprise, it ended up saving us money as well.

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