Teaching Conservation at the Bottom End

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” I blurted out as I saw the pile of toilet paper on the bathroom floor. “Please don’t tell me you use this much every time you wipe!”

I know, I know. Not exactly a good way to start an open and honest conversation about conservation with my son. Let’s just say I was surprised since I’m pretty sure we’d had the conversation about how many squares will do for a poo. Apparently I was mistaken, in which case the teachable moment had arrived.

Perhaps some background is in order before I continue. I grew up with a father who puts the conservation efforts of most of us to shame. He still keeps the sleeping quarters a chilly 17 C in the winter, since “we’re not up there during the day. Why should we heat it?” (They live in their rec room where there is a wood-burning stove.) So when I was a child growing up, I remember mom explaining to me that 2 squares are all you needed for a pee and 4 for most poo’s.

This probably sounds ridiculous to most readers. I remember thinking that we were the only family to ration toilet paper. (I’d love to hear from others who did the same!) Now that I am grown up and buying my own toilet paper, I understand why it made sense for a family of six with four children in private school.

I realize that for most people, toilet paper does not constitute a big slice of the family budget, but consider the environmental cost of toilet paper production:

  • Each day, 27,000 trees are razed to keep up with the global demand for clean bums. This number is increasing as sanitation improves in developing countries.
  • The global average per capita use of toilet paper is 3.8 kg per year. That’s about 76 2-ply rolls per person. The American average (as if you didn’t see this one coming) is 23 kg per person per year.[1]

Translation: the average American bum (let’s include our own rear ends here) requires 460 rolls of toilet paper each year to feel clean, while Mr. Joe Global can get by with 76 rolls. Either we are just “letting it roll” like I witnessed my 6-year-old doing the other day, or we’re very busy making toilet-paper flowers for wedding cars.

As with many things in life, our attitudes are shaped while we are young. Gone are the days when we can just do (and let our kids do) whatever comes naturally and pretend that our actions have no consequences. Yes, kids will waste water when they wash their hands because it’s just so fun to play with running water. Yes, our kids will thoughtlessly unravel yards of toilet paper and flush it down the toilet. Kids are not responsible adults, and that’s OK. It’s our job though to train them up to be responsible adults, and that always starts by being that responsible adult ourselves. Once we are leading by example we can set the bar higher and expect a little bit more from our children as well.

Just in case this still isn’t making any sense, allow me to explain it like I did to my son the other day. Imagine the world and its resources are like a bowl of Jell-o. You know how much you love Jell-o and how much your brothers love Jell-o. How would you feel if Sammy ate most of the Jell-o and only left a little bit for you and Caleb? If everyone takes their fair share of the Jell-o, then there will be enough to go around.

Let’s think twice before we stuff our collective faces with Jell-o today.


[1] Source: http://www.worldwatch.org/node/6403 AccessedJuly 13, 2011

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3 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    […] Teaching Conservation at the Bottom End (creationcarekids.wordpress.com) 41.052849 -83.679720 Tagged: God, Hypodermic needle, Marines, Memory, Substitute teacher, Toilet, Toilet paper Posted in: Christianity ← From Not to IS. Oxywaste. → LikeBe the first to like this post. Be the first to start a conversation […]

  2. 2

    ieitzen@sympatico.ca said,

    That is very well done, lass! I’m proud of you! Dad


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