Posts tagged Paper

The War Is On (Part 3)

Douglas and his cake

We’ve baked cookies. We’ve decorated cookies. We’ve baked more cookies. We’ve celebrated a stuffed dog’s birthday with real cheesecake. (Our media-free Christmas is turning into a cholesterol-laden shock to the system.) I decided it was time for a new activity to ring in the festive season. I settled on painting.

   In my mind’s eye I can see a few of my readers shaking their heads. Painting at your dining room table with a 2, 4 and 6 year old? Are you nuts? By some definitions I probably am, considering I’ve voluntarily turned off the electronic babysitter for at least a month. I guess decorating Christmas cookies has awakened in me a dormant desire to create, and lately I’ve been dreaming of a colourful Christmas, complete with hand-painted plaster ornaments and home-made wrapping paper.

I spent the afternoon preparing the after-school craft, which is to say that I indulged my inner artiste and sat there painting a plaster ornament from the set I had purchased that morning. This will be perfect for Teddy, I thought. A quick search through my old craft supplies yielded more painting supplies than I remembered having. Apparently there was a time in my life when I had time to sit and paint plaster ornaments.

It quickly became clear though that there was no way Sammy – who is just learning how to grip a pencil properly – could manage the ornaments, so I also tried out the stencils I had bought at the craft store earlier in the week on some blank newsprint that has been accumulating in my desk for months. This brilliant idea came to me this week and I thought it too good not share it here.

For months our weekly advertising package arrives with an extra sheet of blank recycled newsprint. I’ve been saving these pieces thinking that they’d be great for crafts. Now that Christmas has arrived I am faced with the same conundrum I struggle with every year: finding an alternative to non-recyclable, high-gloss Christmas wrapping paper. For our own family I’ve sewn simple cloth bags from some flannel I once fell in love with at the fabric store. We use them year after year, but I don’t feel like giving them away with cousins’ and friends’ gifts.

Sammy's work of art

Today I discovered that a 4-year-old can – with some assistance – use a stencil, some acrylic craft paint and a large toddler paint brush to turn boring, recycled newsprint into an impressively festive and environmentally-friendly gift wrap.

I’ve also discovered that spending an afternoon supervising two separate painting projects while attempting to re-connect with a spouse after work and simultaneously whipping up homemade pizza (so the child whose pizza order was misplaced will at least have leftovers in his lunch tomorrow) basically amounts to stress. So here I am (alone!) at Starbucks, sipping a Peppermint Hot Chocolate (thanks Kim) and de-fragmenting after a day of hearing my name taken in vain one too many times. Ahhhhh

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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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Go Paperless?

The message reaches our ears almost daily: Go paperless! Sign up for e-billing, save the environment , and blah blah blah… Honestly, while I love the idea of going paperless, I just know I’d be forgetting to pay 75% of my bills on time. The only reason I remember is because there they are, cluttering up my kitchen counter. I look at them every day until one day I snap, and in a mad cleaning frenzy, pay all the bills. Discreetly send me my bills via e-mail and they won’t get paid. Marking messages as “unread” doesn’t clutter up my kitchen counter.

 There are many cases, though, where I would wholeheartedly support going paperless:

”   CanadaPost-delivered high-gloss junk mail: Go paperless.

”    Offers to bundle my phone, internet and cable: Definitely go paperless.

”    Rate change notifications from my insurance company: Please go paperless.

I realize that by going paperless these companies will not get my attention. That’s the point.

 The last one in my list sounds like a perilous notice to ignore, but I disagree. To be accurate, it’s not really the notice I’m opposed to – it’s the ridiculously small amounts they change my rates by that irks me. Some clock-watcher at head office charges me a $0.75 service charge to raise my rates by $0.79, and then mails an 8.5 x 14 sheet of paper at a cost of $0.59 explaining everything in painful detail. Really?

 With all the cash this company is forcibly seizing from their cliens’ collective bank accounts, they cannot afford to absorb a $0.79 rate hike until December 31? It’s no wonder the company’s costs (and my premiums) are going up when it costs more for them to prepare and mail out a piece of correspondence than they stand to recover in premiums.

 As it is, it seems my insurance company is still stuck in the stone-age when it comes to effective use of resources – paper being one of them. For crying out loud, I’m kept busy trying to wade through the deluge of papers the school sends home; I don’t need this nonsense.

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