Friday, August 17, 2012

It's Not Easy Being Green

Little A has a book he loves, featuring CBeebies characters Charlie and Lola, that is all about recycling. He likes that they get to plant a tree at the end of the book, but doesn't seem to grasp that "packing away" 100 plastic bottles, paper tubes and cups and tin cans to get said tree planted relates to saving our planet.

It would be nice to assume that Third World countries are generally more eco-friendly than their First World counterparts, being unable to afford many things and therefore recycling as a matter of course - handing down old or used clothing and shoes to younger siblings, cousins or the less fortunate, reusing glass jars and bottles and plastic food containers instead of throwing them away - but what keeps us thrifty also keeps us wasteful. An entire bottle of shampoo costs x amount, so instead the majority of the population (the 70% below the poverty line) simply purchase single-use sachets instead. Never mind that these end up costing more in the long run than an economy-size bottle would have done; at point of sale, when they have little to spend, these repackaged items make sense.

Ditto, drinks. Since a whole serving of soda may be out of budget, they accept smaller portions - a cupful or two - served in a clear plastic bag with a straw. All this makes for more unrecyclable waste. Not to mention allowing illegal logging to keep the economy afloat and all the rest of it.

Little A uses the same drinking bottle or cup all the time, and only draws on paper that's already been printed on the other side (store sales reports and the like). 95% of his toys are hand-me-downs, and most of his clothes are gifts. He eats jumbo boxes of cereal out of the same bowl and takes his lunch to school every day. He doesn't like fast food, nor bottled drinks. As far as carbon footprints go, his seems fairly small.

Until we get to the energy and water conservation bit. At 6pm every evening, I turn on the lights in the living and dining areas, as well as the main hallway. Lately, Little A has been "helping" by turning on the bedroom and bathroom lights as well, and then leaving the doors open so the hallway, where he plays, is brighter. We turn them off, he turns them on again. So far, being told that lights go off when no one is in the room hasn't been effective. After all, the living and dining room lights stay on even when I'm in his room with him, I can imagine him thinking. Plus, he knows that turning off the lights means it's bedtime, and if he happens not to be sleepy yet, he protests by keeping all the lights on.

Bathtimes are another thing. Little A loves showers, baths, swimming pools - bodies of water in general. When he washes his hands, he wants to leave the water running so he can dunk his plastic dolphins, fish and other sea creatures in it. Likewise when he bathes. We turn the taps off at a certain point, and he just splashes in the shallow water, but sometimes it just drains away before I can use it for handwashing or bathing myself.

I want to raise an eco- conscious child. As soon as I find a way to explain carbon footprints to a five-year old, hopefully I can.

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