In the Classroom | 20-Apr-2017

Small Changes, Big Impacts

When M3/Grade 9 student Kyra Gilson was charged with undertaking a sustainability initiative as part of a class last year, she looked close to home. Or rather, she looked in school! She wrote the letter below and sent it to the UTS Facilities Department at UTS. From there, Ms Martin made sure it reached the UTS building Property Manager at U of T, Tony Marziliano. It took some time but the final outcome was the donation of two hand-dryers from Dyson to be installed in the UTS building. As Kyra said this week when she received the news: many small changes can add up to a big impact. And, as Tony observed: “It is comforting to know that youth like Kyra care so much about our environment.”



I wanted to bring to attention an issue in one of the girl's washrooms. In the washroom on the bottom floor beside the drama room, there are both hand dryers and paper towels. I propose that we get rid of the paper towels to encourage more people to use the hand dryers. It costs a lot of money to purchase paper towels every day, and hand dryers are much cheaper in the long run. The school has already purchased hand dryers for that washroom anyway, so why do we continue to spend money on something we don't need?

Since the paper towels are closer to the sinks than the hand dryers, people use the paper towels without thinking, as at that time they don't realize the hand dryers are there. Then, when they walk over to the trash, they notice the hand dryers but by then it would be too late, as they already had used a paper towel. But, each and every time they use the washroom, they continue to use paper towels for the convenience, even if they are aware of the hand dryers. This is very costly, as the school must continue to pay for paper towels for this washroom, even though the school has already made a long-term investment for hand dryers.

These paper towels also have a huge impact on the environment. About 3 - 6 billion trees are cut down every year. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming and climate change, but trees use carbon dioxide and produce oxygen through photosynthesis. Trees also filter harmful chemicals, toxins, and pollutants from the soil, so without trees nothing would grow. Trees release water throughout seasons where there is barely any rain, but areas without trees don't get any water for huge chunks of the year, making the soil dry and no plants are able to grow there. They also provide habitats for animals or shelter for animals (squirrels, birds, bugs and insects). Trees reduce storm water runoff, helping to reduce floods. All around the world, forests are being logged and the many environmental laws that try to protect the trees just aren't enough. Pulp and paper mills are terrible for the environment and they cause a lot of pollution. About 300 million tons of paper is used every year globally. Paper usage has increased by 400% in the past 4 decades, and 25% of all the waste in landfills is paper. Unless we begin to conserve more, our species itself will become extinct.

Trees are a vital part of our environment, and without them we wouldn't be able to survive. By getting rid of the paper towels in the downstairs girl's washroom, everyone would only use the hand dryers. The school has already invested in hand dryers so why should we continue to pay for paper towels in the same washroom? Please do one small thing to help save trees all across the world. Thank you so much for your time and I hope you decide to use my suggestion as soon as possible.


Kyra Gilson F2


Pictured: Out with the paper, in with the air dryers: Kyra with UTS Property Manager Tony Marziliano