Light bulbs left turned on

Classroom Conservation

  -8   My class had a lesson on "conservation" at school the other day. Miss said that this was where people reused old things or used new things more carefully. She said conservation was important to stop the world from getting more dirty and to help make it healthy again.

Then Miss asked the class if we had any examples of how our families did conservation. Bridgette Preston's hand shot up first … naturally!

"My mum saves food scraps to put into the garden," she said with a smug smile. I didn't think it was a proper example, but Miss said recycling leftover food was good conservation.

"My father sticks old newspapers in the recycling bin on rubbish day," Ali Fawzi called out. "Yeah, my dad does that," chimed in Lennie Smith, "and he puts old cans and bottles in the recycle bin, too."

"My gran uses old jars to make jam," said Ellie Braithwaite. "We use recycled toilet paper," called out Tubby Thomas. Everyone started laughing and Tubby began to cry, but he cheered up when Miss said recycled toilet paper was a good example of conservation.

One by one, the whole class gave their examples of conservation. Sasha Marks' mum carries shopping home in old shopping bags. Charlie Abbott's dad catches a bus to work. Peter Acton's mum rides a bike.  Jenny Morris said her mum used green dishwashing liquid.

Everyone had an example of conservation … except for me! Mum throws everything in the bin, food scraps, cans, jars, everything. Dad drives a smoky old truck to work. And our dishwashing liquid is pink!

Bridgette Preston was looking at me, smirking. I knew Miss was about to end the lesson. How could I face anyone at lunchtime if I couldn't give an example of how my family does conservation? I saw Miss look up at the clock and suddenly I thought of something.

"Excuse me, Miss, my dad yells at me if I leave the light on in the bathroom," I called out. Everyone laughed. My face grew hot.

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"Well done, Alan," said Miss with a smile. "Turning off lights is an excellent example of conservation."

I turned, smirked back at Bridgette Preston and poked my tongue out at her.

© 1992 Robert Fairhead 

Robert Fairhead

A middle-aged dad and dog owner, Robert Fairhead is an editor and writer at Tall And True, and blogs on his eponymous website,

His favourite pastimes include reading and writing, walking his dog, and watching Aussie Rules Football with his son. He is also a part-time dog trainer and runs classes at his local dog training club and through Robert's Responsible Dog Training.

Robert has worked as an electrician, a computer programmer, and a sales and marketing consultant, and he is the principal copywriter at Rocher Communications.

His book reviews and writing on dogs have appeared in newspapers and online. And in 2020, he published a collection of short stories, Both Sides of the Story.

Robert has also enjoyed a one-night stand as a stand-up comic.

I wrote this short story in 1992 for a BBC Radio 4 program, Costing the Earth - it cost me a stamp.