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The Octuplets and their Massive Carbon Footprint: 30,400 Disposable Diapers and Counting

03/07/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

When the news of the California octuplets hit the world, the first reaction was awe. When it came out that this single mother living with her parents already had six children, for many, the second reaction was, well, isn't this a tad bit excessive?

simpsons octuplets photoNobody wants the government defining what a family should and shouldn't be, and this includes family size. But there's fate--and then there are fertility drugs. Should you really be allowed to tap fertility science when you already have a Brady Bunch at home?

So, the statistics: According to Mother Jones, one American child generates as much CO2 as 106 Haitian kids. In the first 2.5 years of their lives, these eight babies will generate a massive pile of 30,400 disposable diapers, if their mother doesn't choose cloth (the best option for landfills), safer disposable diapers or diaper hybrids like gDiapers that produce less waste.

Then there's the carbon footprint over a lifetime: According to Jonathon Porritt, chairman of the British government's Sustainable Development Commission, the average British child will burn carbon roughly equivalent to 2.5 acres of old-growth oak woodland over a lifetime. That means the octuplets will burn at least 20 acres, or just over 15 American football fields (and add a bit more for the higher American average).

And how about food? This is one pricey taxation of resources. By the time they are 18, the octuplets will have consumed nearly $270,000 in food (based on the average for an American child in a middle-income family).

These numbers don't address the other six children. Which brings us back to the question: In order to reduce global warming, should we regulate family size just as we regulate carbon emissions?