Paper Towel Free School


Our vision is to have a paper towel free school. The beginnings of this vision started on a school PD day in February/2024 as a school staff we were talking about what future ideas we had for making our school more sustainable, since Collicutt is a Learning for a Sustainable Future School. The idea that students use a lot of paper towels when they wash their hands came up, and one of the grade ⅔ teachers decided to take this on. She did data collection for one week with her class (without telling her students the real reason she was collecting them) and found out that 797 paper towels were used in one week.

From this data collection, her students were surprised to find out how much paper towels they really use and how much garbage they were sending to the landfill each week. This inspired the class to want to take action, which their teacher honored, to find a way to reduce the amount of paper towels they used at school. The students did research on paper towels such as the life cycle of a paper towel. Then, they decided as a class that instead of just reducing the amount of paper towels they used as a class by using less, they wanted to completely reduce the amount of paper towels they used by not using any at all. These students proposed to our school principal if they could get cloth hand towels for just their class to use.


In March/2024 my 5 grade 5 students and I went to the Climate Action Youth Forum. The afternoon we returned, they each shared what they learned at the forum and started brainstorming about their action project. They decided that they wanted to help with reducing the paper towels too at the school, being inspired by the grade ⅔ class. They wanted to bring this towel project to the whole school as their action project. After this, they started their research. They looked into things such as: the hygienics of towel washing, color coding the towels, towel pricing and where to order the towels from. On our staff PD day in April, a pre-recorded video of the other teacher’s grade ⅔ class was shown about their research. This teacher also shared that her grade ⅔ class had started using the towels, and it was going well. Then, my 5 grade 5 students presented in-person to the school staff their proposal on the whole school towel plan. Both of these videos are included.

From here, my 5 grade 5 students took some advice from our principal and they re-evaluated some things regarding how they could honor the grade ⅔ classes vision (Since they began this project), while still honoring their own vision too. To do this, my 5 grade 5’s met with the grade ⅔ class as sustainability buddies, to discuss their plan to implement their idea to the whole school. Then, each of my grade 5’s combined with a small group of the grade ⅔ students to present their combined research and plan to all the classrooms. My 5 grade 5 students’ hope is that next year these grade ⅔ students will be the students who will be continuing implementing the use of cloth towels in the whole school, since they will be going to a new school in September.

Reflection & Celebration

A big celebration for my 5 grade 5 students was when we finally got to order our supplies in May/2024. They decided to go with towels from Amazon and found 6 different colors of the same towel (The number of colors we needed.), as we as other things they thought we needed like laundry baskets and laundry detergent and they were purchased. They all shared in clicking the submit order button for their Amazon Order which is shown in one of the videos. They were all very excited for this because all their hard work up to now has lead up to this moment. By actually placing the towel order, it meant that what they working towards for all these weeks was actually happening. Our next steps are my 5 grade 5 students will be finalizing the details of implementing the use of the towels in the school as well as how the use of towels can be continued to be implemented next year (2024-2025), without them.

The students felt this action project is important to our community because, right now the paper towels used in our school everyday are thrown into the garbage, and then taken to the landfill. This means that by the students in our school using cloth hand towels everyday, for the rest of this school year and continuing into next school year, then no more paper towels from our school would be going to the landfill anymore. This means, we would be eliminating a significant amount of garbage we as a school were previously sending to the landfill. This action project connects to the following Learning for a Sustainable Future Goals: Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities, Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production, Goal 13: Climate Action, Goal 14: Life Below Water and Goal 15: Life on Land. This action project connects to these goals because by no longer using paper towels there is less waste going into the landfill and no possibility of thus waste accidently ending up in our Manitoba land and water habitats. We would also no longer be contributing to the paper towel cycle at our school: which involves extracting the materials, manufacturing them and transporting them. As well, by not having this paper towel waste no longer going to the landfill, it means less greenhouse gas emissions since this waste is not decaying in the landfill.


Check out these video links of our student presentations: Video 1, Video 2, Video 3


11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
12. Responsible Consumption and Production
13. Climate Action
14. Life Below Water
15. Life on Land
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