Back-To-School Surprise: BYO Toilet Paper?

Surprise! It’s back-to-school time. Well, that’s no surprise, but what is surprising are the lists of school supplies some school children are required to bring with them this year. Along with the ordinary backpack, pencils and paper, there are some supply requests that are shocking and expensive.

According to this Today show segment, some schools are asking their students to bring antibacterial wipes, zip lock bags, toilet paper, garbage bags, cotton balls, detergent, paper plates and paper towels and tissues. Yikes!

A recent New York Times article concurs, “Schools across the country are beginning the new school year with shrinking budgets and outsize demands for basic supplies. And while many parents are wincing at picking up the bill, retailers are rushing to cash in by expanding the back-to-school category like never before.”

Not only is it out of the ordinary to ask parents to provide such items, it’s downright eco-unfriendly to include them on a back to school list. What message are we sending our kids if one minute we’re saying the above items are harmful to the environment and the next their school is requiring them to stuff them in their backpacks the first day of school?

As a teacher, I can see how these items are helpful, but are they really necessary? These three items top the list for eco-unfriendliness:

Read Mel’s post about anti-bacterial soaps and this post about paper towels. Check out this alternative for paper towels from me. Dave’s article about plastic bags will convince you to keep the zip-locks out of the backpack. Here’s a great alternative for plastic sandwich bags.

What happened to green schools? Parents, have you been asked to provide such items? In the face of our environmental crisis, is it appropriate for schools to ask children to bring these items to school?

93 comments

Linda S.
Linda Stuckey5 years ago

As a parent, I was asked to send a box of tissues and a small container of liquid soap at the beginning of my son's elementary school years. Now I work in a high school, and I think we'd have better-quality products if we brought our own. The staff jokes that the toilet paper is so awful because it's recycled -- just not paper, but glass.

Katherine C.

I am Canadian, and so far, we have missed this, but we have friends in the US who have been asked to bring some of the above-mentioned items-this is New York State. They are very upset, because they have two children in junior grades, and this could add up to a lot of money. I understand about shrinking resources, but some lists are extreme. I can see a junky classroom with all this stuff in it. How do you deal with it when a student runs out of TP and has to go to the bathroom. Do you have a stack of rolls and charge the child for one? How do they expect little ones to tell their parents when they run out of something-half the time they forget their hat or mittens. Give me a break. What a big headache and expense all of this will be!

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W.5 years ago

Toilet paper was not always available and in the 1980's one had to stand in a queue to buy a supply of toilet paper.

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W.5 years ago

It still happens in Poland and some years ago it was actually the norm. LOL!

Mari Basque
Mari 's5 years ago

Wonderful ideas since the adults aren't responsible enough I guess the little children must set the example and teach the teachers!

April Thompson
April Thompson5 years ago

So true!

Fran F.
Fran away F.5 years ago

I wonder how many people hurt by this extreme cost-cutting realize that it results from millionaires and billionaires paying MUCH less in income taxes than they did when Reagan was elected, when their rate was 74%. They have effectively shifted the tax burden onto middle-income Americans, many of whom still think it's the fault of "the government."

Dustin Allen
Dustin Allen5 years ago

very nice

Doreen S.
Maria D Scerri5 years ago

Unbelievable yes! This also happens in other countries...in Europe some schools have a list too or add an extra Miscellaneaous charge to the school fee if it is a private school. However I don't think State schools adopt this but then I'm not sure. I really don't think toilet paper should be one on the lists though!!!

Charlene S.
Charla D.5 years ago

Unbelievable! Are we back in the days when kids had to bring their own lump of coal to heat the classroom? Back then at least, there were no property taxes like we have now, so perhaps it was justified in that era. Toilet paper??? Are you kidding???