Online learning environments are definitely environmentally friendly, and for many good reasons. While traditional school facilities do enable face-to-face interaction between teachers and students, school facilities do impact the environment in a number of important ways.
First, consider the sheer amount of space that school campuses take up. School campuses require years and years to build, and they usually require the bulldozing of large areas of land previously inhabited by trees and nature. Granted, environmental impact surveys are required for virtually all new building nowadays, but the fact remains that when you build a school facility meant to service thousands of students, the environment will be negatively impacted in some way.
Surrounding areas see an increase in traffic and possibly pollution, for example. Light pollution is even something that must be considered with a large school campus. Additionally, there is the issue of the amount of energy school facilities use. Energy is used to heat and cool school facilities as well as to provide electricity for computers and lights.
In fact, one study conducted by Open University found that producing and providing distance learning courses consumes an average of 90% less energy and produces 85% fewer CO2 emissions per student than conventional face-to-face courses. Those are huge amounts!
All of this is not to even mention the amount of paper products that a traditional school facility uses each and every day. Paper is used for all sorts of photocopies (many of which are lost or thrown away), books, notebooks and a myriad of other uses. And it’s not just the use of paper which impacts the environment by reducing the number of trees we have in the world – it’s also important to consider the resources which are used to make paper, such as water, electricity, fuel, bleach and a host of other chemicals.
Speaking of water, brick and mortar school facilities use a ton of it, and even if they participate in water recycling and reclamation programs, the amount of water used is still much, much higher than it would be if the school operated solely online. Online learning is not perfect, but it is very “green” and environmentally friendly. Online learning is not perfect, but now you don’t have to be environmentally unfriendly.