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Are Online Colleges Greener Than Traditional Schools?

Dec 26, 2012 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

The signs are pointing to distance education as a great way to earn your degree—and save the planet at the same time. Online education definitely has reasons for being able to claim it’s more economically  responsible than traditional education. It has a smaller carbon footprint—and produces less trash overall than a traditional school. Here are just a few things that make accredited online colleges  greener than a brick-and-mortar school:

You don’t have to drive to get to class

You cut your own carbon footprint if you drive less—and if class can be anywhere, you don’t have to drive to get to it. With online education, you don’t have to get in the car
to get to class—and you don’t have to emit
all that carbon dioxide into the air when you
do. Even students who take public transportation
to school emit more carbon dioxide during their
ride than someone just moving from their living
room to their kitchen table.

See Also: Online Bachelor's Degree Programs

Online schools have fewer buildings

Traditional campuses are large complexes built to accommodate administrative staff, professors, students, and others who work for the school. An online school, however, doesn’t have as many buildings—because it doesn’t need to. Those campus buildings emit millions of metric tons of carbon gas every year—requiring heating, energy, and more. Online education doesn’t need as many buildings on its campus—and the land use footprint is much less. In addition, online schools tend not to need student entertainment facilities such as golf courses, gym buildings, new student centers, and more—or have the construction of such buildings required by alumni donations.

See Also: Online College Degree Programs

Less need for paper

With electronic submissions, electronic testing, digital homework, and more, there’s less of a need for paper with online schools. This means fewer trees chopped down for pulp, and less paper wasted. In addition, online learning means a reduced need for hardcopy textbooks. Even paper journals are less needed—and becoming more so, as online resources more and more credible in the academic world.

Less land used

Online education requires fewer buildings than traditional education. With fewer buildings, less land needs to be developed. You don’t need a new golf course to impress the alumni. You don’t need to build a big football stadium for the same reason. Online education conserves land—and that’s good for the environment.

Less electricity

Think about how much energy it must take to keep the lights on, day and night, in important buildings throughout campus. With online education, there’s no need for that—because the campus is in your house, at your office, anywhere you are—without driving. True, your laptop takes some energy to run as well—but not as much energy as lighting and heating an entire academic library.

Less trash

Schools produce many hundreds of pounds of trash each day. While some of it can be recycled, much of it winds up in landfills. Online schools have fewer buildings and no students on campus—so they produce less waste. In addition, without their own on-site laboratories, many online schools produce less hazardous waste that requires special services to dispose of.

Online education may be a credible part of the solution to global warming—and the more schools transition to this model, the more likely it is that academic institutions can make progress in reducing their carbon footprint once and for all. With fewer buildings producing less carbon dioxide and less waste, a reduced need for students to commute to school, less paper used during classes, and fewer need to take up land resources, there’s plenty of reason to credit online education with being greener than a traditional school.


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