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Four Environmentally Conscious Online Schools

Sep 17, 2009 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Education.org Columnist | 0 Comments

There’s no question—online education, by nature, is green education. By offering some or all of their degrees online, distance learning programs lessen their need for additional buildings and infrastructure to support a larger student base. This in turn reduces their use of energy, cuts waste and paper use, and reduces their ecological footprint as a whole.  By choosing an online school, you’re investing in green education.

But even among online colleges, some are greener than others. Plenty of online schools offer green degree programs. But not all schools make a conscious effort to reduce their environmental impact and promote ecologically conscious education across all disciplines.  Here’s an overview of a few online colleges that are committed to green education—in their own policies as well as in their degree programs.

Northeastern University

Northeastern University

 

 

 

 

Recently recognized as one of the Princeton Review’s top 15 most environmentally conscious schools, Northeastern University has been green since the 80’s.  Among its most recent environmental initiatives, it’s replaced over 70,000 incandescent light bulbs with fluorescent bulbs. It sounds like an overly simple idea, but this simple replacement is projected to slash carbon emissions by over 600 tons per year.

At Northeastern, energy conservation is a big priority.  It’s committed to submitting its largest dormitory/administrative building, International Village, for LEED Gold certification—making it the largest US residence hall to have achieved that level of environmental sustainability.

At Northwestern you’ll also find an aggressive recycling program that’s over 20 years old—and has grown to handle thirteen different recyclable materials, including asphalt and construction waste.  They also recycle in the dining hall with a composting program that processes almost 600 tons of food per year.

Anaheim University

Anaheim University

 

 

 

 

 

Anaheim’s President, Dr. William Hartley, signed the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Control Commitment in February 2009—a commitment to slash greenhouse gas emissions and work toward a zero-emissions goal. Since then, the college is acting on that commitment. It’s on track to become the world’s first paperless university by 2010, and it’s boosted its environmental degree program offerings with an MBA in sustainable business management.

This program has proved very popular with online and traditional students, with enrollment doubling over a three-month period. While the school is excited about increased enrollment, its priorities are in educating tomorrow’s sustainable business leaders rather than boosting profit. To prove it, the school is offering a Tuition Relief Program for students who enroll by September 30—recently extended from a June 30 deadline. The program pays for 50% of the school’s tuition for all students—including those interested in sustainable management.

University of Maryland

University of Maryland

 

 

 

 


The University of Maryland is committed not just to enacting green policies on campus, but to lead the effort to curb pollution and improve sustainability across campuses throughout the U.S. The school is already a leader in environmental and climate research, it hosts Green Campus and climate conferences yearly, and its President signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment in 2007.

On campus, environmental consciousness is part of the everyday experience. Recycling increases every year with aggressive promotion events like RecycleMania, a program designed to improve conscious behavior awareness and change wasteful habits. The school operates its own surplus recycling operation, Terrapin Trader, and operates on the credo of “reduce, reuse, recycle.” Even the dining hall requires vendors to reuse shipping materials, composts over 16 tons of waste per month, uses biodegradable plates and utensils, and converts used cooking oil into biodiesel fuel used in the Dining Services vehicles as well as the Maryland Department of Transportation’s shuttle buses.

Oregon State University

Oregon State University

 

 

 

This college has invested over $1.6 million in green building research in partnership with Portland State University. Their aim is to improve green business tools and produce future employees highly educated on sustainable building issues through their green degree programs and through development of a nationally-known green research center and network of shared laboratories and equipment dedicated to testing new green construction techniques, materials and technologies.

If you’re truly committed to green education, an online degree program is always a good choice. But beyond that, ask schools what they’re doing at their physical locations to promote an environmentally conscious culture and reduce their environmental impact. Look at the strength of their degree programs, the school’s commitment through participation in wider green campus initiatives, its green research record, and its students’ compliance with recycling and energy conservation efforts. All of this information will help you discern whether a school is truly committed to sustainability.

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