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Eco-Friendly Benefits of Learning Online

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Earth-Day“Being green” starts at home. From the items you throw into the trash, to the amount of time you spend in the shower, it all adds up to an increased overall carbon footprint. Gas is one thing that is constantly a hot button topic for discussion in regards to the environment. With daily commutes to work and school, lately it seems better for everyone, especially the environment, to just stay home. If you’re interested in returning to school, however, there are eco-friendly ways of doing so, the most obvious one being attending an online school.

There are several eco-benefits to going to school online starting with the consumption of gas…there is none. Fuel emissions from time spent in traffic can have hazardous impacts on the environment and are multiplied when there is nobody with whom to carpool.  With an online school there is no traffic, no gas being consumed by your car on the way to school, and less overall environmental impact since the school is not required to maintain brick and mortar classrooms which require lighting, heating and cooling, and maintenance. E-learning can be considerably less carbon-intensive than conventional brick and mortar-based coursework. Convenience is also an appealing reason to attend an online school.

 In one university the amount of energy can range from 120 million kWh to 126 million kWh; these numbers are based on a study conducted by Ohio University of their own electricity consumption over a five year period. This is approximately the same amount of carbon dioxide emissions generated by 13,000 homes in one year. A consistent climb in electricity for most universities is a result of many factors including total building space, campus population, lifestyle factors, and preferences of the students.

According to statistics from the National Wildlife Federation, being an online student can reduce CO2 emissions from roughly 81kg (178.5 lbs) to about 2kg (4.4 lbs) per student. Though there is a fair amount of energy used for computing and server housing for an online student, roughly 90 percent of the savings in energy and emissions in the areas of transport, campus, and residential energy far outweigh the downside.

Going back and getting your degree doesn’t mean what it used to.  With busy lifestyles in abundance, few are as flexible in attending a campus for classes. Besides accessibility, online learning means that schools don’t have to provide and maintain dormitories, libraries, dining halls, student centers, classrooms, and other facilities. This helps keep heating and cooling costs (and carbon emissions) lower for online schools since all those buildings don’t exist. Source reduction, or the elimination of waste before it is created, is a non-issue with an online school environment. More brick and mortar schools are moving towards source reduction as a way to streamline wasting energy. One big way to start reducing energy consumption in regards to getting your degree is taking courses online instead of enrolling in a campus-based program. The only thing you’ll need to attend class is your computer, making the online choice better for the environment, and your schedule.

American Public University System (APUS) holds a strong belief in the effort to go “green”.  Not only is the student body of more than 60,000 not consuming gas to attend class, but our “student union” is virtual, and our student advising office is only a phone call or an email away. APUS students don’t have to travel for a study session for an upcoming exam; they can set up a time to virtually meet and hit the books.  You can be a friend to the environment while getting ahead by earning a degree online. Being eco-friendly doesn’t just apply to recycling; it’s relevant to some decisions you never before considered when being kind to mother earth.

by Jessica Stasiw, from the American Public University System Sustainability Committee Blog

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