Since the pandemic, remote education has increased the demand for online learning. But, the benefits extend beyond the classroom as online learning is also eco-friendly. As the 2022 COP26 conference has come to a close, it’s an important reminder that every global organization has a responsibility to do what it can, to be a good steward of our environment.
Companies can take a variety of steps to benefit the environment, but an often overlooked one is online learning. Online learning not only benefits the environment but also provides on-the-job training and development, so your employees can benefit as well, and you can reap the ROI of increased employee performance.
Environmental benefits of online learning include saving natural resources, energy, and transportation, but we’ll dive into the top four benefits with you.
Save paper (and trees)
The National Wildlife Foundation estimates that 60% of a school’s waste is paper. From class handouts to exams, paper piles up in schools and it mostly goes to waste after each course. Even textbooks get discarded. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that 640,000 tons of books are put in landfills each year. It takes 16 trees to produce one ton of paper, so that’s a lot of wasted trees. This contributes to deforestation, which is a serious issue worldwide.
With online learning, students save the commuting cost of gasoline spent going through traffic to get to class. When cars are idle in traffic, they waste gasoline. Especially with professional training, students may be enrolled in just one or two courses so there’s not much point in commuting for that. Online learning reduces traffic and gasoline consumption.
Reduce pollution and emissions
The Stockholm Environmental Institute (SEI) found that online learning can reduce CO2 emissions by 90%. A study in the UK found a similar reduction in CO2 emissions, around 85% less for virtual students compared to full-time students. One study found that offering an online class to 100 students could reduce CO2 emissions by 5 to 7 tons, plus if students understand the environmental benefits of online learning, it can increase their course satisfaction.
In fact, after the pandemic forced the world into lockdown, many polluted cities like Delhi and Beijing experienced major drops in air pollution, and in many cities, nitrogen dioxide levels were reduced by about 60%.
Reduce energy consumption
Instead of offering a physical place for your employees to learn, online learning saves your energy usage, reducing your costs and energy consumption. Online learning could mean reducing energy consumption by up to 90%, according to a U.K. study by the Open University Design Innovation Group (DIG). Besides energy, physical schools consumer materials like plastic, metal, and wood which can be saved in online learning.