green laptop

Earth Day may be celebrated each year on April 22, but for many people, living green and being eco-conscious is a way of life all year long. Yet no one is perfect, and there are times when you can’t be as respectful to the environment as you’d like. That’s why targeting the areas of your life where eliminating waste and pollution will have the biggest impact is the most important thing you can do to protect our precious planet today and for generations to come.

For some people, that might mean taking quicker showers and installing low-flow appliances in their houses. For others, it might mean biking to work rather than taking the city bus. Still others try to visit the local farmers market rather than the big grocer in their town. While these are all great ideas, there’s another area of life where people can choose to make a big impact for Mother Earth: their educational choices.

It’s no secret that college students are busy and require a lot of resources to attend a traditional brick-and-mortar classroom. No one argues the benefits of getting a college degree, but the massive piles of printouts and constant commuting back and forth definitely do not benefit the planet from an environmental perspective. Now, thanks to the changing educational landscape and substantial growth of online higher education, more students are learning that getting a college degree and being green can indeed go hand in hand. Consider these main environmental benefits of attending college online.

No commuting
Driving to and from class at traditional college institutions is time consuming. Depending on class schedules, some students might make the trek several times a day. This travel is a massive source of pollution due to the carbon footprint that vehicles put out while on the road. In fact, today’s on-road vehicles produce over a third of the carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides in our atmosphere and over 20 percent of the global-warming pollution, according to Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

The flexibility of online college allows students to study from anywhere. That means they can take classes at their convenience from their home, workplace, local library, or community center, etc. It requires absolutely no commuting – just a computer of some kind and an Internet connection. Students love that they no longer have to sit in traffic, spend countless hours per week commuting, and pay increasingly high prices for gasoline, as well as parking fees in many cases.

In addition to all the above benefits, eliminating the requirement for driving means one less vehicle on the road. Keep in mind, UCS states that for every gallon of gas burned, 24 pounds of carbon dioxide and other global-warming gases are emitted into the atmosphere. When you don’t have to commute in order to complete your college education, you are helping to lessen the massive vehicle-emissions problem our world faces.

ecological footprintDigital books
In traditional college, you’ll receive handout after handout from teachers in addition to being required to purchase some pretty hefty books. Most online colleges take a different approach, eliminating the need for hard copies of books and the piles of paperwork you’d need in a brick-and-mortar classroom.

This news is welcome considering that in the United States alone, 71.6 million tons of paper go in the trash every year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. That’s significantly more than the combined totals of plastics (14.4 million tons), metals (15.3 million tons) and glass (12.5 million tons).

Clearly, paper waste is a big problem, and online study is just one way to reduce your use and waste of paper. Ashford University is one example of a thriving online college that is proud to reduce paper waste by offering online students electronic alternatives for things like handouts, tests, course curriculum documents, and much more. Plus, many times there will be no need to purchase a hardcover book. You will be able to purchase digital materials, if required by an instructor. This alternative is a great way to reduce waste, live green, and save money, too.

Fewer temptations = less waste
Let’s face it, when you’re out and about, there are numerous temptations looming. Are you a little hungry? Stop and grab a quick snack at a fast-food restaurant. Feeling a little sleepy? Get a jolt of energy when you swing by the local coffee shop for a latte. Not only do these habits add up quickly and diminish your budget, they also produce a surprisingly large amount of waste.

From the coffee cup that ends up in the trash to the packaging your sandwich comes in, the convenient foods you select produce a huge amount of waste. That treat might taste good for a moment, but the plastic wrapper it came in will take hundreds, maybe even thousands of years to decompose.

When you attend class online, you won’t be out around town with these temptations so close. You’ll likely be at home or at another comfortable place where you can focus on your studies. If you get hungry or thirsty, you can take a look in your cupboards for a snack, make your own cup of coffee from your home brew, or whip up a quick sandwich with ingredients from the fridge. There will be much less waste, you’ll save a lot of money and, most likely, you’ll be eating a lot healthier as well.

Bottom line: online college is good for Mother Earth
No matter what aspect of online education you analyze, it’s a much greener option than traditional brick-and-mortar institutions. You’ll start by cutting your carbon footprint dramatically – something everyone should try to do whether they are attending college or not. Then you will reduce your paper use and help save a plethora of trees that provide necessary oxygen and clean air for us to breathe. Finally, you’ll reduce packaging waste and save lots of money because you won’t be tempted to buy things you otherwise would not need. When you look at the big picture, getting an education online is an eco-friendly endeavor – no matter what type of degree you are pursuing.

Author Bio
Lizzie Wann is the Content Director for Bridgepoint Education. She oversees all website content and works closely with New Media, Career Services, and Student Services for Ashford University.