6 Ways Online Education Prevents Planetary Pollution

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Most people consciously manage their impact on the environment to the best of their ability. But did you know that choosing to earn your degree online can help keep the earth clean at the same time?

Unlike the convenience of cars, the convenience of earning your degree through online programs offered by already-established schools contributes to a cleaner home on earth.

Here are six ways continuing your education online keeps our earth clean:

1. The school doesn’t have to build an extra set of classrooms

When existing universities offer online degree programs, they expand their reach without having to build extra classrooms to accommodate the extra students.

Building construction is one of the largest sources of pollution on the planet due to the heavy use of diesel-powered equipment. The dust created from construction is classified as PM10, which penetrates deeply into the lungs, causing respiratory ailments like asthma, bronchitis and sometimes cancer.

Although greener materials can be used in the process of construction, it’s nearly impossible to eliminate the heavy pollution and toxins from the equipment needed to put it all together.

2. You don’t add to the air pollution problem

According to MIT Senseable City Lab researcher Paolo Santi, traffic “is one of the greatest challenges facing cities all over the world.”

Carpooling is appealing for multiple reasons, including saving money, time, gas, stress and, of course, reducing air pollution. Carpooling is better than driving your own car, and public transportation creates far less pollution than carpooling, but not driving at all is best (for the environment).

While not everyone has the ability to abandon their car completely, students earning their degrees from an online university are reducing a large portion of pollution that might have come from their daily travels to and from school.

3. You won’t hit up the vending machines

Vending machines are notoriously stocked with unhealthy food, but aside from an unnecessary binge on cookies and Cheetos, vending machine items come wrapped in packages that are not usually recyclable.

Those protein bars and chips that come in in foil-lined plastic packages might taste good, but their wrappers can’t be recycled. This is because the packages combine materials that cannot be separated.

Although pure aluminum foil is perfectly recyclable, most facilities don’t accept it because they’re either not equipped to handle it or it’s been contaminated with food.

4. You’re not creating a need for burning large amounts of fuel

When you’re studying at home to earn your degree through an online university, using your home’s heating and cooling system is more energy efficient than powering large buildings.

Even when you take into consideration the collective amount of energy used by thousands of online students to heat and cool their homes, it’s still more efficient when you live with other people who would be using the same energy when you’re not home.

5. You’re not wasting so much paper

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, more than 300 million tons of paper are produced each year, and paper used in schools and offices is the No. 1 source of consumption.

In a classroom setting, you often get handouts or some kind of paperwork daily. And that doesn’t include the paper used by the instructor to keep track of attendance and the daily syllabus.

When you earn your degree online, most documents are sent and received electronically, and only necessary legal documents are printed.

Although paper can be recycled, it’s not a complete solution. Since the fibers break down after about seven rounds of recycling, more wood pulp must be added to make it useful as paper once again.

6. You’re eliminating the need to use toxic chemicals

The industrial-strength chemicals sometimes used to clean school facilities are toxic and have been known to cause respiratory and reproductive problems and even cancer.

Continuing your education online not only prevents you from being exposed to toxic chemicals, but because there are no extra buildings to house thousands of students, there will be less of these toxic chemicals leaking into the groundwater supply and our air.

Of course, you still need to clean your home, but at least you have control over what products are used. Oprah.com offers a list of seven nontoxic household cleaners you can use as alternatives to traditional chemicals.

Convenience isn’t always an environmental sacrifice

We live in a world where everyone seems to want convenience and simplicity, and that often leads to the destruction of our planet through pollution.

It’s not always possible to use public transportation when you work a long distance from your home. Sometimes our professions create a catch-22 dependency on convenience.

But online universities are proof that convenience doesn’t always have to hurt the planet, and shows us that sometimes systems created to make life easier can also ease pollution.

Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock

Jenna Cyprus

Jenna is a freelance writer and business consultant who covers business, technology and entrepreneurship. She's lectured for several universities and worked with more than 100 businesses over the course of the past 15 years. She's a mother of two kids, and loves to go camping, hiking and skiing with her family.