After the sudden switch to online schooling in March, students and staff felt uncomfortable with the uncertainty of the future. The phrase “virtual learning” had a negative connotation, and it was never too soon to return to in-person learning. Six months later, people have begun to see the bright side of online learning and the positive effects it is on our planet. Although it has not been easy for teachers and students to adjust to the new way of learning, it may actually be more environmentally friendly.
Typically, a vehicle emits about 4.6 tons of carbon dioxide per year. Students who commute to school on a daily basis use a lot of energy and release high amounts of carbon dioxide. With online learning, students are not only sparing the fuel used to power their vehicles, but also their own time and energy because their daily commute time is given back to them. At RHS, students state that with virtual schooling they have gained up to two hours per day by not having to catch their buses in the morning or wait for their rides home in the afternoon. Overall, virtual school saves significant amounts of time and energy for both students and their vehicles.
Since the switch to virtual school, students have explored paperless options for note-taking. For example, some students choose to take notes on their devices instead of in notebooks. Teachers are giving tests out through Google Forms as opposed to on paper. Many teachers and students have found paperless options that work for them, which has reduced paper waste and can lead to minimizing deforestation as well as many other positive effects on the environment.
One less obvious effect of virtual schooling on the environment is the reduced consumption of energy through the heating and cooling systems of the schools. Every year, the schools use up high amounts of energy to ensure that the temperature in the building is maintained for the students and staff. With distance learning, there is a significantly decreased amount of raw materials, resources, and energy consumption.
Additionally, because students remain mostly in one location using less supplies, there is less resulting litter. Usually, students lazily leave their water bottles on the fields and drop their pencils and other items as they run to catch the bus. With online learning, all materials are in one place, and litter is reduced.
Overall, both benefits and drawbacks of virtual school have been observed in the past few months. The staff and students at RHS have done an excellent job in making use of electronic resources available to them to stay connected all while reducing the consumption of natural resources. With the various benefits to the planet, online education will definitely become more prominent in years to come.
Graphic: Shriya Dani