With the pandemic outbreak, the education system had to quickly switch to an online mode of learning. And there’s a chance that distance learning will stay with us for long and become the new normal with all the school closures – 124,000 schools across the United States had to stop working because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Such a rapid switch to online learning makes us wonder – will the education industry now become more sustainable?

On the one hand, schools will produce less waste. But on the other hand, distance learning leads to increased energy consumption, with all the Zoom classes and staying up late doing homework. That means that the seemingly sustainable online learning is not completely environmentally friendly after all. 

So, what can students do to make distance learning more eco-friendly?

Let’s take a look. 

1. Revise Your Use of Electronic Devices

We already mentioned that online learning implies the use of electronic devices. And, if you have all of them plugged in at once, your energy consumption levels can jump through the roof. 

A good way to cope with it would be to create a schedule for using your electronic devices. For example, you can set a timer when doing your homework for two hours and use the given time limit to the maximum. 

Of course, it can be hard to adjust to such a schedule right away, especially considering that distance education depends on the use of electronics. If you find it hard to cut the use of your devices, you can employ a few tools and apps to help keep up with the schedule:

When you’re done with online teaching or online classes, unplug your devices if you don’t plan on using them during the day. Surely, you won’t save all the energy in the world, but it’s small steps that count. 

2. Turn on the Power-Saving Mode

Similarly to creating a schedule to control the use of electronic devices, you can also switch all of them to the power-saving mode. Some devices already control the use of energy in real-time, but you can use your laptop or tablet in a power-saving mode all the time, and it won’t impact their performance. 

However, if your device’s work gets limited because of the power-saving mode, you can adjust your screen’s brightness, which also impacts the energy consumption levels. In a well-lit room, 25% screen brightness is enough to do all the work. But make sure you have enough light not to strain your eyes. 

3. Switch to LED Lights in Your Room

Speaking about a well-lit learning environment, it matters a lot which lights you’re using in a room where you’re studying and in your house in general. 

Not every light is good for sustainability. Diana Adjadj, a researcher and writer at SupremeDissertations, says fluorescent lights, which are often used in schools and some households, contain mercury that can get released as dust and vapor if the light breaks. As a result, it contaminates the environment. 

Apart from not being very sustainable, fluorescent lights can also be quite harmful to your health. Research has proven that these lights increase the possibility of eye diseases by 12%. And mercury that can emit when the lamp breaks can poison your liver, with long-term health complications. 

What is the solution here?

A good option is to switch to LED lights, which have far fewer negative effects on the environment than fluorescent lights. On top of that, LED lights will serve you longer, and they also can preserve energy. 

LED lightbulb. Photo courtesy of Pexels.com

4. Cook Food at Home

Since the pandemic outbreak, we started ordering take-outs more often. The use of food delivery apps has doubled, as people can no longer visit their favorite restaurants, and students can’t go to the nearest cafeteria for a quick bite to eat. 

You might be thinking, how’s that bad for the environment? People stopped using their cars as they get food delivered. Besides, they are trying to support local businesses, helping them survive during these tough times. 

That’s true, but everything is good in moderation. If you order food occasionally, that won’t do much harm, but constantly having food delivered increases waste. 

The best compromise here is to start cooking more at home. This way, you can control the waste easier. But most importantly – you can control how you recycle this waste, while you can’t always be sure that the restaurant you order food from is conscious about recycling. 

So, if you’re a student stuck at home with remote learning, start cooking food for yourself. Apart from making your life more sustainable, you’ll also gain a new skill and start eating healthier. Also, make a few sustainable upgrades to your house and purchase recycling bins to reduce waste and become a more responsible consumer. 

Over to You

Although distance learning is not the most concerning factor for the environment, it still has its negative effects. For instance, you can’t do e-learning without using devices and consuming a lot of energy. 

Thus, if you want to bring sustainability to remote learning, you can start scheduling how you use your devices for studying. Automate learning as much as you can and tinker with the settings in your devices to reduce energy consumption. 

Also, evaluate your learning environment. For example, you can replace your fluorescent lights with LED lights to prevent mercury emissions and to protect your eyes. 

And, of course, be a conscious consumer and start cooking food at home. This way, you’ll be able to control the waste and improve your health by eating a healthy diet. 

Author bio: Nicole D. Garrison is a content manager, writer and owner of Live Inspired Magazine.

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