Love him or hate him Richard Branson is one of the world’s leading entrepreneurs famous for starting everything from a student magazine, back in his school days, to Virgin Galaxy, sending people into space for holidays not forgetting Virgin Records, Virgin trains, Virgin Atlantic and a host of other companies with the Virgin brand.
He is also a far-sighted visionary who has set up a philanthropic organisation called Virgin Unite which in turn has led to many other organisations which do a lot of real work in the world. This is not just painting walls for charities, but using the expertise within his organisations to make change for good in the world.
I have just finished reading his book, ‘Screw business as usual’ and he was talking about how industries can help the environment (among other things) and I thought about my industry – online teaching. Actually without realising it, we are actually doing a lot to help the environment by teaching and learning online.
We work from the comfort of our own home, so there is no extra demand for lighting, power or heating – most of us (teachers and learners alike) have families/partners who live with us so the lights would probably be on, as would the heating and the computer. This is an initial saving which is often overlooked.
Next there is the cost of transport, maybe we can walk to the school or the places where we teach but if not, we often use our cars or public transport as do the students who attend these schools. There are a few, granted, who will walk or use their bikes which is excellent.
Now let’s look at our teaching, teachers, in spite of the best efforts of schools, (for reasons of financial cost mainly!) are notorious for producing materials and copying them, just in case. (My hand is up too, I was guilty of this when I worked in the classroom!) What a phenomenal waste of paper and the cost of copying, don’t forget that the toner needs to be disposed of too when everyone has finished and the unhealthy air that many copiers give off. When we work online all of our materials are kept on our computer and shared with students via email, screenshare or other methods. Even homework can be done online. No photocopying, no trees being cut down, no toner to dispose of, no dirty air. I have a small printer which now rarely gets used. My empty cartridges go for recycling as will the printer when it finally dies. Plastic to plastics, glass to glass and metal to scrap. I use pens which have been produced for promotions by other companies and I buy refill inserts for them when they run out. The empty refills go for recycling too.
I am just a small one person operation but there must be thousands of us, if not tens of thousands, this is the size of a large corporation. If all education in the modern world was to move online what an improvement that would be. Using modern technology we can offer courses to people in developing countries without going there. One local adult with either a load of recycled laptops or computers which are still functional (and perfectly capable of working on the internet) could make a world of difference to these people.
I am just thinking that if each online teacher was to donate 1 hour of their time per week or per month to a project like this, lives could be transformed. People could understand the world around them better. This is a two way street, teachers and learners would learn. This to me seems like a win-win solution for people and planet.
What do you think?