6 ways online learning can save our planet

Mon Sep 19, 2022

Did you know schools are one of the largest public sector consumers of energy?

Schools require huge amounts of land, power, supplies, transportation and food.

The bus trip to school alone could be hugely increasing your child’s unique carbon footprint. The education sector needs to come together to address climate change.

Below we’ve created a list of ways that having your children taught online in the comfort of their own home helps helps to reduce the impact of their climate footprint - one that they have very little control over when attending school.

1. Transportation

Transport is considered one of the largest emitters of CO2 in the world. However, online schooling doesn’t require any transport at all - roll out of bed and onto the computer and we’re ready to go! Children also get more time in the morning to get organised before starting their school day, and as a result so will parents - no more rushed packed lunches, scurrying around looking for clean uniforms and shoes, or frantically trying to make sure the kids catch the school bus on time. And of course, no more school drop-offs and pick-ups if you usually drive your kids to school. Extra curricular and after school activities can also be organised to take place in your local community, rather than in the town or area that your children attend school. Long term, this means your kids are more likely to make friends locally and not have so many friends scattered around the catchment area of their school, which will reduce the need for transport for social activities.

Teacher-parent meetings all happen online as well, so no need to head to after school teacher-parent update

There are also no school-trips involved with us. This doesn’t mean the kids miss out on important site visits that help expand their knowledge though. Because our school is so uniquely tailored to your child and your circumstances, we work with your schedule to find innovative ways of including learning in the trips that you and your children are already taking. Heading to London for the weekend? We’ll incorporate what your child experienced on their trip into our history or geography lessons, and we’ll have them learn about all the famous writers and stories that London has produced in English Literature.

2. Uniforms

The fashion industry accounts for approximately 10% of global emissions. Nearly every school in the UK requires your children to wear a uniform, and as uniform tends to be strict in what can and can’t be worn to school, as a parent you have less control over the shops these uniforms come from (you may even have to buy them directly from the school), and therefore you lose your consumer control over ensuring that the fabrics are sustainably sourced or that they come from retailers striving to reduce their carbon footprint. And the biggest issue about uniforms? Kids grow. All the time. All the way through school. So uniforms have to be re-purchased every couple of years at the very least.

With our online school, kids wear whatever they’re most comfortable wearing to their classes. This means that you as the parent have complete control over the clothing that they’re wearing, where it’s coming from, and so you can thrift, hand-me-down or source responsibility to your heart’s content. Most schools still prescribe to gendered uniforms as well, or have strict rules about the size and length of clothing. This can be hugely problematic for non-gender-conforming students and students who struggle with their body image. So no uniforms allows children to be as comfortable as possible in their own clothes and own skin, giving them more freedom to focus on their education rather than spend their lessons consumed by feeling insecure.

3. School Supplies

There is absolutely no obligation or need for paper and pens at Gaia Learning. All of our lessons are conducted online, and notes and work are automatically saved and documented and are accessible at any point by either student, teacher, or parent. This means that you and your child have full control over paper and printing and can source recycled paper if you do decide to use physical supplies. No more unnecessary homework handouts, physical copies of letters from school, or lengthy end-of-year school reports - all of our reporting and communications happens online.

4. Electricity and Heating

The only requirements we have for teaching is a charged computer. Yes, these of course contribute to CO2 emissions. But as everything is being charged at home, you get to choose climate-conscious energy providers, and can decide how much electricity is being used. You can also have control over the thermostat during the winter. When you think of how many rooms in a school are left empty with 30 computers left on over lunchtime, or empty classrooms being heated with no one inside, or empty halls lit up all day long at school… significant wastage is hard to avoid at school.

Our platforms can be accessed from any device in any location as well - feel free to solar-power that iPad before the lesson if you want!

Video calls consume more battery, however our flexi-school offerings often don’t even require face-to-face teaching, meaning your kids complete their lessons without the need of a video-call from a teacher.

5. Food

Food production is responsible for approximately one quarter of CO2 emissions. From growing food (or raising and feeding livestock) to transporting it around the world, it has a huge impact on our climate. When your child eats at home, you have full control over the source of the food your child is eating. You can make sure that your child’s school lunch came minimally packaged, locally sourced, and may include less meat or more wonky veg. You may have even grown some of it in your own garden. Hey, we may have had your kids grow their own school lunch as part of our home economics lessons!

6. Our teachers and lessons

At Gaia, we hire teachers and tutors that have the same environmental vision as we do. This means that you can be sure that your children are being taught by environmentally-conscious and aware adults. In every subject, we create strive to keep the environment in mind in our teachings - whether putting Maths into practice by calculating CO2 emissions or researching into the environmental impact of the Cold War in History, we try our best to find ways to incorporate environmental issues into our lesson plans.

Our teachers are also based all over the world as well, giving children a unique insight into the realities of climate change in different parts of the world. I am based in Sri Lanka, and a missed lesson that occurred due to extreme powercuts earlier this year became a serious teaching opportunity for our history student to understand the impacts of political mismanagement and economic crises in a modern setting. However, it was also a lesson about the impacts of climate change, as the length of these powercuts were exacerbated by a lower-than-average annual rainfall, which caused a huge reduction in the country’s hydropower reserves - beyond politics, this was the fault of climate change, and so the student was able to get a real-world, live and unique perspective on the realities of climate change and how it impacts humans.

Lauren Brooks
Humanities educator and head of Wellbeing.