Moving towards greener learning

Being ‘green’ is everywhere these days – as our planet’s population grows, our environmental impact on it has become a very important consideration.  Often the focus is on what we can do at home and the ‘big picture’ things organizations can do, but what about what we can do in our work as learning professionals? In an online article I read the other day called “Going green—are learning professionals ready?", author Silke Fleischer states that although classroom training declined from 76% in 2001 to 65% in 2006, according to the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) 2007 State of the Industry Report, it still makes up the majority of learning hours delivered and has a significant impact on the environment in the areas of travel, facilities and materials. So how can an organization move towards greener learning?  

According to the ASTD 2007 State of the Industry Report, “Tailored blended learning saved one organization $2.8 million in travel and accommodation costs by cutting travel time for a 14-week program from 28 to 7 days.”  Moving face-to-face training on-line reduces the need for paper-based materials as well as the energy required for travel and classroom facilities (e.g., lighting, heating, cooling, etc.). According to Public Works and Government Services Canada, we produce more than 30 million tonnes of garbage each year – more than one tonne per person.  Of this waste, more than 36 percent is paper.  A blended learning solution using a combination of e-learning, online discussion forums, blogs, web seminars, wikis and podcasts as well as providing online resources will reduce your organization’s printing costs and other environmental impacts associated with face-to-face training.

Sometimes, however, face-to-face training is simply the best option for your organization and learners. Here are some ways you can make that training greener:

  • Design courses that require fewer printed materials. Instead, provide online resources that support the learning.
  • If you need to print, use recycled paper and print double-sided. Print only the most critical information.
  • Provide training in centrally located areas to shorten travel distances.
  • Upgrade your training facilities using such things as energy-efficient hardware, lighting, cooling and heating.
  • Provide recycling bins in your training facility - encourage participants to recycle.
  • Purchase recycled and environmentally friendly training supplies.
  • Support carpooling for off-site participants/training sessions.

 We make choices each day that potentially impact our environment. If we all consider even small changes we could be making in the way we develop and present learning, we can do our part to contribute to a greener world. To learn more about green learning, check out a good article from ASTD Learning Circuits, “E-Learning = Environmental Learning”.