Using technology to save the planet

Sustainability is a hot topic in the education sector. Above all, people and institutions are looking to save money and achieve increasingly pressing green goals.

This year we’re likely going to see an increase in mobile technology and virtual reality start to impact things like food choices. Technology Enabled Care Services (TECS) carbon footprint software enables institutions to calculate the carbon footprint of food; while MOOC learning software allows users to see the energy performance of buildings.

Any institution that does not use technology to save energy and money these days is a rarity. But it’s not always as easy as it sounds.

“The main sustainability challenge for UK universities this year is certainly how quickly they will reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and achieve their net zero goals,” says Iain Patton, CEO of the alliance for leadership in sustainable development in education (WATER). “There is no doubt that educational technology will have to play a role in this regard. Universities should ensure that they maximize the use of edtech to reduce emissions wherever possible (by saving on travel, for example), as well as encourage students and staff to come up with new, innovative edtech technologies for further help society reduce its emissions.

There have been some significant accomplishments over the past 12 months. The prices of the green dress recognize outstanding sustainability initiatives undertaken by universities and colleges around the world. Highlights from the past year included the University of Bristol’s Sustainable Futures online course. This free program uses real-life video case studies of people making a difference in a variety of ways. So far, 5,700 people have taken the course, including 2,000 students, and feedback has shown that it has motivated many to become more sustainable.

The University of Edinburgh has developed its Digital Ambassador Program to strengthen digital culture in Edinburgh, as well as empower those who lack the skills to take on tasks such as shopping for food online or staying in. contact with their family by e-mail. This is extremely beneficial for the health and well-being of those who receive help and support.

One of the finalists in the “Research with Impact: Student” category of the Green Dress developed a tool designed to calculate the carbon sequestration of an individual tree (which means you can calculate how much it will cost to capture carbon from one tree). ‘a development if it involves the cutting of trees); while another created an interactive online wellness map that gives a comprehensive guide to campus wellness facilities.

The University of the West of Scotland (UWS) Lanarkshire campus, designed around sustainability, is one of the greenest in the UK. Powered 100% by renewable energy from a nearby wind farm, the campus has flexible and collaborative teaching spaces, some of which are available for use by the local community and businesses to ensure that ‘no space is wasted.

On the way to net zero

Mathew Hassell is the CEO and Founder of Educational Transportation Management Provider Kura, which helps educational institutions to be more sustainable by reorganizing their transportation operations, using powerful tracking and application technologies to provide a safer, greener and smarter school management service.

“Currently around 25% of rush hour car use is associated with running to school, with just 20% of students using public transport,” says Hassell. “Our innovative and technological services encourage greater adoption of shared transportation among students, improving safety, efficiency and reliability.”

Each 49-seater coach removes up to 31 cars from the road. So by working with schools to make their home-to-school transportation services more user-friendly, Kura is able to make a huge difference in air pollution levels.

In addition to reducing the number of cars, Kura is also encouraging educational institutions to optimize their shared transport routes, further reducing unnecessary carbon emissions. “We are seeing that educational institutions are now much more forward-looking and, therefore, are interested in entering into longer contracts where this will directly lead to greater improvements in sustainability,” says Hassell.

But Kura’s work is not yet finished: “Although we have made great strides in the education sector, our ultimate ambition is to make zero-emission shared transport a reality for schools and universities” , explains Hassell. “We know that switching from traditional fuel vehicles to electric buses is the key to this ambition. Unfortunately, the charging infrastructure to support this movement is currently not there, as electric buses have different energy needs than conventional electric vehicles and cannot rely on the existing charging infrastructure.

This is further complicated by the need for coach operators to be able to run their vehicles on longer journeys between school services in order to get a return on the considerable investment that an electric vehicle requires. “

Kura is now establishing its own network of bus charging points across the country, working on national infrastructure that could be used by other electric bus fleets.

Our ultimate ambition is to make zero-emission shared transport a reality for schools and universities

Sustainability is not always easy

Vevox, formerly known as Meetoo, is a Hampshire-based engagement apps company. The company is developing a poll and chat app that increases engagement and participation in meetings and classes, or conferences and events. CEO Pete Eyre says apps like this are a simple way for institutions to streamline. “Many institutions run on outdated legacy systems,” says Eyre, “and this type of technology offers universities the ability to maintain student engagement through modern solutions that can be easily integrated into existing IT systems and processes. ” He adds that “choosing an outsourced solution means that institutions don’t need to spend additional costs and resources to develop their own systems. All of this makes it a much more sustainable and flexible long-term investment option. “

There is also an economy of scale with modern edtech, says Eyre, especially with the advent of cloud-based platforms: “Added functionality based on the requirements of a higher education institution can be immediately available and benefit all establishments that use this technology. platform… In the past, software licenses involved the installation of increasingly obsolete versions or, when in-house software was used, institutions had to face the cost of developing a feature on their own.

Future planning

While solutions that look at energy use or encourage recycling are great, Clare McSheaffrey, Marketing and Events Manager at Co-sector, University of London, believes that “if the industry really wants to make a difference, there are much more advanced approaches that could be adopted in the years to come”.

Paperless processes are already in place in some areas of higher education, says McSheaffrey, “such as essays which can be submitted by VLE tools such as Turnitin, rather than physical copies. Recent advances in digital assessment may take us even further. By moving the exams entirely online, we have seen a huge reduction in the paper used by universities, not to mention the huge efficiency and time savings in collection and scoring. “

While there are many good news stories, there are still challenges, says Iain Patton: “There are common obstacles – very often an institution can encourage lasting behavior change, but does not have it. infrastructure to support it. The key, he says, “is to balance the social side of sustainability with the economic and environmental side, and to learn from your mistakes.”


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