Online Teaching Blog

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The Sustainability Factor of Being an Online Educator

The Sustainability Factor of Being an Online Educator

by Christabel Khumalo, BComm, MBA
March 24, 2019

Discussions of sustainability in business and personal conduct are becoming more common as concerns over climate change increase. Makes us wonder how our own decisions impact the world in which we live? Should our choices in careers consider what environmental effects they possess? Lets take a closer look at the relationship between online teaching and sustainability.

“Sustainability is the ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
-United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development

Sustainability in Commuting

The decision to teach online will impact your household travelling. Try and conduct a quick study on your travel behaviour had you been working at a local institution. Consider the following:

  • Distance to and from the institution
  • Average cost of fuel
  • Traffic patterns or delays
  • How often you would travel for lectures
  • How often you would travel for administrative purposes
  • How often you would travel for seminars and other related activities

Study the cost and impact the factors above would have on your carbon footprint. Depending upon where you live these factors could have significant implications on reducing your carbon footprint. Your work institutions could be located miles away from your home and travelling would not only be longer, but could also collide with peak travel times. Choosing an online telecommute option doesn’t necessarily eliminate all the factors listed. At times, you may be working part time and that could necessitate supplemental income that requires some commute. Elimination is one way to solve the problem, but its important to highlight the many options available for people to engage in sustainable commuting by reducing impact (e.g. biking, public transportation, car-share, and carpooling). More formal studies have been done to evaluate travel patterns include thorough examination of the following (Kim, 2017):

  • Multiplication of telecommute frequency round trip commute distance,
  • Measurement of travel changes utilizing quasi-experiments and,
  • Determination of marginal effects of the telecommute on travel (Kim, 2017)

Sustainability in Energy Consumption

As a remote worker, you’ll most likely have a designated home office space. This office space will have energy consumption levels that would otherwise differ from your conventional office space in a building. Another interesting item to consider is that your consumption tends to differ when you are the one responsible for the monthly energy bill. You are probably well more aware and conscious of your consumption usage at home than you would be at your on-site office.

Consider the control you have on your overall energy consumption at home. With more and more homes converting to net zero homes the possibilities of reduction increase. As the pursuit of reducing energy consumption continues, its no wonder net zero homes are becoming more popular in the real estate market. Within the five primary energy consumption areas 4.5% total shares are from the commercial sector and 28.8% from transportation (Energy Information Administration, 2018). Those are two areas where choosing to pursue a career in online education could significantly alter the total share contributions.

Does Your Decision to Become an Online Educator Have That Much of an Impact?

In short, the answer is absolutely. Sustainability is a continuously improving concept. We’ll always be trying to get better at it. If we can implement the well-known reuse, reduce and recycle concept in our daily lives what better way to do that than in our professional decision making as well. Choosing to reduce the adverse effects caused by the traditional way to educate students by becoming an online educator is one decision toward a more sustainable future.


Kim, S.-N. (2017). Is telecommuting sustainable? An alternative approach to estimating the impact of home-based telecommuting on household travel. International Journal of Sustainable Transportation, 11(2), 72–85. https://doi.org/10.1080/15568318.2016.1193779

The United States uses a mix of energy sources (2018). In Energy Information Administration. Retrieved from https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/?page=us_energy_home62

Photograph by Emma Pollard at Pexels

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About the Author

Christabel KhumaloChristabel Khumalo, BComm, MBA.

Christabel is a business consultant with a diverse entrepreneurial background. Her Commerce education in Financial Services & MBA in Global Leadership enables her to help clients globally (www.christabelconsultant.com). A life-learner living in Beaumont, AB – Canada, when she’s not busy building her career, you’ll find her behind her Nikon camera lens & travelling the world with her husband & two daughters.