Written by: Anna Olsson
When the Green Teaching Program first launched in the late summer of 2008, 35 AU professors answered a short list of questions about commitments they would make to teach sustainably that fall. Since then, the program has grown and changed significantly, but its core purpose remains the same: To provide incentives for faculty to teach sustainably, while creating a greater awareness of the effects of education on the environment among both professors and students.
This year, the Green Teaching Program is on track to break its all-time record of the number of faculty certified in a single year (151), and it will likely also pass the milestone of certifying its 500th individual Green Teacher. The concrete implications of the program for campus sustainability are significant. Take for example the one action of not printing your course syllabus, and providing it in electronic form only: Assuming that about 80% of the faculty who have earned 1,184 certificates over the last 8 years opted to make their syllabi electronic, and assuming that each faculty member taught an average of 3 courses in an academic year, with an average of 25 students per course, and with syllabi of an average length of 10 pages, this one action alone has saved over 710,000 sheets of paper. That’s a small forest (85 trees, to be precise, according to the calculations by the non-profit organization Conservatree.org). And this is only the estimated impact of one of the 54 actions faculty can opt to commit to in the current version of the Green Teaching Certificate application.
Faculty can collect points for a variety of actions reducing the use of paper by moving towards using course materials, assignments, and exams in an electronic format; reducing the use of energy and reducing pollution by using energy efficient equipment, making a habit of turning off equipment not in use, scheduling office hours on the day of class, and biking or carpooling to campus; as well as other measures such as allowing Green Teaching Program staff to post a Green Teaching score card on Blackboard course pages, listing the commitments made, for students to see, using reusable food and beverage containers, and talking to department staff about purchasing recycled materials and supplies.
And it doesn’t stop there. The Green Teaching Program has been recognized beyond AU, in the Princeton Review’s Green Honor Roll as one of the reasons for AU’s high score in sustainability ratings of colleges and universities. In addition, six universities across the United States have replicated the program on their own campuses. And so, what started as a small initiative by a few AU faculty and students who wanted to be more conscientious about their use of resources has multiplied into a movement transcending the AU campus, that gives the phrase “think globally, act locally” a whole new meaning.
You can learn more about AU’s Green Teaching Program at http://www.american.edu/ctrl/green.cfm.