From conducting paperless exams to reducing and reusing plastic waste on campus, India’s colleges and universities are taking up the cause of sustainable living and setting an example for other sectors.
The world’s need for environmental sustainability is increasing with the adverse impact of deforestation, climate change and global warming, which is caused by the growing population and evolving lifestyles. Technology and innovation are paramount for the progress of any nation but the carbon footprint it leaves behind is detrimental. The need to incorporate eco-friendly ways of producing and consuming as well as efficient use of energy, water, and natural resources is imperative for our survival and future wellbeing. Green technology is essential to rejuvenate our ecosystem and provide us with alternatives that do not harm our environment and deplete our resources.
The education sector apart from imparting knowledge and reshaping society by creating awareness has taken several initiatives towards contributing to the environment in myriad ways. Educational institutions themselves consume huge amounts of energy and resources and on realising this they have taken important steps to go green. They have implemented the policy of reduce, reuse and recycle by incorporating alternative methods that are eco-friendly and programmes that help in conserving natural resources.
With the advent of the printing press, the consumption of paper has increased. And since paper is affordable, the tendency to waste it is more. The inefficient use of paper, lack of paper saving practices and recycling initiatives have led to “paper pollution”. The impact of paper pollution on our environment is drastic and a cause of concern. Our landfills are piled high with paper waste, the emission of harmful gases from pulp and paper mills are causing air pollution whereas the wastewater discharge from these mills causes water pollution. The negative effect it has on our environment cannot be ignored. Massive amounts of paper are consumed by educational institutions, and waste paper bins overflowing with paper waste are a common sight too.
Many prominent and progressive universities have taken a pledge to go paperless and reduce their use of resources and have opted for green technology by incorporating digital examinations. Digital examinations provide end-to-end paperless solutions during the evaluation process and have descriptive questions that motivate young minds to think rather than just memorise, which is crucial for creative thinking. The students can now answer their exams using devices that provide a similar experience of writing on paper and have additional features that enhance the examination process for students. The benefits of adopting digital examinations are felt not only by educational institutions but by all those who are involved in the examination process, alongside having a positive impact on our environment.
Universities such as Manipal University (that received Eco-friendly award winner for going paperless), IIIT Bangalore, Nimhans University, VIT- AP and REVA University have implemented digital examinations and have reaped several benefits. In doing so there have been no major issues and it takes them closer to achieving their target of going completely paperless in the coming year.
Spreading awareness and educating people on different ways through they can protect the environment encourages people to make conscious efforts to conserve limited resources. Schools and universities have taken initiatives to make students aware of the importance of a clean and green environment by promoting waste management and efficient use of water and electricity by installing solar panels and solar water heaters. Classrooms and elevators can also be fitted with motion sensors to reduce power wastage. These steps prove to be environment-friendly and cost-effective at the same time. Students are encouraged to carry their own reusable water bottles, which can be refilled at filtered water stations on the campus than using disposable plastic bottles every time, which are a significant pollutant. Recycling drives are held and slogans are put up to curb the use of plastic to create awareness. These efforts invoke in the students a sense of responsibility towards the environment and they instill habits that will help towards building a sustainable future.
Lately, a lot of institutions are focusing on building infrastructure that facilitates air ventilation. Sustainable building designs keep the place naturally cool and bright, thus reducing the use of energy used for air conditioning and lighting. Biodegradable, eco-friendly and recyclable materials are used during construction.
The use of water has increased with the growing population which has resulted in lower groundwater tables and our reservoirs are drying up too, especially, since the rains are unpredictable. Rainwater harvesting is another initiative that some universities are using as an attempt to reduce water wastage. It involves the collection of water from surfaces on which rain falls. The accumulated water is then stored and used to water gardens on campus, clean floors and for different purposes. This helps save a lot of water.
Thus, universities are now looking for different ways through which they can contribute towards a sustainable environment. They encourage eco-friendly transport like bicycles to avoid the emission of poisonous gases and reduce the use of fuel. Composting and vermiculture are some remarkable methods embraced by the education sector in an attempt to go green.
Education sector can play a crucial role in creating awareness, inculcating values, changing perceptions and nurturing the next generation towards adopting a dynamic lifestyle that fosters sustainable development. It imbibes in youth the need to care, conserve and protect the environment and to proactively support and promote government decisions taken to protect it. Education opens the mind to endless possibilities and inspires people to use their knowledge towards building a healthy environment and join the green crusade with green collar jobs that help in conservation and resolving environmental issues not only in India but all over the world.
The author is the founder of LittleMore Innovation Labs, pioneers in paperless digital examination for descriptive exams