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How can we reduce our climate/carbon/plastic footprints across the ELT profession?

Mariam Oganesian is a TEFL-qualified English teacher, linguist, owner and CEO of a language school called “M-GROUP” in the Ukraine. She also has a master’s degree in ELT and Pedagogics and is a graduate of our Leadership in ELT course.

In this blog post, she summarizes some of the ideas submitted by our Trinity DipTESOL scholarship competition entries. 

I am incredibly proud to be an English teacher who is concerned about the damage our industry has on the environment and I wholeheartedly support the idea of going green. So, when I was offered the opportunity to write an article on this topic, I was flattered. I spent part of this July in Barcelona when I participated in the face-to-face Leadership in ELT course with Duncan Foord, Oxford TEFL Director. During this course, I found out that there is a growing movement within the ELT community to “green up” our profession work towards raising awareness of this mission.

The ELT industry can affect the environment either positively or negatively to a very large degree. The degree of how eco-friendly we are when it comes to using energy to heat and cool the building, to make dozens of photocopies, to plan classes, and to remove waste has a major impact on the community and the planet.

Heating and air conditioning systems pump greenhouse gas emissions from offices into the atmosphere and use up vast amounts of electricity. It is worth mentioning that many buildings aren’t even designed to include energy-efficient systems or technology to reduce the amount of heat and air conditioning we use. Some buildings are built from materials that do not come from renewable sources.

As an ELT teacher and a founder of my language school in Ukraine, I can say that office buildings have a huge appetite for electricity, lighting, air conditioning, computer power, printers, and photocopiers. Equipment may be left on for 24 hours a day, seven days a week — even when no one is working.

We consume vast amounts of paper. Even with more offices recycling paper, a large amount of paper waste still goes to landfill sites or incinerators. In addition to paper, offices produce a lot of other waste, including equipment (especially computers), because we should regularly upgrade their equipment to stay competitive. Electronics such as photocopiers and computers can end up in landfills, where they do not break down and, even worse, can release harmful chemicals into the ground and water.

On June 5th 2019, Oxford TEFL launched a scholarship competition to win one full Trinity DipTESOL scholarship or one 50% scholarship. One of the reasons for offering this competition was to raise awareness of the impact ELT has on the environment and how we can all contribute to a better future by reducing our climate/carbon/plastic footprints. I was honored to watch all the videos the participants sent and all the ideas contributed are incredibly relevant and useful.

I would like to thank all the participants for their time, dedication and concern towards making our world a better and healthier place to live in. The participants suggested handy and applicable solutions, such as replacing the plastic boards with chalkboards, doing more class based activities to avoid printing so much and most importantly creating an applicable action plan how we, ELT professionals, can finally be more friendly towards the World surrounding us.

Here is a summary of the ideas collected from the videos:


  • Empower people at ELT events to take actions to encourage responsibility
  • Launch a campaign on ELT social media to encourage grassroots change
  • Use local produce at schools and ELT events to avoid a lot of transportation
  • Invite local speakers to ELT events in order to cut down on fuel while travelling by plane, car etc.
  • Use biodegradable and reusable/ recyclable packaging

Schools and materials

  • Change plastic mini boards to chalk ones
  • Replace plastic-packaged snacks with fruits / vegetables or unpackaged food
  • Use carbon soot pens and markers
  • Use pencils with seeds to replace pens
  • Use more technology
  • Recycle dead markers
  • Use paper from stone powder
  • Bring flasks instead of plastic cups
  • Keep a consistent temperature at the school to reduce energy waste
  • Use efficient lighting options
  • Switch to 100% online materials and tools

Lesson planning

  • Promote the sense of interaction instead of writing
  • Invite students to reuse worksheets, not just throw them away
  • Move away from paper completely. Use tablets instead
  • Print on cardboard and reuse
  • Print only when necessary and use both sides
  • Use Google drive so you can have a folder for each student or each class
  • Use Google classroom to reduce the use of the electricity
  • Make greenness an assessment criterion


  • Offer online classes with a discount
  • Use electric bikes or walk instead of using cars to get to work
  • Schools, publishers and suppliers should work in unison to reduce and reuse rather than merely recycling
  • Educate your students to be green and be a model of educational awareness
  • Publishers, make waterproof books from recycled plastic that can be washed and reused
  • Offer free training for teachers on how to adapt to the online classroom

I am sure there are many more ideas, these are just the ones which arose via this competition. What would you add to this list?

I would like to finish by mentioning a quote from one of the competition participants:

“Each one of us can make a difference. Together we can make a change.’’ 

I hope that we will all be able to take more responsibility for the impact we have on the environment. Whether you are a school owner, teacher, trainer, conference speaker, or publisher: Be the change you wish to see in the world.

Meet the author

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