B09: Why isn’t our tutorial “green friendly”?

Here’s a quick aside.

A question I sometimes get in tutorials is “Why isn’t our tutorial ‘green friendly’?”

By “green friendly” tutorials, we usually mean those that do not have any print materials (such as textbooks, handouts), where the course materials are largely online, and where assessments are submitted online. In some cases, it can also include courses that only use single-spacing and double-sided printing.

With human-caused climate change spiraling further out of control, and with global deforestation and inadequate recycling practices, many of us are inclined to think that going “green” is the morally right thing to do. This is relevant to bioethics not only as a course but also as a methodology and field of study: environmental changes can directly impact health outcomes. So there is good reason, I agree, to think that we should aim to “go green”. That is to say:

I am generally and genuinely interested in working to protect the environment and limit my environmental impact. But as our TA, I am also critically interested in making sure our learning community is as inclusive and accessible as we can make it.

And too often, “green” initiatives are not as inclusive as we might believe. In particular, they tend to exclude many people who are disabled and poor, among others. When green initiatives focus on individual or group actions, we can sometimes ignore the different social realities and personal contexts where actions happen, and also how those contexts can impact who is able to participate in those actions and how.

Not everyone has access, or regular access, or equal access to technology and digital materials. Some people do not have computers or smart phones, or share them with others, and sometimes our electronics get lost/broken/stolen. Not everyone can afford home internet and may be more dependent on the wifi on campus or in public places. Not everyone can easily read from a screen, or from a screen for extended periods of time. Libraries and places where people can access computers have limited hours of operation, and may be overbooked or physically inaccessible.

And on the other hand: not everyone can afford textbooks, can easily read print materials, or read print materials for an extended period of time, or read handouts that are only single-spaced. Sometimes our handouts, books, and notes get lost/unreadable/stolen. Sometimes we can’t afford to print things we find online. Books and binders can be too heavy to carry, and not everyone can physically take handwritten notes. If we choose only one or the other, technology or print, we will usually exclude certain people.

My goal for tutorials will be to provide multiple paths to accessing our handouts, blog posts and updates (like this one), and any other material I post or share online or in tutorial. This means I will be willing to print anything I post online if you need, and that I will post anything I handout in person online as well.

If you need anything in alternative formats (such as if any resources can’t be read by your screen-readers, or you need audio, or larger print handouts) let me know, and I will do the best I can to make sure everything is available to you.

At the same time, I will strive to limit printing to cases where it is needed, and I will avoid printing longer handouts unless requested (and I genuinely welcome those requests!). I will aim to print on recycled paper when I have access to it. I will avoid uploading .pdf files and images which can take more energy to store and load unless requested (we often forget that electronics require power, as does hosting and accessing the internet, and that this is a form of energy consumption too).


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