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Reducing schools’ environmental impact through the implementation of tech

Find out what you can do to reduce the environmental impact of your school or multi academy trust and how technology can help your organisation become more sustainable. 

Anna Artemyeva, Head of Google for Education for UK & Ireland, Interim Head of Europe, Middle East and Africa

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Overview 

Anna Artemyeva showcases how Google is helping to solve arguably the greatest existential challenge humankind has ever faced – environmental sustainability. 

Today’s students will spend their entire lives with environmental instability, seeking ways to make the world more sustainable. So it’s vital that technology giants like Google, and their most senior leaders, like Anna, are addressing sustainability alongside them. 

Google has been carbon neutral since 2007 and has committed to operate entirely on carbon-free energy, everywhere, by 2030. Anna shows us how Google for Education shares this global commitment and brings it into the here and now, answering imperative questions such as “Why should schools and trusts think about their environmental impact?” “What is the role of technology in making schools “greener”?” 

Anna is responsible for leading the implementation of Google’s sustainable practices in education and explores this key trend influencing education today and defining the educational experience of tomorrow. 

Anna will round off this important keynote with the clear actions that education establishments can take right away to become more sustainable. 

Next steps

Need help and advice with implementation or ongoing support with Google?  

As a Google for Education Partner, we’ve worked with many schools to help them implement Google and other cloud-based technologies. By providing flexible access to our Google experts, we are also able to help you build on your existing Google platform to realise its full potential. 

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If you are interested in knowing more about how we can help you to exploit Google for Education technologies, please get in touch.

Successfully implementing a Digital Learning Platform at Honiton Primary School  

As a Google for Education partner, we have helped many customers successfully implement digital learning platforms, enabling the provision of high quality and engaging teaching and learning without impacting on staff workload.  And our services don’t stop there – our ongoing support contracts provide quick and responsive access to expertise when it is most needed as Ross Hasler explains:  

We use Scomis to support us with our G Suite for Education and I would like to say a BIG t“We use Scomis to support us with our G Suite for Education and I would like to say a BIG thank you for resolving the myriad of requests we have been sending through. Our teachers are using Chromebooks successfully to teach KS1 and KS2 using Google Docs and Sheets. The service is working extremely well – the queries that I and other staff members have are now looked at much quicker by the specialists at Scomis, freeing up huge amounts of time to focus on teaching, learning and leadership”  

Ross Hasler
Assistant Head Teacher, Honiton Primary School, Devon 

Anna Artemyeva, GoogleAnna Artemyeva

Head of Google for Education, UK & Ireland and interim EMEA

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Anna leads Google for Education across the UK and the Republic of Ireland, and is the Interim Head of Education for Europe, Middle East & Africa. Her role includes supporting education organisations with getting the most out of Google technologies such as Chromebooks and Google Workspace for Education, providing professional development training for teachers in the area of tech use, improving learning outcomes, and making processes more efficient thanks to innovative solutions. Anna has been in the Tech industry for 15 years, 10 of which she has dedicated specifically to EdTech. Additionally, she has worked across various European countries bringing technological innovation to new geographies. 

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Other Related Topics 

Find out what a fully ‘googled’ school looks and feels like. Gain inspiration from a school that has been a worldwide Google Reference School since 2015 and was one of the first schools to deploy G Suite for Education and Chromebooks in the UK with Assistant Head and EdTech Lead at Devonport High School for Boys, Nick Berryman.

Find out more about the near future for Google’s classroom learning with Phil Wheeler, Goggle Certified Trainer and Presenter. 

If you are looking for inspiration about how to empower SEND students to take greater control of their own learning through exploiting EdTech. Find out more about new strategies and hints and tips that you can implement immediately with Google Certified Trainer and Presenter, Phil Wheeler.

Further reading and reference material

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Session transcript

Anna Artemyeva talks about sustainability in tech

ANNA: I am happy to come to such an important topic as sustainability commitments and how you can reduce the environmental impact of your schools with the use of technology. I know that many at Scomis are using Google Workspace or Chromebook, or both; I think it will be very useful for you to understand how by choosing this technology you are reducing the environmental impact of your school. If you are not a Google school, I think that this will also be very useful. It will help you to understand what to look for, when you are building and developing your own sustainability commitments or choosing the technology with sustainability in mind.

Google’s efforts towards sustainability
Google has been working hard for climate action for three decades already. In 2007 they were the first company of such a size to announce that they are carbon-neutral. Let me briefly explain the terminology here: what is meant by carbon-neutral? A company or organisation that says that they are carbon-neutral calculates this by analysing their manufacturing and production and then participating in programmes that offset carbon emissions from those operations. Unfortunately, carbon-neutral does not mean that there are no carbon emissions at all. It simply means that a company or organisation invests in things like renewable energy or other environmental programmes.

So Google has, since 2007, been carbon-neutral already. Ten years on from that, they have managed to switch completely to renewable energy. Once again, I will briefly explain the terminology. Renewable energy is energy collected from resources that are naturally replenished within a human time scale. We’re talking about energy from wind, sun, waves, heat, tide, and things like that. That means that all of the energy that Google purchases to power its data centres and offices, all around the world, is 100% renewable.

And we are not stopping here. Google has a serious commitment to go carbon-free by 2030. Carbon-free, of course, means that there are no carbon emissions at all. This also means that there must be no emissions in the supply chain that Google chooses – so, if we are using other suppliers for parts, transportation, even catering, we will be choosing carbon-free suppliers. And with this sustainability best practices and commitments we try to extend the benefits of that to our customers, as well.

What sustainability tools can Google offer to you?
Before I start talking about Google for education offering and its impact on the environment specifically, I would like to talk about a few other known Google services and products. I will start with Google shopping. I am sure many of you use Google functionality for goods and services – it is committed to reducing the role of packaging and transportation when you choose different products. It also allows you to find the most eco-friendly products, even for appliances. Let us imagine you are looking for energy-intensive product like a dishwasher; Google will offer you an option to filter all the dishwashers offered by the most eco-friendly and sustainable options.

Google Flights is another useful tool. You can view the carbon emission for the specific flight that you are looking at – and make the choice to find an eco-friendlier one. Apart from the fact that the Google search function itself is built on the carbon-neutral Google cloud, we also have a dedicated team insuring all the information on the climate situation and climate change is accurate. So, we rely on reliable sources such as the United Nations and other official organisations to provide true information about what is happening on the planet.

Hopefully, many of you have heard about Google Nest. It is a selection of products for a smart home – things like door cams and thermostats. Specifically, for the Google Nest thermostat there is a new feature called “Nest Renew”: it allows you to set up your heating or cooling of your house to use the cleanest energy and also to use it in the most efficient, cost-effective way. All of this uses artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Google Maps has also sustainability commitments in its score; choosing going by car to your work or to do your shopping or to see your friends is a very carbon-intensive choice. So, very soon Google will be offering you the ability to choose not only a toll-free or fastest route, but also the most eco-friendly road. That will allow you to choose the most fuel-efficient way to your destination.

All these features that I have mentioned are already available or will be available later this year. So now let me talk about Google for education products and for education commitment. Today I will focus on two main products – the first being Google Workspace.

Google and education tools

You probably know the apps like Google Classroom, Gmail, and so on – that is Google Workspace for education. Firstly, I think it is important to understand that if you have chosen to use cloud-based solutions and Google, specifically, you are choosing to use a carbon-neutral product. This already can be part of your school’s environmental commitment. I am really pleased that in the UK, specifically in the last two or three years, there has been a significant change; a significant switch to cloud-based solutions. A lot of this has been driven by the DfE over the last, two years of the pandemic, when they offered all schools a budget to switch to cloud-based solutions; either Google or Microsoft Office. And this was primarily done for the reasons of allowing schools to offer remote learning to students. But it also allows a lot of schools that were, up to that point, using energy-inefficient methods to explore cloud-based solutions.

How schools can use cloud solutions to be more energy-efficient
So, there are still a lot of schools that use on-premises solutions to run their technology and digital solutions. But it is very important to understand that this way of doing things is not energy-efficient. It is very expensive to sustain the server infrastructure in your school. It is also not secure with regards to cyberattacks. While you might still have a server – maybe a reduced amount to keep some of your data – unfortunately not all the software that you might be using will be cloud-compatible. So, you are forced to use your server solutions to run that legacy software. But you should be thinking about the future and switching to more eco-friendly and cloud-based solutions.

The organisations that have switched from on-premises server-based infrastructure to cloud infrastructure saw up to 87% reductions in IT, energy use and carbon emission. Just think about this number: 87% less energy used when you switch to the cloud solution. Think for a moment about the famous tools like Google Classroom, Google Docs, Google Forms, and the rest. All of those allow you to go paperless or to reduce the amount of paper you use. You also now can keep your guardians informed electrically, versus guardians and parents travelling to school meetings and parent assemblies. Google Meet allows you to conduct parent meetings and staff meetings virtually; this has the benefit of reducing CO2 emission via less travel.

One of the things that I am particularly looking forward to in the UK, which is not necessarily related to Google, but about reducing the overall amount of paper and transportation costs, is that we might soon see our exams being adopted in this additional digital format. Hopefully, before too long the Department for Education and Examination Boards will reduce the amount of paper that is used for A Level or GCSEs – all the trucks that drive these papers to the facilities to process exam papers. All of that could be done on-line. It will save a lot of energy, fuel, and paper, leading to a much more positive impact on the environment.

How Chrome is a sustainable brand
Next, I want to talk about Chromebooks and the Chrome operating system. Sustainability is not a new thing for Chromebooks. They were launched 12 years ago; even then, sustainability was a priority for Google as it now is for many companies.

There are a few things to consider when choosing a Chromebook. Longevity: what components are used to produce them. Choose the solution with rubber framing, attached pad, screen, and keyboard so that it does not break easily. This will serve your staff and your students longer. Look at what materials are used to produce those devices – are they recycled and recyclable materials? One of the things Google has started doing since last year is that they have put more artificial intelligence in Chromebooks to ensure there is more energy efficiency in how they charge, how they use screen brightness, and how they consume power, all to make sure that the energy is used in the most efficient way without compromising on the productivity of the Chromebook.

And Chromebooks have been designed with shareability in mind. As someone working in education, I would love every child to have a Chromebook. But I understand that that is not necessary, especially in early years. These devices can be shared. They can be shared in a way that each user can log in with their own credentials and have a unique, safe, and secure experience. Think about that. How many devices you need in your classroom, and can they be shared?

It is also important to understand that we when we speak about sustainability needs that we need to look at the entire life cycle. How will the device be manufactured and what materials will it be made from? Are they consumed and used responsibly? Have they been built with repairable and recyclability in mind initially? Whether you choose a Chromebook or any other solution or service, think of all the stages from the manufacturing stage, consumption stage, and the end-of-life stage as well.

Google does not produce Chromebooks itself. Our OEM manufacturing partners produce Chromebooks – Acer, Lenovo, HP, and others – and I am really pleased to see that all these companies have their own sustainability programmes as well. All of them are looking at ways to deliver smart and sustainable devices. Let me summarise four main points you need to look for when you are looking for a sustainable device.

1. It needs durable components and must be long lasting. What is the expected lifespan of this product? What is it made with? How have similar devices lasted?

  1. Have they about been using recyclable and recycled materials. Look at the materials; go to the website or the manufacturer and see what they write about the materials of each device.
  2. Is this device recyclable? What percentage of all parts of this device can be recycled when the device is no longer used?
  3. Is this device built with repairability in mind? This is a new concept I want to explore. Repairability is what it sounds like: imagine that something is broken in the device. The battery, the screen, the keyboard, or the touch pad, as an example. Manufacturers should try to make sure that you will not just throw away this device, but instead have an opportunity to repair and extend its usage.Recycling and repairing old devices
    I am excited to share with you that Google has launched a Chromebook repair programme. We launched it in the United States, and hopefully it will soon come to Europe. But that does not mean that you need to wait for it to come to Europe to start using this. The idea is that Google is working with manufacturers and has partnered with Acer and Lenovo to see which of their devices can be repaired without a deep technical expertise. Which Chromebooks can be repaired in-house: in school by your IT admins, teachers, enthusiasts, or even students.

    So those manufacturers provide an easy guide to how to repair the Chromebooks to save the turnaround time for you as a school. It will save transportation costs, because you do not need to ship the device to someone else for repair. A lot of our pilot schools in the states offer elective courses to students who want to participate in these repair programmes. I recommend looking up the Chromebook repair programme if you are interested; it contains many suggestions for how to implement it in your school. It saves a lot of money and time and is better for the environment. I really hope that we will have this programme and pilots running in the UK, as well. As soon as we have the pilot programme, we will reach out and ask you to apply if you are interested.

    Ensuring that your devices meet sustainability goals
    So, I talked about the how the devices are manufactured and what you need to keep in mind when you are choosing a device. Now it is worth discussing how to consume those devices responsibly. Chromebook devices consume as much as 46% less energy than comparable devices – so that is worth thinking about. Many manufacturers will issue energy consumption statistics per device. So, if you are not sure which device you want to choose, you can go to the websites, see how much energy they consume, and how it will affect your school’s energy bill.

    You do not always need a new device to bring more sustainability to your classroom. After all, the most sustainable device is one that already exists. You can bring new life to them by using the new solution that is called Chrome OS Flex. You can contribute to sustainability with old fleets of devices that might have been collecting dust in your storage room or in your computer labs – or maybe some parents have donated some devices to you over the pandemic. Many of you have heard or have been using a solution called CloudReady, which converts existing devices to Chrome. Chrome OS Flex is basically a new cloud; we have not only rebranded it, but we have also put more technology into it to make it more user-friendly, secure, and reliable. The current model of Chrome OS Flex that we have just launched and announced is 2.0 – it is now available in Beta. If you are interested to try it, you can apply for it for free. The stable launch of Chrome OS Flex will start from June this year.

    What is this solution all about?
    Chrome OS Flex or CloudReady is a solution that you download from the Chrome website. You can plug it into the old Mac or Windows desktop, and it will convert the device to a secure Chrome OS that works in the same way as your old fleet of Chromebooks. You need to check whether your machine is compatible with Chrome OS Flex. Many are; we find that very few old models are not compatible. We have the full list on Google website of all the machines compatible, but if your machine is not on the list this does not necessarily mean it is not compatible – it just requires testing.

    There is no license cost to convert your old machine to a Chrome OS machine; there is only one cost associated with this conversion. And that is that if you want your device to have the same security policies and settings and the same asset management as the others in your network, you will need to purchase the one-time Chrome education upgrade license. To manage it in the Google admin console, you will see all the new Chromebooks and OS Flex devices and can apply the same policies to your fleet of your devices. Again, this means you can potentially extend the life cycle of some of the old machines that might not have been used in your school for ages.

    The sustainability resources educators can access
    To finish off, I would like to share a couple of valuable resources that might inspire your teachers to run sustainability environmental-related lessons. We have lesson plans related to Earth Days, and around the impact of plastic and the ocean. My personal favourite is called “Your Plan, Your Planet”, which teaches children how our everyday actions contribute to our ecological footprint. All those ready lesson plans are available to your teachers now for free. Google offers so much inspiration – it even has a dedicated sustainability website which you can use to look up all sorts of interesting things. My personal favourite is “time-lapse” to see how the Earth has been changing in the last 37 years; it is very dramatic and impactful. It is the sort of thing which both adults and children can look at and analyse what has been happening – and how, unfortunately, our planet has changed recently with regards to global warming.

    The DfE have launched the Genzero Project – a research project to develop guidance on building ultra-low carbon standards for schools. I believe it is still at the launch phase, but you can look on their website to find guidance on how to physically build a school so that it has carbon-free or carbon-neutral technology. Stay tuned to see how that one develops – I am happy to see these efforts from them.

    I will finish with that. I hope that this has been helpful; if you would like to know more about Google sustainability, just go to sustainability.Google.com, where you can find a lot of resources that can be helpful for your own school’s environmental commitments.

    Questions received

    I have received a couple of questions. One is about the cost of Google software and resources, which of course are mostly free to education; the question is will we start charging at some point. We do have free and paid options. Google Workspace for education has a free edition called Google Workspace Fundamental. That is free and will remain so – it fits the needs for a lot of schools already, especially for smaller sized schools. The free edition offers a lot of features, so we are proud to offer that.

    Then we have paid subscriptions as well. These are Google Workspace Plus – teaching and learning if you need more functionality. It is up to you to explore the subscription you would like, whether free or paid. It is work to research both, but we will keep the free subscription available to all schools worldwide as an option.

    Chromebooks are obviously not free; they are sold by the device manufacturers themselves. There is a cost to manage Chromebooks – it is one-off. The Chrome education upgrade is the license you buy once for a particular device. But the Chromebook operating system itself is free; we are not charging the manufacturers for the OS. And then the Chrome OS Flex – the new solution to converting old machines – is free of charge and will remain so.

    The next question I have been asked is whether the age of the device you wish to install Chrome OS Flex is a factor; whether it will become unsupportive at some point, like an older Chromebook does. We recommend only adopting Chrome OS Flex on devices which are less than ten years old. This is because devices more than ten years old need more components to run anything. So, if you are taking an eight-year-old Mac or Windows machine it should be fine as long as they are part of the compatibility list on our website; with all the devices there is a slight risk, because their components such as batteries and motherboards might not be suitable to run anything. And with the Chrome Flex there is no end of the support period, so you will still get the automatic updates on your Chrome Flex machine while the machine itself is live. Obviously, it will not extend the life of the machine by another ten years; that is probably too ambitious. But a couple more years, or three or four? That is entirely possible.