With global environmental crises in the news lately, a lot of us are wondering how we can make a difference. There are many ways to advocate for a livable planet, whether you’re doing a few hours of volunteer work or committing to a career. We’ve highlighted seven growing fields looking for new talent.
1. Legal advocacy
Thinking about a law degree? Environmental law is a hot niche field, and like any area of legal practice, it requires some serious study. You’ll learn how corporations defend their interests, how protests and lobbying can make a difference, and how to educate the public. If you’re not planning to be a practicing attorney, law firms often need communications, business, and public relations professionals.
- Earthjustice is one of the biggest names in environmental law with branches across the country.
- Local organizations like the Environmental Law & Policy Center of the Midwest allow you to focus on one specific region.
2. Research and data analysis
We use environmental data all the time, from tracking the weather and analyzing carbon emissions to observing changes in wildlife populations and determining human "environmental footprints." Data analysts work hard to keep the public informed and present the figures in a way that makes sense.
This field often requires specialized training in computer science, software engineering, or natural resource management, but field experience may make up for education in some positions.
- For Washington D.C., locals the Environmental and Energy Study Institute is a major data analysis hub.
- Organizations like Providence, RI’s Environmental Data & Governance Initiative are doing this important work in less populated cities.
3. Food security and agriculture
The world population is growing and everyone needs to be fed, even when climate crises strike, so nutrition and agriculture will continue to be high-demand fields in the next several years.
Public health professionals, biologists, economists, and social scientists can help meet this growing need, but if you have experience in farming, plant and crop growing, or large animal health, you’re needed too. Many organizations also seek volunteers to carry out large-scale initiatives.
- ReFED in Berkeley, CA tackles the problem of food waste by using economic analysis.
- The Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) in Pittsboro, NC works with farmers to preserve local agriculture.
- Cambridge, MA’s Food for Free Committee distributes fresh food to anyone in need.
Reducing dependence on the fossil fuel industry means rethinking our transportation, particularly in the car-heavy United States. Whether you’re interested in public education, policy analysis, data collection, or team management, you can find a spot in the growing alternative transit industry.
Here are some organizations that focus on research and best practices:
- New York City’s Institute for Transportation and Development Policy focuses on research and best practices for transit.
- Forth in Portland, OR helps develop electric vehicles.
- Neighborhood Bike Works in Philadelphia, PA champions cycling in the local community.
5. Water preservation
Clean water is a critical health and human rights issue around the world. Water.org estimates almost one million people die each year from causes related to lack of safe water access.
You can get involved on the local or national level as a public health professional, grassroots activist, researcher, educator, and more.
- Clean Water Action has multiple regional branches, including one in Austin, Texas.
- Get involved on the policy side with Food & Water Watch in Washington D.C.
- Join a regional effort to preserve natural spaces like Arlington, MA’s Mystic River Watershed Association.
6. Animals and wildlife
Animal lovers can definitely turn their passion into a career helping the earth. If you’re studying biology, zoology, ecology, veterinary science, or a related field, you might want to pursue working with wildlife. While research-heavy positions usually require a bachelor’s or graduate degree, other jobs in zoos or national parks may look for experience over education.
- East Coasters can check out the Bronx, NY Wildlife Conservation Society.
- West Coasters and fans of marine biology can join the San Francisco, CA Aquarium of the Bay in their ongoing work.
- Wildlife conservation centers are as diverse as their locations, and wherever you live, there’s probably one nearby.
7. Parks, trails, and public spaces
Outdoors enthusiasts, hiking aficionados, and people who enjoy working with the public can get involved in their local parks and recreation departments. If you’re studying hospitality, nature preservation, community engagement or other relevant topics, you can find a career niche. And there are often opportunities for volunteers to staff major events or join clean-up efforts.
Many cities and regions across the United States have public land they’re dedicated to preserving for everyone’s (usually) free enjoyment. There’s likely to be a parks and recreation center near you. We’ve highlighted a few across the country:
- Southwest: Tucson, AZ Western National Parks Association
- Great Plains (South): Topeka, KS Kansas Recreation and Park Association
- Great Plains (North): Minneapolis, MN Voyageurs National Park Association
- Northeast: Portland, ME Portland Parks Conservancy
You don’t have to reroute your career to help sustain the planet. No matter what field you’re in you can encourage environmentally sustainable practices in your current workplace and make eco-friendly choices in your daily life.
How do you advocate for the environment? Share your experience with us.
Amy Bergen is a writer based in Portland, Maine. She has experience in the social impact space in Baltimore, Maryland, the educational museum sphere in Columbus, Ohio, and the literary world of New York City.