With topics like climate change, the environment, and natural resource conservation all trending, you of social conscience may be wondering how to get involved.
There is a multitude of nonprofits out there specializing in saving the planet, so figuring out where you might fit in is a multifaceted order. Here are a few ways to break it down and determine where you can best contribute to make a difference.
Step 1: What does it mean to be green?
What is a green job? In the nonprofit sector, green organizations are often defined as organizations inspired by the conservation or environmental movements with a focus on protecting, analyzing, or monitoring the environment against misuse or degradation from human forces. These organizations include charities, trusts, NGOs, and government agencies.
Step 2: Where do you fit in?
The environment and conservation movements are huge with vast and intricate histories. To start making a difference, try to refine your interests and determine exactly how you want to get involved.
To find your path, reflect on what speaks to you. Is it animals, plants, the ocean, streams, or mountains? Environmental justice or environmental education? Local, national, or international issues? Are you interested in organizations that focus on biodiversity, climate change, conservation, recycling, water quality, or environmental health?
Once you've check out Idealist.org's offering of current volunteer and job opportunities in the green sector, here are a few other resources to check out:
- 2017 top ten list of environmental jobs to get you started
- Green job recommendations from Scientific American
- Green jobs list from the Bureau of Labor Statistics
- The now-defunct BLS green jobs overview has some good background data, especially for women in green jobs
Step 3: Figuring out how you can help
Environmental organizations are unique in that they focus on where humanity touches the natural world and jobs with these kinds of organizations can offer exciting opportunities. Here are a few ways to help you determine your potential niche:
- Try using Idealist Careers’ target employer list method. Do some research and make a list of organizations that speak to you.
- Visualize the kind of work you’d enjoy. For example, if you’re digging the idea of field work, what sounds more interesting: working on the frontlines, perhaps as defined by Greenpeace, or would you prefer fieldwork that happens closer to home, like collecting data on neighborhood surface waters? If you’re happiest in an office environment, have or want experience in communications, or direct marketing, are switching over from the private sector, or have a law degree, there is a place for you in this movement.
- Interested in the harder science? The environmental movement also has many STEM-specific positions that require particular backgrounds. If you are already a scientist or plan to be one, check out the series on scientist STEM work in the nonprofit sector.
Step 4: Become familiar with the issues
One way to get comfortable with some of the more complicated environmental topics is to seek out informal education opportunities. Many universities offer a series of environmental-focused public lectures. Most of the time, these lectures are free and open to the public, and that means the presenters make an effort to explain some of the more “science-y” elements of their work in layman's terms.
Do some research ahead of time so you’ll get the most out of the lecture, and come prepared with specific questions. Make an attempt to get your question heard and follow up with the speaker afterwards. And it doesn’t hurt to bend their ear or ask for recommended reading material. You may even make a new connection!
Step 5: Network
To make more of those vital connections you’ll have to network. Introverted and worried? Don’t be, it’s not all mingling and cold calls. A great way to start is to get involved with an organization as a volunteer. This offers you an opportunity to learn new skills, connect with contacts in the field, and could even land you a job. Here are a few places to put your volunteer interest to good use and your networking know-how to the test:
- Local clean-up groups and community-led restoration volunteer opportunities are a fantastic way to get your feet wet, literally!
- If available, find your local farmer’s market, buy some produce, and reach out and meet the farmers and the folks who grow your food.
- Some larger local farms have mailing lists, events, and volunteer opportunities. There are some that work to feed the homeless or even partner with residents to help grow nutritious produce in low-income neighborhoods and food deserts.
- Community supported agriculture or CSA is a fantastic way to get involved in your local sustainable agriculture community and help you meet green-minded people. When you buy or split a “share” of a CSA (weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly) you’re purchasing a share of vegetables from a local farmer and directly supporting your regional agricultural community. To find one Local Harvest and the USDA offer great resources to help you find a CSA close by.
- And if you're itching to get your hands dirty, community gardening events are a great way to try out your green thumb. Get even more involved by asking the community gardener about available positions.
While you’re reaping and sowing, don't forget to network! Chat up your new contacts and offer to take them out for a coffee and pick their brain a bit. Informal as they may feel, informational interviews can help you collect important information and spark ideas on how to get your foot in the door.
You’re off to a well-informed start! Make sure to reflect, do that all-important research, take your time to learn about the the swath of environmental initiatives out there, and network.
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About the Author | With a background in the performing arts and journalism, Caroline Rodriguez understands the chaotic course of career change. She’s been a reporter, teacher, and co-manager of a yoga resort. Her passions include women’s rights and encouraging girls to study science.