Five Possible Paths To Green Dream Jobs

by Nicola Temple on April 2, 2012

For those of you who were starting to doubt, I’m here to tell you that green dream jobs do exist. In fact, with all industries and sectors incorporating sustainability into their portfolios, more jobs are being created that offer an opportunity to earn money while doing good things for the planet.

I feel I can speak on this subject with some authority as I have been lucky enough to have a few green dream jobs in my time.

I’ve worked on Canada’s west coast, among remote islands and inlets, researching wild Pacific salmon for a non-profit organization advocating for the protection of the Great Bear Rainforest.

I got to walk in the tracks of grizzly bears, through ancient old growth and then return to don a suit and meet with policy makers and use my research findings to shape policy; definitely a green dream job.

In Australia, I worked with a marine conservation organization advocating for a very large marine park in the Coral Sea. As part of this, I got to travel to the Coral Sea with a science expedition, travelling for days by boat to get to some of the remote islands and coral cays out there. I got to witness first-hand the wildlife that flourished there and then return with renewed vigor to build support for its protection.

For me, I think I’ve been in the right place at the right time with the right qualifications…add in a good dose of luck and I think that explains my career path. But who wants to rely on luck? How can you get that green job you’ve been dreaming of?

There is no single answer to this question of course. There are luckily many paths. So, I thought I would share with you some real life examples of people, some of whom I know, in their dream jobs and how they got there.

Possible pathways to that job you’ve always wanted

1 – Change job descriptions within your existing company – I know an amazing woman who was in the health industry. She was successful at her job, but she found that more and more she was viewing it as simply a way to pay the bills while she pursued issues she was passionate about in her spare time; the Transition Towns movement and reducing local dependency on fossil fuels. The gap between her paid work and her passions became too large, she was unhappy and so she spoke to her boss and told him her dilemma. He valued her so much that they altered her job description to incorporate her green interests, creating a very unique and fulfilling role for her that met all her needs. Of course, the act on behalf of the employer wasn’t entirely altruistic; the new position obviously supported new sustainability goals and mandates within the organization as well.

This is an ideal situation and of course not every employer is going to be so supportive. However, it doesn’t hurt to try. I’m not suggesting you run to your boss and threaten to leave if they don’t make you VP of Corporate Sustainability, but you can certainly let them know your interests and discuss ways you can contribute while feeding your green side.

  • Start by taking some initiative within your workplace on green issues by:
  • Start an internal newsletter covering all aspects of sustainability.
  • Promote alternative means of transportation to work by organizing a carpool hub, running bike to work challenges and/or advocating for shower facilities if they don’t already exist.
  • Start a recycling program, vermiculture, or compost at your place of work.
  • Work with the people in power to run a sustainable solutions contest internally that offers prizes for innovative ideas that make the business/company more sustainable.

2 – Use your network­-We’ve all heard that it’s about who you know rather than what you know, and it’s because it is largely true. In an age of social networking and business networking, such as LinkedIn, there is no excuse to not be using and building your network. You never know where the next job might spring from. However, online networking will never compete with real face to face or phone to phone contact, so don’t be shy about putting yourself in front of people frequently to remind them that you’re there.

I have to admit that networking doesn’t come naturally to me as in all honesty I’m a bit of a wallflower. However, recently I was doing some research on sustainable transport for businesses and I happened to be mentioning it to a friend. She said she worked with someone in Canada that works on the exact issues that I was interested in. A phone call later and I have a meeting set up. Now, this hasn’t resulted in a job, but I’m building my network in an area that I’m interested in working in.

Suggestions for building your network:

  • There are many free forums and groups that ‘meet’ online to discuss environmental and sustainability issues. Join one in an area that you’re interested in working in and start following the discussion. Once you’re confident enough, start contributing to the discussions.
  • Establish a professional presence on networking sites (leave the weekend party pictures for the social networking sites and be sure that you’re presenting a professional image).
  • Attend conferences or meetings that are relevant to your area of interest.

3 – Volunteer where you want to work – OK, sometimes this can truly backfire and you are suddenly sitting at a desk licking envelopes or cutting out newspaper articles wondering how you will ever be able to show your true talents; I know, I’ve been there.

However, there’s no doubt that internships and volunteering can build experience and contacts under the right mentorship and in the right environment. It’s particularly useful if you’re fresh out of school with no experience or if you’re transitioning in your career.

I knew a woman who volunteered for years for a group that ran environmental education programs. Over time she was spending more and more time ‘volunteering’ until it became clear that she was a critical member of the program. The organization wrote a number of grant applications and was finally successful in securing a salary for her to finally get paid for what she was already doing. This meant she could quit her other job and spend more time doing what she loved doing.

4 – Start your own green business and create your own green dream job – Tough times tend to inspire creativity, including entrepreneurial ideas. If your green dream job means you are your own boss, then perhaps you need to take the plunge and begin your own green business.

There are examples everywhere of people who have created their own green dream job, from housewives who have developed a business from turning plastic grocery bags into eco friendly handbags and purses to avid cyclists starting their own courier services.

Here’s a great example of a gentleman in Boston who simply got sick of applying for jobs with no luck. He took matters into his own hands and created the company Bootsrap Compost. It may not be everyone’s green dream job, but he gets to bike all day and he’s his own boss…you’ve got to like that!

Look at a previous article  here on EcoVillageGreen to help inspire you with some business ideas.

5 – Follow green job sites – There are a number of websites that are dedicated to posting green jobs and I’ve listed a few below. Subscribe to these or visit the sites frequently as you never know what might come up.

green dream jobs

This is me hard at work in one of my green dream jobs; documenting the marine wildlife in an area we were trying to get protected as a marine reserve. There’s a sea snake under that rock that I’m trying to photograph!

I actually ended up getting my job in Australia through a posting on one of these sites. I applied for the job, but they didn’t give it to me. They called me back about a month later and asked me to interview for a new job posting and I got it! So, you never know!

  • Stop Dodo posts environment jobs from around the globe. You can narrow your search easily and I’ve seen some really spectacular jobs posted here. This is definitely one to follow.
  • Green Dream Jobs by has jobs in renewable and clean energy, green building, and environment and sustainability postings.
  • EcoEmploy is another listing of eco and green jobs.

It’s a wonderful thing to align your career with your beliefs, passions and interests. If you don’t already have this in your life, perhaps it’s time to make a plan to start working toward it. Brainstorm what green dream jobs you can see yourself doing, then narrow it down and give it some detail. Then you’ll at least know what you’re aiming for, even if the pathway isn’t yet clear.

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