Day 14: Consider a Climate Career
Moving our economy away from fossil fuels is a big job
Okay, not everyone who has signed up for this challenge will up and change their career today. But if you attend college and need to choose a major, or have just graduated and need a job or you’ve been working for several years and want to change careers, the climate needs you.
If you are considering a major
Please consider the climate. Some majors to choose from:
Environmental governance and policy
Natural resources and conservation
Outside of these very obviously environmental degrees, every degree can have a climate angle. And many schools have expanded sustainability across the curriculum, such as USC, Penn State and Babson College. If you’re considering graduate school, go here to search for environmental graduate programs in the US.
And while you’re in college or university… Search for your school in the Global Fossil Fuel Divestment Commitments Database to find out if it invests in fossil fuels. If it does, go here for strategies to convince it to divest.
If you have an established career
Earlier this week, I met an astrophysicist married to another astrophysicist. She told me they were both thinking about switching to climate careers because they worry about the world their child will inherit. Many professionals have similar concerns, which explains why this Googler’s resignation letter went viral in 2020. In it, he explains that he feels compelled to devote himself fully to work on the climate crisis.
Depending on your background, joining a professional association or getting certifications can help you pivot to a climate career.
Professional environmental associations
Environmental associations help members network and exchange information. Check out:
UC Santa Barbara’s list of Environmental Professional Associations
Mid-career professionals might need some retraining. The Environmental Career Coach maintains a list of certification programs here. These certifications can also help those with little experience in the new field they want to pursue. You’ll find all kinds of helpful resources on the The Environmental Career Coach website for moving into an environmental career.
Coursera also offers online training that you may find useful. When I searched for courses using the terms “environmental” and “sustainability,” hundreds of courses popped up. You’d have to narrow these results down to find an appropriate one.
Remember: It’s a job seeker’s market
If you’re one of the 38 million people who quit their jobs in the US in 2021 and you want to work on climate, you’ll find lots of job openings.
How many jobs? There were 4.1 million climate jobs in the US in 2020.
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that jobs for environmental scientists and related specialists will increase by 8 percent between now and 2030.
Yesterday, the White House announced it would hire 1,000 workers for a “Clean Energy Corps” to work on clean energy projects such as electric vehicle charging networks. The stalled Build Back Better bill includes provisions for the larger Civilian Climate Corps, based on Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps, which would create jobs restoring public lands, planting trees, installing solar panels and so on.
Find the jobs
Climatebase helps people find careers in climate technology companies and environmental nonprofits. Search the database for jobs according to sector, job type, organization and even Project Drawdown solution. If you see a company listed that you’d like to work for, set up alerts for new jobs postings. You can also post your bio and work experience—kind of like Linkedin but for the climate.
Work on Climate
That Googler I mentioned earlier cofounded Work on Climate, a community of people working full-time on climate or who want to work full-time on climate. Find jobs, build your network, pitch your startup idea and much more. Subscribe to the Work on Climate newsletter here. It lists upcoming events and meetups, resources and new job opportunities.
Some small business ideas to make the world a greener place
You likely have a skill or an idea that you could turn into some kind of green business. We need all the eco-preneurs we can get. Here are just some ideas.
Farmers. In yesterday’s newsletter, I mentioned Mark Bittman’s latest book, Animal, Vegetable, Junk. Fixing our unjust, broken food system would create jobs. Bittman writes, “People talk about ‘scaling up.’ but that really isn’t the answer; it’s more about scaling out, replicating small- and medium-scale sustainable systems in millions of places worldwide. In this way we can begin to transform and replace the industrial agriculture system.” Decentralizing our current monopolistic food system will require thousands and thousands of smaller farms—and farmers. If you want to be one of them, I’d like to recommend another book, Letters to a Young Farmer: On Food, Farming and Our Future.
Repair shops. The whole planet needs a trip to a good repair café and your city probably could use a repair café in town as well. Go here to learn how to start one. Our cities also need cobblers to repair shoes, tailors to mend and alter clothes and bicycle repair shops to keep more bikes on the road (and bike paths). We reached peak stuff long ago. We can’t keep producing more of it. Excess stuff wastes resources and we have nowhere to put everything.
Zero-waste stores. In these shops, customers fill up on bulk staples and supplies using their own clean containers. The ability to shop this way slashes plastic and other packaging waste. Customers can buy the amount of food they want, rather than more than they need, which helps reduce food waste.
But where do you start? Stephanie Lentz, the founder of Scoop Marketplace, a zero-waste grocery store in Seattle, has created three different courses to teach people how to launch their own zero-waste stores: a free, three-part series to kickstart your plans; a paid two-hour workshop; and a full digital course. Stephanie has helped over 30 people open shops.
Return and reuse systems. Many of us will happily bring our own cups and containers to restaurants (that allow it) to fill up on food and drinks and reduce throwaway containers. But in order to get everyone eating and drinking from reusables, we have to eliminate throwaway containers at the source—the restaurants and cafés. Many third-party businesses have popped up to supply businesses with returnable, reusable containers but we need the systems in place everywhere and reusables are still the exception, not the norm.
Even if you aren’t looking for a climate job yourself, I’d encourage you to check out some of the links I’ve included in today’s newsletter. While researching and writing this, I found inspiration in learning about millions of people working on climate solutions. I hope you do too.
Do you work in an environmental job? Do you have advice for anyone else who would like to pursue an environmental career?