by Christina Gilyutin, Chief Career Counselor for Bright Green Talent

I have spent the last few weeks addressing those of you wanting to get into sustainability consulting. When it comes down to it, these jobs are relatively few in number. However, don’t despair: there are an unlimited number of other ways to have a positive impact through your work. Thus, I am thrilled to move on this week to talk about those other ways.

If you haven’t done this already, take a step back and consider where is it that you can have the greatest impact. I mentioned a book last week (Tempered Radicals: How Everyday Leaders Inspire Change at Work) that focuses on individuals creating change “from the inside” by successfully balancing a passion for radical change with an ability to conform to the norms of an organization. I have met a number of people from organizations such as The Gap, Whole Foods and Ford that have told me stories about how being a “tempered radical” in those organizations allowed them to bring about significant sustainability changes and initiatives.

  1. If you are currently employed, look around and take action! Whatever organization you’re in, whether it’s 5 people or 5,000, there are likely countless ways for you to carve out a sustainability-oriented project. Look for inefficiencies — people leaving the lights on, no composting, excessive airplane travel… and think about constructive, cost-effective ways to change these practices in your company. Sure, these projects might have to be done on your own time (ie, you’re not paid for them), but that’s worth it because it gets things moving in the right direction at the organization and it provides you with a project to talk about in the future – if you think about it, creating change from within a non-green organization is actually much harder than working on sustainability initiatives from within a green company. (Not to mention, “displaying initiative” is always a good thing…) And if things go really well who knows…that side project could grow into a full-time position! (It has happened.)
  2. If you do have experience in a traditional discipline such as accounting or marketing, you may be able to impact a company, whether it is the one you currently work for you or another, by figuring out where you can infuse sustainability principles. (For example if you are an accountant, volunteering to help with your company’s CSR report or GRI initiative will get you plenty of exposure to a growing field.) This can be very effective but certainly requires you to do some homework to determine how to make that happen.
  3. Whether you’re employed or not, it’s a great time to (strategically) volunteer. Look at organizations that are aligned with your dream job and start networking to get in there as a volunteer. Non-profits need a lot of help, given recent cuts in donations and funding. And remember, this is not limited to non-profit organizations. You should pitch a project proposal rather than just offer you time since this benefits you in two ways:
  • You are more likely to be selected (since many organizations are being inundated by offers to work for free.)
  • You are more likely to get a substantive project that you can utilize later in your job search.

Check out the Taproot Foundation, a great organization that matches folks with non-profit volunteer opportunities. Also, to move into solar, check out Grid Alternatives.

If you have other ideas about how to create change “from the inside” or success stories of doing so, feel free to post them here!

© 2009, Christina_Gilyutin. All rights reserved. Do not republish.

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Author: Christina_Gilyutin (3 Articles)

Christina Gilyutin is Bright Green Talent'sBright Green Talent's Chief Career Counselor. She attended Stanford University, spent some time living in Jackson Hole, WY before heading over to the University of Michigan's Erb Institute of Global Sustainable Enterprise earning a joint MBA/MS in Natural Resources and Environment. You can find Bright Green Talent on:, Twitter, LinkedIn , and Facebook.

  • Kate Gazzaniga

    As a staff member at the Taproot Foundation (thanks for the mention), I loved these tips!

    To add one point- for those hoping to create sustainability change and not able to go into sustainability consulting or not wanting to make a change from an existing job, pro bono work offers an amazing opportunity to make an impact on this movement.

    Many nonprofits can benefit from pro bono consulting. If you’re a web designer you could to help a sustainability-focused nonprofit improve their website. If you’re a marketer you could help a sustainability-focused nonprofit improve their marketing materials. (Etc.)

    By doing pro bono work you can help organizations that encourage sustainability improve their efficiencies and capacities without quitting your day job.