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Why do you want an environmental job?
Rick Reibstein, Environmental Law and Policy, Boston University, 10/17
Things are screwed up and you want to be part of
making them better.
The number one reason I hear by far.
You think you’d be good at it.
The number one thing I think people find out.
Some environmental jobs can be anti-environmental in
intent or effect.
If you know what your
purposes are, you will be
more aware of where
you need to go,
where to draw the line,
when to stand up,
how much to risk for what.
Moral clarity is of central importance. It is a guide to
what’s needed. It is your greatest resource.
Where are the jobs?
1. Many have been developed. Network. Develop the skills for
those jobs, learn their languages.
2. You should also look for what’s needed that has not already been
Environmentalists are often entrepreneurs.
Because things are screwed up many environmental jobs should exist
- but don’t - yet! You may be able to participate in creating them.
Three categories of environmental jobs
1. The kinds already developed
2. The new kinds you and others
like you with talent and
dedication will create
3. The job that is about doing something else
primarily but which integrates environmental
Environmental Jobs of the First Kind
➢ Nonprofit environmental groups
- Choose your issue!
- Come in many sizes.
- Stellar qualifications help. Energy and devotion.
- Classic jobs: inspector, planner, scientist, manager, communicator,
statistician, legislative aide: city, county, state, federal, international
- May get to directly work on reducing impacts
- Pent up need! When US rejects the rejection of
- Internal compliance, regulatory affairs
- Communication, planning
- Sustainability, product development
Environmental Jobs of the second kind
• Climate adaptation – everyone’s looking for it, and
it brings with it the necessary recognition of the
need for mitigation
• Municipal sustainability is
popping up like mushrooms
• Cities are in the lead
on climate change, they say
• Property values, insurance, real estate training,
financial assessors, urban planners, DPWs
Greening of Products and Industry
• Environmentally preferable products and services – buying and
selling and certifying, consulting.
• Producing greener products and producing anything in a more
• Helping create demand and understanding
• Comparative risk assessment to aid in choice
• Health and Environmental
• Need for environmental buyers
• Power of group and institutional
purchasing green cleaner
• Amazing growth of Community Choice Aggregation to 127 communities
• Clean energy – not just technical but policy and planning, DPUs and DPU
• Policy debates right now require expertise and activism
• Local community discussions, state hearings.
• The DPU, energy markets, influences
on pricing, the complex comparisons necessary
to make choices are hard enough.
The wave of deregulation is making
Complexity creates the need for clarity,
and opportunities for those who can deliver it.
Other Prominent Areas of Need/Opportunity
• Water – Stormwater, supply, drinking
• Toxics use reduction and Accident
Prevention – fire departments and health
• Waste cleanup – pent up
• Environmental justice – growing
• Flame retardants, plastic in the ocean,
fiber dispersion, runoff, invasives,
endangered species and habitat loss,
parks, smart development, electric cars,
battery recycling, nanoparticles, GMOS:
all create both new jobs, and the need to
create even more
Environmental Jobs of the Third Kind
• Environmental performance improvement
appears on its own and as part of quality,
safety, efficiency, compliance, customer care,
constituent service efforts
• Opportunities exist everywhere to be more environmentally
responsible – in production, design, delivery, and post-use fate of
• You can take any aspect of the organization and integrate
environmental values. You may have to sell it in terms of $$$, but
you may not – organizations have cultures and people within them
who will be supportive, and some may celebrate you.
Be a Quiet Change Agent
• Creativity may be misunderstood.
• Don’t threaten people’s sense of security.
• Win their confidence.
• Gauge for yourself what their level of commitment to responsibility
and to environmental values really is.
• Perceptions are key – are you loyal to their mission?
– The printer who imposed the less toxic solution on workers, who
complained, who withdrew it and then reinstalled it without saying
– The EPP cleaner that the workers chose after being given a chance to
– The acid regeneration process that was approved when the safety
folks concurred with the environmental folks
– The agency that enforced harshly because they didn’t think the
company respected them or the law
Check back concerning purpose
• Continuously you may ask yourself why you are
doing what you are doing – BURNOUT hazard
• Find what you are good at and want to keep working
• Plan for the long haul and don’t give up if you don’t
change the world quickly
• Note the therapeutic value of doing good work to
address fundamental shared problems.
• Keep looking for the chance to create or help create
new helpful things – this will produce the highest
Keep figuring out what you want
• But don’t insist on it at first – maybe first take
what you can get – and use each opportunity
to learn – this includes the unexpected
An environmental outlook is different from the prevalent mode of
Altruism and Self-responsibility
1. A society of self-responsible people can work
within a context of a society that cares for
everyone. Environmentalism fits in this context. It
is the context created by our Constitution – see
2. Articulate the shared interests. There are many
applications today for personal and professional
3. There is a difference between acting as if you are
the responsible one, and aiming for responsibility.
We can annoy- or enlist.
Go to meetings
• Academic lectures on topics of interest. Watch C-Span
• Meetings of organizations involved in the topic, hearings, political
• Volunteer with local committees
• Get the email or news alerts from relevant sources
– JOB POSTINGS!
• Get into the habit of staying up to date on certain issues
• Professional associations may have low-cost or free options, EBI,
• Organize comments on proposed rules, visits to legislators
• GO VISIT Organizations, agencies, with questions about how to
engage and contribute and learn.
• Organize a speaker series at your local library or school, inviting
people you want to meet.
• Pick up the phone, or write, to people who interest you. Tell an
author you appreciated his or her writing!
Continuously refresh your relationship
Presentation at 9th Massachusetts Green Careers Conference on October 5, 2017