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Strategies for finding a job in the sustainability sector - how did Elena Olmedo work it out?

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Michael Pollan has written “The word “sustainability” has gotten such a workout lately that the whole concept is in danger of floating away on a sea of inoffensiveness. Everybody, it seems, is for it whatever it means.”

So what does sustainability mean to you – do you think of solar panels or wind power? Buying food locally? The term is used in relation to environmental management, science, law, consumerism etc. and in so many different contexts, it can be confusing. But essentially sustainability is about sustaining the environment for future generations through forward thinking strategies to solve environmental challenges.  It involves energy conservation, clean and green energy, technology that protects the environment, green building, and socially responsible organizations and employers.

But if you would like to work in some aspect of sustainability, how do you navigate your way through this confusing field and find your own path. Where would you start?


Watch the interview with Elena Olmedo, a sustainability specialist who describes her passion for sustainability issues and how she navigated her way through the range of career options that this huge, emerging field offered her. Elena talks about the green and sustainable business certificate program at City College of San Francisco and how it gave her an understanding of environmental issues relevant to business and industry.

She also explains the challenges and how she took full advantage of all the resources available to her to explore possible career paths. For example, she interned at two different companies to gain experience of green marketing practices and environmental policy issues, and attended conferences and lectures and read papers and journals to learn all she could about sustainability issues.

Talking about challenges, she says:

“I think the first challenge that I encountered was trying to narrow down the focus to what I really wanted to do and finding what I was passionate about. The second challenge is that there is no designed or pre-constructed path for this job. People from all backgrounds can get in – you might have a background in economics or an in policy, and you still may be qualified for this position.”

But Elena is upbeat and encouraging about options: “there is tremendous opportunity for anyone in this field whether you are doing solar panel installation or LEED certification, energy efficiency to policy and planning, this industry is going to grow immensely.”

She has some great advice to give.



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