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Life & Style

5 Easy Ways to Go Green

easy ways to go green

I’ve got a great guest post for you today from Zion Lights, the author of The Ultimate Guide to Green Parenting, on five easy ways to go green.

There are many different ways of ‘going green’, and no two people do it the same way.  While one individual might cycle everywhere and shun cars entirely, another might drive but avoid meat and dairy consumption. Another might eat a lot of meat but be off-grid and use very little energy.  

The point I’m making is that being green is a journey and a process, not a case of ticking enough boxes to call yourself green and then sticking to your habits.  No one is ‘too green’.

My Easy Ways To Go Green

Equally, if you care about the planet and are concerned about what humans are doing to the natural environment, then you’re already halfway there.  Now let’s look at a few easy ways to go green that both green newbies and ‘old-hats’ can do that suit these different approaches to green living.

1. Bring plants into your home

Let’s start with a really easy thing you can do that’s a one-off, besides occasional watering duties.  Many of us know that plants improve indoor air quality. But did you know that the air inside your home can be 10 times more toxic than the air outside?  Air quality is linked to a myriad of health problems. And because so many of us spend as much as 80-90 percent of our time indoors, that makes indoor air pollution a real public health risk.

We can’t all plant trees in our free time. However, we can at least improve indoor air quality by bringing plants into our homes and workplaces.  The data on plant-mediated indoor air quality comes from experiments conducted by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Here they found the top 10 plants for removing chemicals to be:

plants that remove impurities from the air

Many of these are sold in garden centres and are easy to get hold of. However do check with free local listings first in case anyone is giving them away for free.  Think it’s a smart move?  You’re right! Research has also found that having indoor plants makes people smarter.

2. Walk more

I realise this one sounds simplistic and obvious, but it’s actually a super green thing to do, and an easy one for most people to implement.  I could instead argue against driving, since you probably already know that cars are bad for the environment, but I’d rather celebrate the many joys of an under used alternative to driving instead: walking.

Let’s start with something many of us know already: walking reduces the likelihood of becoming obese and developing type 2 diabetes.  Not convinced?  There’s more: walking improves creativity, and recent research has found that taking 3-minute breaks to walk in the middle of a sedentary activity, e.g. watching TV, can improve children’s blood sugar compared to continuously sitting.  In fact, walking casually for as little as 2 minutes per hour can reduce your risk of dying over a three-year period by 33 percent.  Take the walk in a natural setting like a park and you’ll likely improve your mental health too.  Who wants to drive everywhere anyway?!

3.  Change your washing powder

eco friendly laundry

This is a really easy thing to do for even the busiest person, and worth doing when you consider that ordinary, conventional laundry powders are only mildly cleaning your clothes anyway (quote from the study: ‘water alone already has a substantial cleaning effect’), although they are good at removing specific stains from clothing.  Most of your clothes won’t be badly stained though (I assume), therefore you can help to keep your carbon footprint down by ditching your environmentally-unfriendly washing powder in favour of brands that are rated highest for eco-credentials and ethical concerns according to the Ethical Consumer assessment, which are: Bio-D, Faith in Nature, ECOS, and Sodasan.

4.  Do something revolutionary – regift

This is more of a conceptual green point, with an actual involved in it.  Many of us already pass on our unwanted gifts, to charity shops for example.  But what I’m suggesting here is a whole new way of seeing unwanted presents: as items to be re-gifted.  What I mean is that it means realising that they are excellent gifts – just not for you.  So let’s let go of some of the stigma attached to unwanted gifts, and realise that they are wanted, just not by you.  Do pass them on, but don’t just donate them!  Save yourself buying new for birthdays and gift them to recipients who’d love them instead (just not the recipient who gave it to you, of course!).  Not convinced?  Take a look at some the lovely regifting stories on regiftable.com.

5.  Ditch the guilt

This is an entirely conceptual point, and one I can’t discuss enough.  I have done so in my book The Ultimate Guide to Green Parenting.  Being green is not about feeling bad about your wish to live on this planet, to do things and to travel and so on.

Humans are remarkable creatures, capable of adapting and empathising and choosing selflessness over selfishness.  We create carbon footprints just by being alive.  We’re also capable of reducing those footprints through small lifestyle changes, but I meet so many people who don’t make green choices because guilt is a barrier to them doing so.  They care about their natural environment, about animals, about biodiversity and about climate change, but they feel bad for being part of the problem so they don’t look at achievable solutions at all.

So let’s stop beating ourselves up about all of that, and start taking small steps towards positive changes instead.  When you feel good about your choices, you feel empowered and energised to make more choices.  You might even buy less because you feel happier in yourself.

Making Eco Choices Can Be Tricky

It can be tricky to know which choices to make and not to make. Some are obvious – opting for car-sharing schemes, not flying when possible, etc.  Some are not. Meanwhile some fuels are better for the environment and some are worse. Some foods carrier lower carbon footprints than others. And these things are confused further by conflicting news reports that distort or misunderstand the science.

 This is where my book comes in, as it is based solely on what science has to tell us.  It also provides a framework for green issues including those mentioned earlier (transport and diet) that can help you to do your own research into the subjects.

Embrace Choices Mindfully

Imagine if we all stopped sweeping our carbon footprints under the carpet and took them out to address them instead.  Where can we make them a little lighter, or erase them altogether?  It may sound like a tedious and embarrassing task, but it’s not.  What’s tedious is feeling unnecessary guilt.

What’s embarrassing is living in a way that shuns ‘green things’ that might actually make you feel good in the long-run.  Life is not about feeling bad, but about finding a balance with the world around us and the natural world. So water your plants, walk more, regift instead of buying new gifts, change your washing powder, and read my book.  Change what you can, where you can, once step at a time.  Embrace your choices mindfully and, through taking small, achievable steps, embrace being green as well.  You won’t regret it!

Life & Style

How To Get An Environmental Job

how to get an environmental job

Want to know how to get started in an environmental career, or how to get an environmental job? Let me share my experience.

I’ve been working in the environmental sector for 15 years now.  Lately, I’ve had a couple of emails from younger readers asking how to get an environmental job. Or from those looking for advice in starting off in the environmental sector.  It got me thinking that it would be useful to address these points in a blog post for anyone starting off in their career or looking to change career.

My experience is completely in the sustainable transport sector.  It’s an area I’ve worked in since I graduated 10 years ago (ouch!).  Even so, I hope my experience is sufficiently broad enough to help you navigate your way through the education and job hunting maze and help you find your perfect environmental job!

College/University Routes to Get An Environmental Job

ethical work clothes inspiration

Undergraduate Level

Any social science or biological degree is a good choice for getting into the environmental sector.  Geography, Sustainability, Geology, Biology, Ecology, Zoology, Botany, or anything else in the natural sciences is a good bet.  Even courses such as Community Education, Teaching, Marketing, and English are good degrees to have in gaining an environmental job.  If there’s one thing I learned from my degree is that the key is emphasising your transferable skills!

Personally, I studied Environmental Geography at the University of Aberdeen. It was a really good course, that gave me a great widespread overview of environmental policy and practice.

Whilst you’re at university get involved and have fun!  It’s not just about studying!  Join the student newspaper and write environmental articles for them.  Join or set up an environmental group.  Help organise environmental events.  Get involved in student politics.  I could go on!  As well as helping you to meet people, any one of these things will look great on your CV.

Masters Level

A Masters isn’t necessary to get a job in the environmental sector unless you want to go into the world of academia, or want to specialise in a particular field.  I did initially, so I went on to study for a Masters in Environmental Sustainability from the University of Edinburgh.  

After graduating, I worked in academic research, looking into the links between transport and climate change. However, after a while I realised that at the time it wasn’t quite the career path for me.  I don’t regret doing the course though – it has been useful in gaining other jobs.

Masters are expensive, there are no two ways about it.  I took a year out between finishing my Geography degree and starting my Masters. Here I worked three jobs to save up to pay for my Masters fees. I also worked part-time whilst I studied – a Saturday job in a shop.

It was worth it. I really enjoyed the course, and I did land a good environmental job within months of graduating (said academic research job).  Most of my classmates have gone on to great environmental jobs.  Some are lecturers, one works for the United Nations in the climate change division, some have set up environmental consultancies, and most others have directly related environmental jobs, so it has been worthwhile.

Alternative Routes to Get An Environmental Job

Of course, university isn’t the only route in to getting an environmental job.  A lot of the environmental jobs I’ve seen advertised do say a degree is desirable but not essential. Therefore, if you can’t afford to go to university or don’t want to go to university, then all is not lost.  There are lots of shorter-term college courses out there, and there are alternative routes to getting into the environmental sector too.

environment job tips

Volunteering

One of the best alternative routes, and probably by far the most important thing you can do to help you get an environmental job, is volunteering.  Granted, it’s not always easy finding the time, particularly if you are working another job to financially support yourself.  Most organisations are completely flexible with volunteering opportunities, and even if you can only commit to two hours a week then it’s well worth offering your time.

Not only is volunteering a great way of gaining vital experience in the environmental sector, but it’s a great way to make contacts and make a name for yourself.  I have known countless people who have gotten a job with an organisation after volunteering for them.  

Let’s face it, if you were an employer would you rather take a chance on someone you knew that was committed to the organisation versus someone that is a complete unknown?  Even if any job opportunities don’t arise whilst you’re volunteering keep an eye out after you finish up. You never know what might come up.

Charities I’ve volunteered for in the past are sustainable transport charities Living Streets and Sustrans.  Both were invaluable in getting my current environmental job.  Although you don’t get paid for volunteering, a lot of charities will pay your travel expenses and lunch expenses as a thank you for your time and to help ease the financial burden.

Internships

Internships weren’t really a thing when I was at university/after I graduated and I’m not sure how I feel about them.  If you can get a paid internship then that’s fantastic. However, I would be very wary of unpaid internships.  Certainly, I know I wouldn’t have been able to afford to take on an unpaid internship after graduating – especially a full time one.  Personally, I would prioritise finding a suitable volunteer position in hours you can fit in around paid work.

As an aside here, I also wouldn’t be fussy about the paid work you take on whilst job hunting/studying/volunteering/interning.  I had all sorts of completely unrelated jobs during university and after graduating.  I worked in shops, pubs, restaurants, cafes, call centres, cinemas, music venues, and theatres as well as a summer spent caring for the elderly.  I’ve done it all and there’s no shame in it. We all have to make money to house, feed, clothe ourselves, etc.  In fact, the call centre work has bizarrely been a plus point whenever I’ve mentioned it in environmental job interviews.  It all boils down to that key point – transferable skills – again!

Blogging

Blogging wasn’t really a thing when I was younger.  I don’t think I knew what a blog was until 2008!  So while this isn’t something I did, I would completely recommend, setting up a blog or even guest blogging on other sites to show your enthusiasm and commitment, and knowledge on your particular area of expertise is a great step.  You can even put a link to it on your CV.

Other Tips and Advice

This one is aimed at school leavers and new graduates.  If you’re interested in an environmental job or a volunteering position then, whatever you do, DO NOT get your parents to phone up or email an organisation about it on your behalf.  Always do it yourself.  It looks so bad on yourself when your mum phones up or emails about a possible volunteering position on your behalf.  Trust me, the organisation will question your interest and enthusiasm.  Be proactive and take matters into your own hands.

Environmental Job Sites I Love

There are a few really good environmental job sites out there that I love:

  • Environment Job – this is my favourite site; they have a wide range of jobs advertised and their weekly email service is fantastic
  • Environment Jobs – not as comprehensive as Environment Job, but worth a look in case different opportunities pop up on here.
  • Goodmoves – this isn’t exclusively environmental jobs, but there are generally quite a few environmental jobs.  I found my current job on Goodmoves!  Although the search function covers the whole of the UK, I have a feeling it’s mostly Scottish jobs listed on Goodmoves.

Things To Consider About Jobs in the Environmental Sector

It’s not all roses in the environmental sector. There are a few points about working in the environmental sector that I don’t love, so I think these are good points to bear in mind before deciding if an environmental career is for you.

The Down Sides

For a start, particularly in the charity sector where a lot of environmental jobs tend to be, permanent contracts are few and far between.  This is because many environmental projects, and therefore jobs, rely on external funding. As such, fixed-term contracts are the norm, and are often dependent on being able to secure external funding.   I’ve been working on one year fixed term contracts for the last ten years and it does drag you down not knowing from one year to the next what your working situation will be.

Don’t expect to be rich, especially if you’re working in the charity sector. I find wages to be on the lower end of the spectrum, and there often isn’t much scope for career progression like in some industries.

If you’re in the charity sector you will get very good at filling out grant application forms! It’s an unavoidable part of life. This post on how to support your local environmental charity gives you a bit more insight into this. All I will say is that if you don’t like filling in forms, and writing reports then maybe it’s not the area for you.

The Plus Points

It’s not all doom and gloom though. Do expect job satisfaction to be very high, especially if you are working on a project that provides tangible outcomes. I’ve worked on adult cycle training programmes, and set up walking groups, and seeing the impact that learning to ride a bike has on someone is worth the bad points a million times over.

I’ve also found that environmental jobs are always good conversation pieces.  When someone asks you what you do, I always get asked a ton of questions. Compared to when someone tells you that they’re an accountant, it’s certainly a much more interesting topic! No offense to accountants!

That’s the breadth of my knowledge on gaining an environmental job!  Everyone’s pathway is different and I’d always suggest talking to a careers advisor – especially if you’re in higher education and can access them free of charge!  Take advantage of these services whilst you can!

Missed anything?  Pop it in the comments below!