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Associate Organizing Representative, Beyond Coal Campaign - Chicago, IL

Posted by: Sierra Club HQ - HRD

Chicago, IL, US

The Sierra Club seeks an organizer to build on our already winning Illinois Beyond Coal campaign; a grassroots movement to move the country be...




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CHRIS STEVENS
Communications Director
Center For A Sustainable Future
• Organic farms offer volunteer positions, and can be good places to learn renewable agriculture.
• Iowa State University has a great educational resource: The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State is a great place to learn about the newest advances in sustainable agriculture.
• Another excellent resource, The Stone Barn Center, (north of Manhattan) is a non-profit education center and farm. They offer education for sustainable agriculture.
The Center for a Livable Future (CLF) at John's Hopkins university works in research, educational outreach, and community action targeted at "farming, eating, and living for our future." As Communication Manager for the CLF, Chris Stevens works daily in support of these goals.

Sustainable, or resilient, farming has recently gained exposure with the continued environmental and health problems associated with factory farming. In essence, much of sustainable farming is really a "return to traditional farming," Chris explained. In traditional, or sustainable, farming, animals are not raised in a factory environment in very confined spaces and large amounts of dangerous antibiotics and pesticides are avoided.
JENNIFER BROWNING
Executive Director
Biodiversity Project
• Acquire a good background in environmental issues and the science behind them. Consider enrolling in biology and ecology classes.
• Take writing classes. Non-profits need grant writing, newsletter production and communications experts.
• DePaul University offers a masters degree in non-profit management, and the Illinois Institute of Technologies has a well regarded masters degree in environmental studies.
The Biodiversity project develops communications plans for environmental organizations through public opinion research, strategic planning and creative tactics. As executive director of the Biodiversity Project, Jennifer Browning is an expert in the area of environmental communications strategy, a vital skill for all environmental organizations that depend on public funding and public awareness.

Jennifer highlighted the importance of a good background in environmental science for a career in environmental communications. A technical understanding of how watersheds work or the science behind global warming can be helpful in a career with an organization like the Biodiversity project. Writing skills are also invaluable in a communications career, so any completed study in English, public relations, or marketing classes that require writing should be included in a job applicant's resume.

The Biodiversity Project is one of many important government, non-profit, and private industry green organizations in Chicago. Outgoing mayor Richard Daily made green jobs a priority for Chicago city government and Chicago has several innovative green programs.

Emerging professionals can further their training at the Center for Green Technologies, which has a variety of educational and volunteer opportunities.

For green professionals looking to network, the organization Chicago Wilderness has an extensive list of member organizations.
BEN HELPHAND
Executive Director
NeighborSpace
• Volunteer in a non-profit or environmental organization.
• Be your own advocate. Don't wait for things to come to you.
• Consider taking classes in managing non-profits, community organizing, environmental organizing, and communications (speaking and writing).
NeighborSpace, in Chicago, Illinois, is a unique type of land trust that concentrates their efforts on helping community groups protect urban parks and gardens. NeighborSpace's projects require much more community organizing than traditional land trusts. Ben Helphand, NeighborSpace's executive director, leads organizational support for 76 new gardens or parks and three to seven new projects per year. NeighborSpace works closely with the city of Chicago and several public and private groups to facilitate this effort.

Ben's best advice is to "be you own advocate". Green organizations such as NeighborSpace often find new employees through internships or volunteer positions. Just applying to jobs through job boards may not be enough. A good educational background in environmental science along with writing, speaking and communication skills provide a background for work in community organizing, but getting out there to volunteer and network will probably be the difference between success and failure.
PETER GRAY
Communications Associate
Environmental Law And Policy Center
• Environmental Law and Policy Center co-sponsors the annual Growing the Green Economy Conference, an event where professionals can network with lawyers, entrepreneurs, and manufacturers about development, finance, and policy issues concerning how to build renewable energy in the region.
• Emerging professionals looking to build their experience working on policy issues can apply for an internship with Environmental Law and Policy Center. Internships are available for those with legal, communications, and environmental science specializations as well.
• Environmental Law and Policy Center maintains a jobs board that is regularly updated at their website: www.elpc.org.
Environmental Law and Policy Center has an 18 year track record of success protecting natural resources and promoting clean energy and smart transportation. A July 2011 study released by Environmental Law and Policy Center found that 13 major clean energy companies are located in the Chicago area, with 300 clean energy companies overall employing 18,000 workers. "We're showing that green jobs and renewable energy are creating real economic growth," said Communications Associate Peter Gray. Although many grassroots organizations are located in Chicago, many of them national, Gray noted that Environmental Law and Policy Center is unique in that it is one of the larger organizations with a regional focus. The organization partnered with the City of Chicago in creating the Chicago Climate Action Plan, and has partnered with local groups like the Chicago Clean Power Coalition to promote the Chicago Clean Power Ordinance, which would reduce power plant soot pollution by 90 percent and carbon emissions by 25 percent. On the regional level, Environmental Law and Policy Center advocates for policies that support clean energy development, reduce pollution and protect natural resources. ELPC successfully advocated for a 2010 solar energy carve-out that will strengthen Illinois's renewable energy portfolio standard. The organization is also working to promote a bill at the national level for a wind production tax credit as well as working to upholdthe Environmental Protection Agency's ability to reduce air pollution from industry and utilities. Environmental Law and Policy Center's work with the renewable energy community through events like Growing the Green Economy have been a boon to the green economy, with Chicago being one of the top markets with potential for green job growth.
ADAM LONG
Owner
Chicago Wind And Solar
• Chicago Wind and Solar began as a start-up and has followed an organic growth model. Adam believes that due to challenges in the small wind and solar market in Illinois, a strategy that emphasizes renewable energy's positive impact to commercial businesses' green credentials and the accelerating appreciation of the technology may present the best marketing position for companies like his at the moment.
• Because of the challenging market for small scale renewable energy, professionals may find better luck seeking out jobs at utility-scale clean energy companies.
Chicago Wind and Solar Owner Adam Long has been adjusting to the realities of the small scale wind and solar market he competes within after the recent passage of the ComEd omnibus bill that could change the payback rate to owners of small scale wind and solar developments to favor utilities in the long run. The state also faces funding shortage for incentives that make the upfront costs of wind and solar units affordable to Chicago area residents. "If government incentives don't continue, it will be tough for start-ups," Long said. He noted solar services as a big player in the area, although at this point, he said, "It's less about the payback to the consumer in lowered energy bills and more about going green." At present the time necessary to recover the costs of a residential solar installation runs at around 13 years. Green collar professionals seeking job leads may be best served to look to Chicago's extensive group or renewable energy companies for the short term, and consider using that experience to take a chance on starting a small-scale wind or solar venture when the economic winds turn favorable again in the future.
KEVIN BORGIA
Executive Director
Illinois Wind Energy Association
• Illinois Wind Energy Association (IWEA) keeps a daily blog on their website that highlights regional job openings as they become available. Their website is a go-to resource for local wind energy issues and policy.
• Professionals looking for jobs with a country-wide scope should look to the American Wind Energy Association's website: careersinwind.com.
• Wind energy professionals in Illinois looking to make local networking connections can attend the annual Advancing Wind Power event hosted by Illinois State University.
Illinois is one of the leading economies for wind energy development, and the Illinois Wind Energy Association is working to make sure that public policy allows for wind growth in the state. "We've got great growth here in Illinois," said IWEA Executive Director Kevin Borgia, "but we're still not living up to the potential growth. Across the state, 16 projects representing a potential 3,400 megawatts of power are ready for construction. The state's renewable energy portfolio stardard legislation calls for a 25 percent investment in renewables, three quarters of which are designated for wind power. Depending upon how the Illinois Power Agency manages the state renewable standard portfolio in the future, Borgia believes wind growth could be much more robust.

If you look at the up-front costs for wind development, Borgia added, wind energy has already achieved grid parity with traditional energy sources like coal. "The economics of a new coal plant would be competitive with a new wind farm," Borgia noted. The issue lies in that many coal plants are fully paid for and are also grandfathered in from the Clean Air Act. "The next 10 years will see major retirement of old coal plants representing thousands of megawatts of power, and we'll need to replace them with new energy plants, much of which could be wind," Borgia said. If the state can meet its potential for wind power, it will strengthen local economies, including Chicago, and bring with it green job growth.
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