Ways to become an environmental educator without going back to school
I discovered my passion for eco-action after college once I started working in the nonprofit world. I discovered organizations making a difference for our environment, and I realized how passionate I was about making a difference as well. As someone with massive college debt, my options of becoming an environmental educator were limited since getting a formal, college-degree training in environmental science was out of the question. But, in true nature of a spunky, can-do greenie, I realized that I could find other ways to learn, grow, and become an educator.
Here are some ways to learn and become a better climate advocate without getting a degree:
Take a Class or Start a Program through your City or County. Many of our cities and counties are committed to taking climate action. One of the strategies they use to create change in the community is through classes, events, and programs to educate the public. Depending on the city and the area’s priorities, there are classes on topics like recycling, green building construction, invasive species, and more. Some areas even have certificate programs for minimal or no cost so residents can get trained as experts to educate the rest of the community. These programs range from Master Composter to Aquatic Invasive Species. Do some online searching for options in your area by either searching for a topic and your city/county or by searching your city/county environmental department page for options.
Volunteer. Volunteering gets you anywhere and everywhere. Find an organization you love and look through their volunteer opportunities. Start with a one-time volunteer opportunity to get a feel for the organization, or email and ask if they need help in a specific area. The more you volunteer, the faster you’ll gain knowledge on that topic.
Do Outreach. Being part of an outreach team for an organization or group is an excellent way to learn, because it’s literally your job to talk about an eco-topic, answer questions, and converse with the community about your topic. There are many volunteer opportunities in outreach, as well as paid opportunities. I worked as a part-time program assistant at a cleanup organization for 1.5 years, and it propelled me into becoming an expert on zero waste, plastic pollution, and more. Even if it feels nerve-racking at first, put yourself out there and you will become the expert you want to become.
Listen to Podcasts. Podcasts are a great way to stay current, because they give us a chance to learn from experts, enthusiasts, and more. Plus, they’re free! There are a lot of podcasts to stay current on environmental news, science topics, and climate education. Start with Greenie Guide and go from there.
Read. Libraries and bookstores have a section for us greenies. It may be under “Nature,” “Science,” “Environmental Awareness,” Climate Action,” or “DIY.” If you’re real lucky, you’ll get options in all of the above sections.
Go to Eco-Related Talks, Lectures, and Events. Learning from others is an excellent way to become more knowledgeable on eco-action as a whole and specific eco-topics. Find activities in your area by following climate/environmental organizations, searching Facebook events, Google-ing, and asking your network. Plus, find and follow local eco-communities, companies, and individuals in your area — many host and/or share cool happenings.
Take a Workshop. Taking a workshop will give you the lowdown on how to do something eco-awesome and give you a chance to try it on your own. Workshops I’ve seen offered in my area: mushroom foraging, canning, woodworking, mending clothes, transition to a zero waste home, urban gardening, and more.
DIY. Learning by experience is one of the best teachers, and there are so many ways we as individuals can learn the skills environmental educators encourage. Make your own nut milk, yogurt, or crackers. Make your own window cleaner, face scrub, or toner. Make your own planter, bird feeder, or postcards. Or challenge yourself to follow a bigger challenge and learn skills through the experience. Example: Don’t buy any new clothes for a year.
Get Political. Take action by getting to know your reps and advocating for the advancement of climate action legislation. Many organizations advocate for political eco-changes, and it’s wonderful to get involved with them to learn. They help you get started and even provide scripts to talk to your reps. This is a great way to become an expert on local issues and legislative bills, and it’s one of the best ways to make a difference.
Have Conversations with People. The more we talk about environmental topics, the more we learn and the better we become in advocating for our causes.
Yes, DIY education is less formal and can take longer, but at the end of the day, it allows us to start where we are now, learn, and become better advocates for change. And, by taking these steps now, it will make it easier if you take the path of more formal education in the future.