Will the oil spill inspire you to become an Eco-Mentor?

When something the size of the gulf oil spill happens, my frustration builds with each news update.  Naturally I want to help.  But what can I do?  What can any of us do?  We can’t all quit our jobs, rush to the coast, and try to save wildlife.  Besides, how many of us have ever worked cleaning up an oil spill?  How many of us are experts in green technology, climate change, organic farming, or sustainability?

What we can do is start to shift — from the reactive to the proactive.  Let’s share our knowledge today so we can help more people and more places on the planet right now. Match your expertise with something you value, and mentor someone who is working in an eco-based organization or endeavor.

Become a “Green-to-Green, Traditional-to-Green, or Personal Life Eco-Mentor.” To stimulate your creativity, I’ve included a definition and a few examples of each of these three eco-mentor types below.  What if 1,000 people became eco-mentors? Now imagine if that number were 100,000.  Just think what we could accomplish for the planet.

Eco-Mentors:  Green-to-Green

If you already work in an environmentally focused job (green, environmental, sustainability, organic, bio dynamic, recycling, upcycling, etc.), you’ve got a head start on many of us.  Your experience is so valuable because you know what works, what doesn’t, and what’s needed — in the green economy.  Accelerate the learning and mentor someone else who is already green.

  1. Mentor someone in a similar position and a similar organization.  You might have significantly more experience than the person you mentor — or you might be peers.  Peer-to-peer mentoring can be very effective even when the individuals have similar knowledge levels — it’s particularly important in rapidly changing fields. (And whose isn’t rapidly changing these days?)  An organic restaurant owner could mentor another organic restaurant owner in a nearby town or another region.
  2. Mentor someone in a similar job but in another type of organization. Cross-pollinating ideas often sparks creativity, which is a key benefit of this type of mentoring.  If you work in human resources for a green manufacturer, ideas and programs that are common among manufacturers might be new and innovative to someone in an energy audit nonprofit.
  3. Mentor someone in your organization that works a different department or job.  Because everyone in an organization might get involved in social media, a social media expert could mentor anyone at any level, at any age.  If you are that person, you could mentor people in accounting, purchasing, sales, management, marketing and many more.

Eco-Mentors: Traditional-to-Green

Most of us aren’t in “green jobs,” but we can help the environment by mentoring someone who is. As an eco-mentor, you help someone build confidence, avoid problems, expand their network, and more — but you don’t need to know everything about their job, organization or industry.  You provide them with support, helping them over time, as they learn, adapt, and make progress towards their goals.

An accountant in a traditional industry could mentor an accountant in a green industry.  An entrepreneur in a traditional industry could share her knowledge with a green entrepreneur that is starting a new organization.  A nonprofit fundraiser could mentor a social enterprise executive director about relationship management.  Expertise could be shared and cross-pollinated between people and organizations in so many ways, that the challenge is for you to narrow down your choices!  More examples:

  • Accountant for a food wholesaler Seek out an accountant that works for an alternative energy firm to mentor, such as a wind farm, a solar panel manufacturer, or biofuel.
  • Community Organizer Mentor someone from a green-focused nonprofit or NGO who could benefit from your expertise.
  • Consultant Take on an eco-business as a pro bono project.
  • Copyright Lawyer for a bank Help an eco-friendly manufacturer protect their household products by mentoring their in-house council.
  • Corporate Tax Manager for an insurance company Mentor a social enterprise CEO and help her better understand tax issues and opportunities.
  • Human Resources Manager for a retailer Find a smaller organization and mentor the human resources manager.
  • Information Technology Manager for an airline Mentor an IT manager in a green business.
  • International Marketing Manager Mentor someone in an eco-business in one of the countries you already serve.
  • Investment Manager for an international financial services company Mentor a nonprofit Executive Director about investment risks and strategies.
  • Healthcare Administrator Mentor someone in a similar administrative position in an eco-business.
  • Plant Manager Mentor someone in a green manufacturing business.
  • Purchasing Manager for a manufacturer Seek out a high-growth eco-products company and help them learn how to expand, nationally or internationally.
  • Restaurant Owner Mentor someone who is launching an organic bakery or restaurant.
  • Social Media Manager Mentor a manager in a retail based green business.

Eco-Mentor:  Personal Life

Though mentoring is often work-related, eco-mentoring can be equally useful in our personal lives: at home, at school, and in our communities.  We need to share more of this type of expertise. Sure, there are many online resources, but nothing can replace person-to-person support when we’re learning something new.

  • Eco-Mentor: Bike-to-work If you’re part of the millions of Americans who do, consider mentoring someone who is going to try it this year.  Support them while they overcome all the obstacles you did: adjusting to weather conditions, outsmarting bike thieves, or coping with traffic.
  • Eco-Mentor: Simplified Lifestyle Have you dramatically simplified your life or become an “unconsumer?”  Perhaps you’ve reduced your carbon footprint, downsized to a smaller house or apartment, and switched to local and organic foods. Mentor someone who is trying to simplify their life by sharing what worked for you and help them find their own way to simplify.
  • Eco-Mentor: Recycling Program Have you launched a recycling program for your child’s school or your town?  Then you know how complex a challenge it is to bring people together and actually get it implemented. Seek out someone in another school or town to mentor during the year.  Help them get off to a good start and give them a better chance of success.  There are so many different types of recycling programs (Hennepin County even has tips for organic recycling tips for schools) and so many places that still need them.
  • Eco-Mentor: Inner-city Gardening Have you started a gardening program for your school or town?  If so, you know more of them are being created all across the country to fight obesity, improve nutrition, and provide local food sources.  You may have seen the movie, Fresh, and know about Will Allen’s legendary north country garden.  So many people are interested in this and could surely benefit from your insights, your mentoring.

This is was a short list of eco-mentoring possibilities.   I hope you’ll send in more examples of how people can become eco-mentors.  We need more ways to inspire people to think about ways their experience can help the planet.

Most of all, I hope you’re inspired to take your own expertise, whatever you’re passionate about, and find someone to mentor.

For tips on how to find a mentor or be a mentor (and find the time to do it), watch this site for future blogs.

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3 Responses

  1. If you’re interested in eco-mentoring, but are not in a “green” job, this blog by Greenbiz.com might inspire a few more ideas:
    8 Ways to Bring Sustainability Into Any Job

    Read more: http://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2010/05/19/8-ways-bring-sustainability-any-job?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Greenbuzz+%28GreenBiz+Feed%29#ixzz0oV6w9l1D

  2. …”the restoration economy” is remaking America’s landscape while putting millions of people to work.

    This economy is devoted to restoring what’s been lost: degraded forests, watersheds, oceans, cities, communities, buildings, transit — and it’s the product of a major turning point in our history that’s been almost entirely missed by the press and politicians.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jun/02/underground-green-economy

  3. We could accomplish more, I believe, if eco-warriors had eco-mentors. GreenBiz.com/blog
    Why eco-warriors must work with corporate America…

    http://www.smartbrief.com/news/sustainability/storyDetails.jsp?issueid=1E6F969D-B0A5-46BC-9C38-E1943B884670&copyid=8CAD1EF2-1DCA-4CB3-A9CA-378EED76BB6B&campaign=twitter&ref=twitter8CAD1EF2-1DCA-4CB3-A9CA-378EED76BB6B

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