We need more sustainability jobs

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A quick search in Google (or Duck Duck Go or Ecosia, just in case you use these instead) about how to get a job in sustainability would return some helpful results. Since it’s only recently that the world realized how important the planet apparently is, sustainability jobs are also just beginning to come out.

Based on a quick research, I found that it is, basically, very difficult to find a sustainability job even in the developed world. Usually, these are reserved for higher-up positions in corporate social responsibility or executive sustainability teams of a company.

How do we then create sustainability jobs down to the entry and associate levels?

I am by no means an expert — I am just sharing an observation I’ve had while job-hunting for a sustainability job for quite some time now.

For one, I wish there was some form of career advice platform for career paths like this. When I first ventured out to ‘take a sustainability career path’, I never knew I had to experience so many road blocks. I was basically putting on so many hats without having a sort of system or coordinated effort. It was all mumbo jumbo. There was no ‘starting point’ to speak of.

But there’s a light in this dark tunnel.

My realization is that you shouldn’t start with a sustainability career right away. What many people do is they come from a totally different field and shift towards sustainability later on, probably because of realizations that the planet is, indeed, boiling to a crisp. What they learned in that prior field would then become a tool they can use to push the sustainability agenda forward. It’s a win-win.

And now that more and more people are beginning to understand that the health of the planet is at stake, we need to be able to create more sustainability jobs that fuel that passion and drive. Sustainability is no longer a question of ‘mindset’, it’s now a question of ‘how’.

The systemic issues that plague us from within

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Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay


As time passes, I realized I’m becoming more and more personal with my approach to Berde Boy. From initially talking about larger-than-life ideas to talking about things like ‘taking baby steps’ — along the way, as cliché as this may sound, I realized I have to start with myself first.

The ideas of self-love, self-esteem, minimalism, personal finance, and all these things that are actually helpful were never taught to us in school and in our personal upbringing. These are things that we just happen to come across, probably through some conversations with friends or colleagues at work.

So for the past months, what I realized is for us to learn these ourselves and find other people who will help us grow. It’s a mutual process.

The learning process differs for many people. For myself, I’m just getting started. I’m at a crossroads in terms of what I should actually be doing. In fact, out of all the confusion and hidden anxiety, I realized I want to travel long-term in the meantime and just enjoy myself. I want to see the world beyond my comfort zones here in Metro Manila.

Let me be the one to tell you also that our mental health is a valid sustainability concern as well. Much like the biggest challenges of the world on climate change, food security, plastic waste, overpopulation, and many, many others — mental health is equally important. What we have to understand is that sustainability is everything. It’s not just about the systemic issues that surround us externally — it’s also about the systemic issues that plague us from within.

Pretty much — that’s all I have for this blog post. Whoever’s reading this at the moment, I’d like to show my gratitude. If it’s your first time reading my blog posts, you can check out my other posts. I write about several things from startups to my humble adventures as a digital nomad.

On mental health and listening

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I had a nice talk today about mental health with an old friend. My biggest takeaway is that I think the world needs to learn how to listen more.

Listening is a highly valuable skill. In fact, more than just a ‘marketable’ skill, listening should be a basic life skill. And yet it’s something very scarce in this noisy and highly audible world. With all the noise, do we ever, really, get the chance to talk sincerely to someone?

While I want to answer yes to that question, it’s just not that simple. I empathize with all the people having difficulty finding someone who would just essentially listen and not ‘listen to respond’.

We don’t always need answers. Sometimes, we just need someone who will listen to what we have to say. The world is complex as it is, and finding answers is not always the appropriate approach. Sometimes, asking the proper questions instead propels us to move forward more proactively.

Questions, I think, are extremely powerful. We ask questions because we are curious, driven, or want to discover or invent something. We ask questions because they fill us with wonder and excitement. We ask questions because we want to find out how to become better human beings.

If we lose the art of questioning, what sense of wonder would be left?

In mental health, asking questions can be very therapeutic, at least in my experience. You start to ask questions that relate to yourself. You ask questions that try to clarify what you are feeling at one particular moment. By having that main question in mind, you unconsciously map out your way towards finding answers while not being forced to do so.

And I think that’s the whole point of life. More than just finding answers on how to solve daily problems, asking questions gives us a sense of wonder and rewires our mind towards a certain goal.

Why traveling is not an escape, but a journey towards life

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We see it everywhere. Traveling is branded as an escape — a temporary sanctuary or rush of hormones. At the same time, I understand why this is the case, considering how travel has been advertised to us constantly.

The word ‘traveling’ brings a smile to people’s faces. Whoever I talk to, they would lighten up with just the thought of traveling somewhere in the world they haven’t seen in person before.

Traveling itself is an art. It’s something that refreshes and energizes us. Seeing new sights, new places, and basically being somewhere no one knows you give a feeling of excitement and wonder.

Here’s why I think traveling is more of a journey towards life rather than an escape from it.

Feelings of discovery

Traveling is all about meeting new people, seeing new sights, and getting valuable experiences. It gives you a natural high.

From the beautiful beaches and mountains in the Philippines, to the amazing mix of nature and urban landscapes in Taiwan, there’s always something new to discover when you travel.

Lots of amazing people

I’ve met a lot of helpful and amazing people in my travels. Although we only met momentarily, it’s the type of friendship that can last despite the lack of personal updates.

For me, the best part of traveling are the people you meet along the way. It could be the type of traveling for work, leisure — what have you. The nice people you get to know makes any travel experience worthwhile.

A chance to understand other countries and relate it to your own

Every time I travel abroad, I observe the city and how people move and act. I think pretty much anyone else does this. And I think it’s a very healthy way to better understand our home country. It gives us ideas on how to be better and perhaps learn a thing or two from other countries.

It also allows us to understand ourselves better. What’s our position in the world? Where do we truly belong? How do we reach our goals? These questions come into mind when we travel.

At the end of the day, traveling is a journey towards life — a chance to remodel and rediscover ourselves. More than just soul-searching, traveling is also about just having fun and taking things as they are.

The value of ‘baby steps’

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I’ve had this personal motto of doing things one a time. I don’t like doing several things at one moment because it ruins the quality of my work. So I do one ordinary task one at a time, with the hopes that it builds up to something relevant and impactful.

Taking your steps

Baby steps is a term that we probably hear quite often. In my own definition, it’s the habit of doing things one at a time and not overstretching yourself. It’s also a term that reminds us of our younger days when we were still trying to walk. Like a baby taking their steps, it’s akin to how we want to build up our own lives.

Our peers advice or tell us to rush and get that master’s degree, promotion, salary increase, special someone, family — what have you. But why the rush? Is it the ever-existent rat race? I think these are rubbish advice. I don’t understand the underlying motivation in those words.

So I looked onto taking baby steps. No more rushing and unhealthily pressuring ourselves. In the grand scheme of things, life is not something linear where you go a straight path. It’s an interconnected web of existence and personal discovery, loss, and rediscovery.

Taking your time

Like they say, time is our most valuable asset. When you refer to an asset, it’s something that you own and that it gives value to your life. And when you say something gives value, you hold on to that dearly. Which means — time is really the only thing we ever have.

I’ve been trying my best to manage my time wisely. I’m not an expert (is anyone really, ever an expert on time management?). I seek help whenever I have tasks that seem difficult to accomplish.

And the most important thing — it’s never really too late. Society gives us the illusion that you need to accomplish this or that at a particular age. But again, what are the underlying motivations for these words? We see so many people fulfilling their dreams at a very old age. It’s never really too late.

Taking your sanity

And of course — our sanity. We can accomplish so much in life and excel in virtually anything we put our minds into. But we also have to take care of our mental health. I think our mental health should be one of our biggest investments in life. We should nurture and make it grow in a positive light. We should ask for help whenever we can.

Whoever said life is easy? The fact that it’s volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous makes it exciting. But we have to find our safe space, search for our personal mission, and sustain our mental health along the way.

On sustainability and being ‘gracefully lost’

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We have a negative connotation on the word ‘lost’. But I beg to differ.

I’d be lying if I say that I already found what I want to do for the rest of my life. The thing with being ‘lost’ is that it’s a process — it’s not something you can run away from just by a quotable quote in Facebook or an inspiring message by someone.

Being lost is an opportunity. It’s a chance for us to explore possibilities and stretch out ourselves as much as we can (but not to the expense of overfatigue). It is, you may say, a kind of phase in life, but I think it can be something lifelong. Getting lost in helping others, for instance, is something I can buy into.

We hear so much unsolicited advice everyday on ‘fixing our lives’ or being at the state of ‘not being lost.’ I think these are horrible advice.

For one, human beings are extremely complex. When talking about the state of being ‘lost’, it’s not something that you can just discuss through a black-and-white perspective.

Instead of wallowing in despair of being ‘lost,’ I say we look at it constructively. I say we become gracefully lost.

Lost with sustainability

As what you probably know as someone reading this blog post right now, I write mostly on sustainability. But this wasn’t something that just popped into my head.

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals have over 17 general goals for the planet. Each of these 17 goals has more specific sets of goals, and so on. I happen to find myself amid all these goals. I am, you could say, ‘gracefully lost’ in my advocacy for sustainability. I can honestly admit that I have no direct focus right now, but I make do with what I have by exploring and stretching out the possibilities. Some ways I do that is through this blog, my work, and volunteer engagements.

Another factor is that I’m treading on a path that’s barely scratched, at least locally. But that doesn’t stop me from trying to achieve what I want.

I believe in the intersection of business and environment. Businesses have the potential to overturn the damage it’s done to the world. This will require a new economic order that doesn’t rely on ‘eternal growth with finite natural resources.’

It’s a tall order. I honestly don’t know where to start. But I do certain things anyway. And this is what I mean about being gracefully lost.

Gracefully lost

‘Lost’ is a term that gets thrown around quite leniently. We forget that the term is not all that bad. It also has its good side, and that’s what I want to focus on here.

Being gracefully lost is like finding yourself for the first time in a railway system of a big city. You have no idea how it exactly works. But you do it anyway. You learn along the way. You build your knowledge. You practice it. Then you become used to it.

And this applies to any aspect of life. It’s alright that we don’t know yet what to do or where to go. We just have to do something. We just have to embrace being lost. And we have to do whatever it costs to maintain our sanity and health and still manage to bond with our loved ones.

Being gracefully lost reminds us to take it easy. It removes the pressure and fills us with an unrelenting force of lifelong learning.

Schools and the youth: Pedestals for environmental protection, restoration

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The clock strikes noon. I’m walking along a pavement sprinkled with lush greenery and carefully placed blocks of stone and tiny lamps. I pass by a building covered with vines from top to bottom—a commune with nature I rarely see in city buildings. Within a hallway, I’m led to a bigger space with shoots of bamboo dangling from the ceiling. Towards the corner, a mural depicting Mother Nature’s beauty and charm captivates my eyes. When finally reaching my destination, I’m greeted by smiles and welcoming hands as we begin the day’s activities. 

I was fortunate to co-facilitate a workshop with MakeSense Philippines in Foundation University, Dumaguete City that teaches college and senior high school students how to create their own social initiatives. After the workshop, the students had brilliant ideas on plastic waste solutions, solid waste management, and solving unintended teen pregnancy, among many others. 

The workshop also came in at the right time for the students as they are beginning to be more aware and proactive with the issues facing their local communities. As Dumaguete City becomes more urbanized, they experience the same issues as other cities, ranging from air pollution to the improper disposal of plastic and other wastes. 

The role of schools

One thing I learned in the workshop was that schools should be among the forefront of providing opportunities to the youth to engage in social initiatives. These are not only limited to community engagement requirements, but also to the core curriculum and basic classroom activities. 

When speaking with the youth of today, I can confidently say that they are more aware and creative than any of the previous generations. Schools just have to give them the chance and the right environment to unleash their creative potential—not just their academic aptitude. 

Gone are the days of pure classroom instruction, paperwork, or recitation—the youth of today need to move, and they need to be taught how to move fast. It is not enough anymore that schools teach the youth how to articulate themselves and engage in intellectual discourse. In the world of forms that we live in, action and engagement reign supreme. 

The youth and tomorrow

The protection and restoration of the environment is the defining issue of today’s generation. Across the world, the youth are getting more and more involved with movements going against inaction and passivity on environmental issues. The likes of Autumn Peltier, Isra Hirsi, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, and Greta Thunberg—all youth below 20 years of age—have already jump-started global movements of their own. They are inspiring the youth like me to create ripples of positive change, wherever we are and however simple or complex it may be. No one is ever too small to make a difference. 

In FU, the youth have the same sentiments. They hunger for change and they want it fast. They are taking matters into their own hands and are starting to create initiatives in their local communities. One group of students I talked to wanted to create a machine that would recycle plastic bottles as well as incentivize with cash those who donate the plastic bottles. Initiatives like these are something that schools need to support—and it needs to be done fast. The students need to be exposed and engaged with the innovation ecosystem within their local communities and beyond. 

Biosphere consciousness

I recently watched a documentary by social and economic theorist Jeremy Rifkin where he says that the world is now entering a state of ‘biosphere consciousness’ or simply put, a spike in the increase of environmental awareness across the world. 

If schools—among many other actors in the ecosystem—could provide more opportunities for students to engage with this changing world order, then we can have better chances of supporting and advancing it. 

One way this can be done is by teaching the youth how to create their own social initiatives. It does not have to be only for the environment, because when we refer to the planet’s biosphere, everything under it is involved, from politics, culture, economics, and technology, to name a few. 

While the clock is ticking for the environment, together we will need to move faster than ever. Schools and the youth are among the pedestals for such change. 

This article was originally published in Manila Standard – Green Light.