sharing as a way to green communities and combat waste. Can you
explain? — Becky Lipscomb, Centereach, NY
The convergence of environmental awareness and consumer culture has
created a whole new movement today whereby sharing is cool. Indeed,
some environmentalists view sharing as key to maintaining our quality
of life and our sanity in an increasingly cluttered world.
“Sharing is a relatively simple concept and a basic part of human
life,” reports Janelle Orsi on Shareable, an online magazine that
tells the story of sharing. “What’s new is that people are applying
sharing in innovative and far-reaching ways, many of which require
complex planning, new ways of thinking and organizing, and new
technologies. In short, people are taking sharing to new levels,
ranging from relatively simple applications of sharing to
community-wide sharing initiatives—and beyond.”
“In a shareable world, things like car sharing, clothing swaps,
childcare coops, potlucks, and cohousing make life more fun, green,
and affordable,” reports Shareable. “When we share, not only is a
better life possible, but so is a better world.”
The non-profit Freecycle Network, which runs a Craigslist-style
website where people can list items they want to give away, pioneered
using the Internet to facilitate diverting reusable goods from
landfills when it launched back in 2003. To date, more than nine
million individuals across 5,000 different regions have used the
group’s freecycle.org website to find new homes for old items.
According to Shareable, other examples such as Zipcar, Wikipedia, Kiva
and Creative Commons show how successful sharing can be. “They show
what’s possible when we share. They show that we don’t act merely for
our own good, but go out of our way to contribute to the common good.
They show that we can solve the crises we face, and thrive as never
before. They show that a new world is emerging where the more you
share the more respect you get, and where life works because everyone
helps each other.”
Shareable and the Center for a New American Dream, a non-profit that
highlights the connections between consumption, quality of life and
the environment, have collaborated on the production of the new “Guide
to Sharing,” a free downloadable booklet loaded with practical ideas
about exchanging stuff, time, skills and space. Some of the ideas in
the guide include: organizing a community swap; starting a local toy,
seed or tool library; launching a skills exchange where community
members can swap professional skills like carpentry or grant-writing;
or setting up a food, transportation or gardening co-op. Some other
sharing tips include car-sharing, gift circles, sharing backyard
chickens with neighbors and launching a “free market” where people
meet to trade skills and stuff.
For her part, Janelle Orsi envisions a future where public land is
dedicated to community gardening, public libraries also lend tools,
equipment and other goods, and citywide bike sharing, carpooling and
wifi programs are all the rage. Orsi and others warn we had better get
used to sharing, as it is here to stay.
* * * * *
Dear EarthTalk: I understand that there are many internships available
at environmental organizations, some involving working outdoors, some
year-round with expenses paid. Where do I find these? — Jason Baar,
Los Angeles, CA
Internships can provide professional experience and on-the-job
training for individuals looking to enter the environmental field.
There are numerous opportunities and the key is to know where to look.
Many businesses, non-profits and governmental organizations offer
internships that are environmentally focused and can range from office
work in many different departments to working outdoors, some
year-round and some short term. Compensation also varies significantly
and can range from unpaid (but earning college credit) to salaried
A good place to start is the Student Conservation Association (SCA),
which places over 2,000 interns a year and focuses on expense paid
year round internships, many of which are outdoors. They partner with
public and private organizations along with federal agencies and
prescreen applicants to create a national pool of candidates for
organizations to select from to bring in for interviews. Internships
through SCA can offer anywhere from $75-$300 per week in living
expenses, plus housing, travel and medical costs. In addition, an
Americorps education award may be available to interns at the
completion of their internship.
The Environmental Careers Organization (ECO) is also a well known
resource for finding internships for bachelors, masters and doctoral
students and recent graduates. This program partners with the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and through paid internships has
turned out professionals in the environmental field for over 30 years.
ECO selects 500 associates each year for 12-week to two-year
internships. Sponsoring organizations offer internships in research
and training programs in addition to office, laboratory and field work
assignments. Associates earn between $400 and $800 per week and may
also be compensated for relocation costs, housing, travel, and career
A few other places to look are EcoEmploy and Internmatch. EcoEmploy is
a database of hundreds of non-profits, governmental agencies and
companies whose work is in the environmental field. This comprehensive
list, organized by state, offers a way to find organizations that may
offer jobs or internships. Internmatch posts internships in several
categories throughout the country and has a section dedicated to
environmental internships. They range from summer to year round and
paid to non-paid.
In addition to these resources, environmental departments within
universities often post internship opportunities for students as well
as other tips for finding and researching potential internships.