The greening of my world

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JYOTI SHANKAR tells us about her work at a local council in environmental management

My job title is… Sustainability Officer

I’ve been in this job for… 18 months

My educational qualifications
I am a Chartered Accountant but disliked the work. Moving to Australia gave me a chance to change my career and I fell into Information Management. I did a Post Graduate Diploma in Information Studies and worked in that field for nine years. I was always interested in environment and sustainability and finally did a Masters in Environmental Management which landed me this job in sustainability.

What the job entails
My job involves writing policies and standards as well as running projects and programs that help to make my organisation, and the Council area I work in, more sustainable.

What’s a typical day like?
I research and review materials used to create resources for building sustainable homes, performance standards for council buildings, running sustainable events etc. For example, after months of researching and creating content for web resources on sustainable homes, I had to create drawings and collages to explain my ideas to 3D designers. Then, using these drawings and content, I created web pages that people could use to learn more about building sustainable homes.

I also organise events to promote sustainable living, such as upcycling workshops where old furniture can be revived by re-upholstering or soap-making.

I discuss with staff ways to encourage sustainability at work such as taking actions to reduce paper and energy use or recycling correctly. We have a worm farm at work and I love to feed the worms with office food waste at the end of the day, knowing that it helps to reduce waste to landfill in a small way.

The hardest thing about my job
Making everyone as enthusiastic and passionate about sustainability as I am! For me this is my passion and my job, but for others this may not be the main focus or core business. Driving home the message without sounding like a Green Nazi is often hard.

The best part of my job
Doing what you love and knowing that everything that you do makes a difference is great. I was always interested in caring for the environment and living a simple, sustainable life, but it took me a long time to make this my career. Councils work at the grassroots level and this is where I can implement ideas about making the world around me a better place. It is good to be surrounded by people in my team who think the same way.

How this job has influenced my life
First it was the other way around – my life influenced my job. Now, working in sustainability gives me a lot of ideas for making my home more sustainable too. Our home garden is now the laboratory for all things sustainable – recycled furniture, a worm farm, compost bin, veggie beds, a bird bath, native bee-hive, worm towers and hopefully soon a recycled bath-tub lily pond. I think about packaging waste and food sustainability when buying products, promote the reuse ethic, and save electricity and water at home too. People think I am crazy to have so many waste bins – a worm bin, a compost bin, a recycling bin, a soft plastics bin and a regular bin. There is little left for the last one ultimately!

Advice for people who may want to get into the industry
Follow your passion. Climate change and global warming may sound like all doom and gloom but as they say, “Think global but act local.” Just go ahead and try to implement all the crazy ideas you have. Every little green action counts. Getting a formal degree gives you a good academic base understanding of the inter-disciplinary issues that environment management.

Jyoti Shankar
Jyoti Shankar
Jyoti Shankar is a freelance writer and sustainability professional, who is passionate about nature

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