Green Internships: The Possibilities

Last week, we celebrated Earth Day. Many of the career centers and other career development professionals I follow on Twitter were tweeting about green careers and jobs.

Also last week, I attended an initial meeting of the steering committee for a proposed Whitewater wellness program. The idea came from the Vitality Project undertaken by the community of Albert Lea, MN to increase the overall wellness of its residents. Members of the Whitewater campus and community are discussing the possibility of doing something similar here.

All of this got me thinking: What kinds of green or wellness-related internship opportunities could develop around Whitewater? Here are some of my ideas:

  • Natural Resources. Freshwater sciences are becoming a big focus in the Milwaukee area, which includes UW-Whitewater. The Milwaukee 7 Water Council is working to align the area’s water-based industries and research communities (i.e. universities) to establish the region as the global hub for freshwater research, education, and development. Internship opportunities already exist and more could arise with companies that deal in this natural resource, such as:
    • Pentair (water filtration and purification)
    • Badger Meter (water meters and meter reading systems)
    • Kohler (plumbing fixtures; primary and backup power systems)
    • Miller Coors (water user – intake/output quality and energy consumption)
  • Biodiversity & Ecosystems. Few areas on our planet remain untouched by human activity. In situations where this impact has been great, ecological restoration becomes crucial. Preserving, restoring, and conserving our natural resources allows our communities to thrive in healthy, sustainable, and economically strong ways.
    • Midwest Prairies (Milton, WI): This local company offers services such as prairie restoration; prescribed burns for prairies, fields, and woodlands; and vegetation control. See the Careers section of their website.
    • Tallgrass Restoration (Milton, WI): Environmental scientists are active with this company, which has an Illinois office in addition to its location outside of Milton. Tallgrass works with invasive species control, habitat installation, erosion control, and ecological assessment. Tallgrass Restoration attended the 2009 Hawk Career Fair.
  • Sustainable Foods. Movies such as Food, Inc., books such as Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food, and TV shows such as Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution have brought attention to issues with our food systems. There could be opportunities to build experience in the growing sustainable food market.
    • Michael Fields Agricultural Institute (East Troy, WI): This 20-year-old farming education center is less than 20 miles outside of Whitewater. In addition to produce, the organization deals with advocacy, enterprise development, and research.
    • Dietzler Farms (Elkhorn, WI): Dietzler Farms is a family-owned farm that raises premium all-natural beef. Their animals are never given antibiotics or artificial growth hormones, always have access to pastures, and consume only grass or non-genetically modified grain. Dietzler Farms supplies beef to some pretty amazing restaurants in the Chicago area, including Charlie Trotter’s and avec. They are currently seeking summer help (email me for details).
    • Wholesome Harvest (Fort Atkinson, WI): Wholesome Harvest is a CSA – Community Supported Agriculture. To join a CSA is to purchase a share or portion of the crops that the farm produces. Member receive a weekly share throughout the growing season. Last summer, UW-Whitewater faculty and staff became members of Wholesome Harvest, with campus serving as their pickup site.
  • Ecotourism. Whitewater lies just outside of the Southern Unit of Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine State Forest, home to numerous trails, including a portion of the Ice Age Trail. Given the close proximity, there could be a natural connection (no pun intended) between students and opportunities in natural/environmental sciences, law enforcement, business, and information technology with the Wisconsin DNR.

Some of the organizations listed above may have actual internship opportunities available. Others may offer volunteer or part-time, seasonal work that still provides great career-related experience.

This list can also serve as a starting point for those of you willing to put in the effort of creating your own internship. For me, it calls attention to new areas to explore for internship development.

For more green career information, check out What Are Green Jobs and Where Can I Find One? and Resource Spotlight: Green Job Spider on my colleagues’ Career Spotlight blog and check out the book “Green Careers: Choosing Work for a Sustainable Future” by Jim Cassio and Alice Rush, available at Andersen Library.

What do you think? Do you hope to have a “green” career? If so, what kind of internship experience are you trying to find?

Photo by (matt)


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