Making Ripples with Jobs

Plenty of people make a difference at their workplace, with their income, or in the way they commute to work. What ways do you make ripples at work? What’s your dream job for having a positive impact on the world?

Here’s what we do with our jobs, in a never-ending journey of dreams, persistence, and challenges:

Amanda

I’m a certified master naturalist, artist, and writer. It took me a long time to realize that I could earn income in ways that help the world, and even longer to transition to being self-employed. I’m still learning! I have my own art business designing greeting cards, illustrating children’s books, drawing pet portraits and doing commissions for organizations and individuals. Lately I’ve been experimenting with treeless papers for drawing, such as Yupo, DuraLar and drafting film. As a writer, I write for magazines and also have a weekly newspaper column, Making Ripples. It’s awesome when my three worlds of nature, art and writing combine into one – such as in a recent column about the properties of treeless drafting film which I encountered when I researched and drew the Costa Rican Fiery-throated Hummingbird (I love these birds!). It’s a truly challenging surface to draw on, but more rewarding than paper. It’s also not necessarily more sustainable than, say, recycled paper. As usual, the truth is in the grey areas. The answer isn’t always black & white. It’s wonderful to be self-employed, but also a struggle.

I’m not financially independent, partly because Ripples itself doesn’t generate income for us and I put much of my time into that project, which includes preparing to go off-grid, create resources like articles, book lists, and more for our online educational center (which was on this website before Wikispaces stopped being free; now, we are working on uploading resources to our website directly), monitoring nesting bird boxes, writing blog posts, answering questions from readers, etc. I’m happy to volunteer to do this and quite lucky that we can afford it.

The other reason my art, writing, and naturalist work doesn’t earn enough money to pay bills is because I am in a “cocoon phase.” Without time for business expansion, and before our off-grid home is established, I’m taking online classes from the Society of Visual Storytelling and working on improving my craft. There are many potential careers for me down the road, but first I need to learn and grow, if I want to qualify and effectively compete for those jobs (like science illustration, children’s illustration, historical non-fiction, art/writing and photography combination jobs and books I could hypothetically publish). The point is, Ripples generates potential for us right now. I’m kinda sad I can’t earn more for my work, but happy we can provide resources to our audience for free, thrilled that we’re moving steadily towards a smaller eco-footprint, and delighted in our conservation projects.

Ryan

I’m the Network Administrator (though I’m just about the only person among my coworkers who actually knows and actively uses my title) at Ozark Natural Foods.  I did not settle on a technical job lightly, and I chose, and actively each day continue to choose, my employer carefully.  Tech is a world of (often rare) metal, plastic, and electricity; despite the touted “eco” benefits heavily utilizing certain technologies promises (using “cloud” storage; going “paperless”; combining various functions that traditionally required dozens of separate, clunky devices into a single, sleek, low-energy package; etc), we cannot forget that all technology–no matter how fast, how fancy, or how small–has a tangible footprint.  By choosing a technical job, I recognize my complicity in promoting the rapid use of rare resources.

As Amanda said, the truth is in the gray.  Nothing is completely eco-friendly.  Despite its resource issues, tech has demonstrated its power in so many essential ways (light-fast, distributed, simultaneous-individual-empowering communication systems; massive improvements in disaster and medical response; enabling small entrepreneurs to scale their businesses with almost no resources; the potential to build a true, individual and each-culture affirming global meta culture; etc.) that I feel investing my creative energy into it gives me the best skillset for making a scalable difference.  I currently make this difference by maintaining Ripples’ and Amanda’s art websites, and working at Ozark Natural Foods.

Not only does ONF promote a healthy lifestyle and the consumption of quality food, it is the only cooperative grocery store in the state of Arkansas (though I believe another in Little Rock might be starting or in its fledgling stages).  I believe in and respect the cooperative business model.  It places a demonstrable premium on the power of each individual, makes it almost impossible for any one person (or group of people) to profit unequitably at the expense of its users, actively strives to empower other coops (with both resources and knowledge) to help build a culture of cooperation, invests its usually comparably modest resources in its staff, and lots more.  I am proud to be a working member of this movement.



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