Get to Work! Jobs in Food Sustainability (2022)

by Audrey Jenkins , Kate Johnson

Published: 7/06/18, Last updated: 9/23/19

Whether you’re just getting started in your professional life or you have some work experience under your belt, it’s never too late to start thinking about jobs in food sustainability and the various ways to impact our food system. While it might not seem obvious at first, there are many jobs in food sustainability, and while the path is different for everyone, job options are only expanding — whether you prefer to get your hands dirty digging in the dirt, or gravitate more towards crunching numbers or crafting content behind a desk.

Sustainable food media company Civil Eats co-founder Naomi Starkman is a terrific example of a varied sustainable food career path. After double majoring in international relations and German, Naomi earned a law degree, then held over four different positions before entering the sustainable food world. Here’s what she has to say:

“I first became interested in food sustainability while working in publishing… at the New Yorker magazine in 2004. One of the events was a dinner with chefs Alice Waters, Peter Hoffman, Dan Barber and others. As a former urban gardener, and lover of all things eco, the green light bulb went off. It seemed to me that food might just be at the center of sustainability. I asked Alice about how to get involved and she told me about World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) and the agroecology program at UC Santa Cruz. Within three months I was WOOF’ing in Costa Rica. When I came back to New York, I apprenticed at Stone Barns while still working in Times Square until a year later, when I left NYC for good to farm full time at Helsing Junction Farm in Washington State.”

Whether you’re a communications whiz like Naomi or have other talents, you’ll find that you can tie food sustainability to nearly any skillset. So here are some of the major sectors that have jobs in food sustainability, plus some ideas about how to get yourself there (including a few tips on job hunting).

Farming, Research and Other Ag Jobs

Let’s start at heart of the sustainable food industry: farming. Cultivators of the land comprise the bedrock of sustainable food — and the world needs more farmers, especially as the current population ages. In the US, the age of the average farmer is 58.3 years, which is why groups like the National Young Farmers Coalition and The Greenhorns work to attract and assist new farmers in our modern food industry.

If you’re considering a career in farming, you don’t need an academic background in agriculture, although plenty of excellent farming programs do exist. Shannon Hyde of Olive Egg Farm, for example, held a full-time job in human services before she began raising hens in her urban backyard. Fast-forward to today: Shannon works part-time in social work and runs a poultry farm in rural New York. She did not start out in agriculture, and learned her craft by doing. On-farm educations are cheap and propel new farmers into the profession with hands-on experience.

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Try to find internships at local farms and with programs seeking volunteers by checking out:

If you are interested in farming research and technical jobs in agriculture, academic programs are useful for gaining an in-depth understanding of food and farming sciences. Graduates often seek jobs in farming-related fields, such as land management, consulting, animal welfare and agriculture or food research. Some academic programs offer scholarships and low-cost opportunities for sustainable farming degrees, such as the organic farming program offered through a partnership between Rodale Institute and Delaware Valley University in which veterans may have some or all of their tuition covered by the Yellow Ribbon Program, but we suggest getting experience on a farm before applying to an academic program.

Even if farming is not your ideal job, consider gaining some experience in the field. Look for opportunities to volunteer at farms or community gardens, start your own garden or get involved on your college campus.

Media and Communications Jobs in Food Sustainability

Media and strategic communications are both essential to strengthening a sustainable food system, and advocacy work in general. We are able to bridge gaps in opinions and build common ground through media and strategic campaigns. What’s more, local farmers need to reach nearby consumers, businesses seek to attract new customers and food advocates strive to draw attention to their issues. Careers in web design, social media, journalism, videography, graphic design, marketing and more are available at nonprofits, commercial offices and even in government. Organizations in need of in-house communications support hire people with a variety of skills and experiences, so don’t be too intimidated to throw your hat in the ring!

Advocacy Jobs in Food Sustainability

From local, grassroots efforts to improve food access and quality within communities to national and international efforts to inspire institutional change, sustainable food advocacy works at all levels. Nonprofits work to spread awareness through media, raise funds for new projects, offer tools and assistance to farmers and consumers supporting sustainable food, and provide research and analysis to foster open dialog on food issues.

You can get experience in advocacy by volunteering, interning and getting involved on campus at your school (for example with an organization like Real Food Challenge). You can also find resources online, like the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association’s advocacy manual.Other groups, like Food and Water Watch, lobby for better food-related policies and promote education and awareness. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has a staff that advocates for federal policy reform to advance the sustainability of agriculture, food systems, natural resources, and rural communities.

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Restaurants and Food Services

If you love working with food and are considering a career as a chef, restaurant owner, kitchen manager or distributor, the connection between food services and sustainability is straightforward: serve sustainable food! The Culinary Institute of America is making strides to “green” their curriculum, as are other culinary schools but learning to operate a sustainable food business can happen outside the classroom as well through hands-on experience. Once you become a professional in food services, bring sustainable practices into your kitchen by sourcing local, sustainable food, talking to your staff about sustainability and joining groups like Chefs Collaborative.

Law and Policy Jobs in Food Sustainability

If you are considering a career in politics or law, there are many ways to engage with food sustainability. Because law professionals are required to obtain a degree in law, you may want to attend an institute offering specializations in food issues, such as Vermont Law School’s Center for Agriculture and Food Systems. Policymakers may enter their field through policy studies or an expertise in a technical field. As a policymaker or legal professional, you can help structure the legal environment that encourages a sustainable food market. The Environmental Law Institute, for instance, is a research and education group that works to strengthen environmental law by providing analysis for lawmakers, educational centers and business leaders.

Public Health Jobs in Food Sustainability

All aspects of our health system are affected by the food system, which means that talking about the food we eat is a large component of a public health or healthcare career. There are public health master’s programs that make this connection, such as at John Hopkins. The university’s Center for a Livable Future also offers a certificate in the Food System, Environment and Public Health open to non-degree professionals as well as students in medicine, nursing and public health. Health professionals can work directly with patients, but many work to create strong health policies, programs and management through non-profit work and at health institutions and government agencies.

Teaching Jobs in Food Sustainability

With all these great programs educating future professionals to jobs in food sustainability, teaching is another crucial career path within sustainable food systems. From elementary to graduate school, teachers have huge impacts by instilling an understanding of the importance of sustainable agriculture in the next generation. Because there are more academic food advocacy programs popping up all the time, this field is expected to grow.

If you are interested in sparking the curiosity of young students (K-12), you don’t necessarily need a degree in education, but you will need to pursue a certificate to teach in your state. States have varying levels of education requirements; in New York State, for example, teachers in public elementary schools are required to obtain Master’s degrees. Check this guide to teaching to learn about programs and certificates near you. Get some experience teaching before you commit to a program. The FoodCorps program is a fantastic year-long opportunity to gain experience teaching kids about food sustainability, which will allow you to test the teaching waters to determine if it’s a good fit for you.

For college or graduate-school level teaching, you will need a background in your subject or experience to lecture at an institution. You may be able to teach courses based on your field expertise in sustainable food, but many upper-level lecturers are professors or assistant professors with doctoral degrees in their chosen subject. Take a look at this rundown of what it takes to become a university professor. If you are interested in this career, consider studying sustainable agriculture or food systems as an undergraduate and/or graduate student and ask your professors about serving as a teaching assistant during the school year.

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Technology and Entrepreneurship

Tech start-ups like crowdfunding site Barnraiser are playing essential roles in boosting sustainable food. Groups like Food Tech Connect are working to promote similar innovations that combine food issues and tech resources. Echoing Green offers competitive fellowships and resources to people interested in working on all sorts of sustainable food issues and starting new food projects (some of their alums include Real Food Challenge co-founders).

Building a Network to Find Jobs in Food Sustainability

Job-hunting is a skill itself. If you’re still a student, don’t wait around to think about what you might do professionally; explore! Your school’s career services or alumni affairs offices may hold networking events regardless of where you live. LinkedIn can also be helpful, but make sure you’re taking full advantage of the platform. Try not to be too intimidated to reach out professionals to talk to them and learn from their experiences; you’ll be surprised how eager someone within your network may be to help! (TheMuse.com has some great tips on these and other career resources.) Remember that regardless of your job hunt status, it’s always helpful to meet new people and engage in a dialogue. You might learn of an opportunity or field subset that you didn’t even know existed!

Food-specific job sites can help broaden your search by introducing opportunities in the field you may never have considered. Good Food Jobs, for example, provides ideas about what is available, profiles professionals paving new inroads to food and shells out useful advice on working in the food world. Finally, take a quick visit toIdealist.org – they remain a juggernaut for nonprofits in the market for new talent.

Best of luck with your search for jobs in food sustainability! We know you’ll find the right job to help build a stronger food system.

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FAQs

Why are you interested in working in the sustainability sector? ›

It is about environmental protection, social welfare and fair and equitable institutions. This is what drew me to working within sustainability: it provides the chance to improve people's quality of life, as well as have a positive impact on the environment.

How can you contribute to sustainability of food? ›

9 Ways to Support Sustainable Food
  1. Start your own garden (and raise your own chickens for eggs). ...
  2. Make your own organic soil. ...
  3. Eat local and organic. ...
  4. Close the loop. ...
  5. Join a local food club. ...
  6. Eat less meat, more veggies. ...
  7. Involve children. ...
  8. Volunteer with a sustainable farm or food justice organization.

Is sustainability a good career choice? ›

Sustainability can lead to many career paths, such as sustainability specialist, environmental engineer, sustainability manager, and sustainability director. These and other job opportunities provide workers with the chance to positively impact the environment, people's quality of life, and future generations.

Why is sustainability so important in the food industry? ›

Partaking in sustainable food practices ensures your business or home has a low environmental impact. Sustainable food aims to avoid damaging or wasting natural resources. It minimises the contribution to climate change as it often means eating more local food which is not transported too far.

What skills do you need to work in sustainability? ›

Sustainability Skills to Make a Difference
  • Foundational Knowledge. ...
  • Strong Leadership. ...
  • An Ability to Identify Strategic Opportunities. ...
  • Forward-Thinking. ...
  • Creative Problem-Solving. ...
  • Calculate and Pitch Potential Value. ...
  • Basic Data Skills. ...
  • Effective Communication of Purpose.
3 Jun 2021

What are the 3 core goals of sustainability? ›

Sustainability has three main pillars: economic, environmental, and social. These three pillars are informally referred to as people, planet, and profits.

What is an example of sustainability in food? ›

Organic fruit and vegetables

Farming using organic methods prevents the over-use of chemical pesticides and fertilisers — essential for the long-term health of the soil. In addition, source locally and in season wherever possible to reduce food miles and minimise the environmental impact of your produce.

What does sustainability mean in food? ›

Sustainable eating involves selecting foods that are healthy for our bodies and the environment. This means foods that provide a balanced diet for the body but also facilitate the conservation of the environment.

What is sustainability in food industry? ›

“Sustainable foods,” in a nutshell, refers to growing enough food to support human life without causing unnecessary harm to the environment. Food sustainability also addresses the economic and nutritional concerns of food production on a global scale.

What are the 3 types of sustainability? ›

The figure at the top of this page suggests that there are three pillars of sustainability – economic viability, environmental protection and social equity.

What is the most sustainable job? ›

Top 25 Green, Sustainable, and Alternative Energy Careers Best Jobs for 2021
  • Air Quality Engineer. ...
  • Chief Sustainability Officer. ...
  • Conservation Scientists. ...
  • Energy Analyst. ...
  • Energy Engineer. ...
  • Environmental Consultant. ...
  • Environmental Engineers. ...
  • Environmental Health & Safety Specialist.

Can you make money in sustainability? ›

Can you really make money on sustainability? ”Of course! Some of the world's most innovative companies make sustainability a central part of their strategy.

Why is food sustainability a problem? ›

Food waste produces 3.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. If food waste were a country it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases after the US and China. By the year 2050 the world's population will increase 33% to 10 billion.

Why is sustainability important in simple words? ›

Sustainability improves the quality of our lives, protects our ecosystem and preserves natural resources for future generations. In the corporate world, sustainability is associated with an organization's holistic approach, taking into account everything, from manufacturing to logistics to customer service.

What are the main issues affecting food sustainability? ›

Namely, natural capital degradation, biodiversity loss, production-related ill-health, diet-related disease and imported foods,” she said. Intensive modern agriculture has led to biodiversity loss and degradation of soil health, which in turn leads companies to use more chemical fertilisers and pesticides on crops.

How do I start a sustainability job? ›

Here, Bergkamp shares her insight on how best to start a career in fashion's growing sustainability sector.
  1. Choose Your Sustainable Path. ...
  2. Identify Your Market Sector. ...
  3. Broaden Your Knowledge. ...
  4. Use the Right Resources. ...
  5. Gain Field Experience. ...
  6. Make the Business Case. ...
  7. Create Reasonable Expectations. ...
  8. Create Change Before Coverage.
15 Apr 2019

What are the benefits of working in sustainability? ›

A sustainable workplace strives to use resources not to impact the environment or employees' health. There are many benefits to promoting a sustainable workplace, including reducing environmental impact, reducing waste, recycling, improving employee health, and creating a more friendly and productive environment.

What are the 5 characteristics of sustainability? ›

Characteristics of a Sustainable Community
  • Saved lives.
  • Reduced damage to property.
  • Reduced economic losses.
  • Minimized social disruption.
  • Ability of local government to resume operations quickly.
  • Shorter recovery period for the community.

What is a good example of sustainability? ›

The foundations of environmental sustainability are: safeguarding water, saving energy, reducing waste, using recyclable packaging, limiting or eliminating the use of plastics, using sustainable transport, reusing paper and protecting flora and fauna.

What are the 4 types of sustainability? ›

The term sustainability is broadly used to indicate programs, initiatives and actions aimed at the preservation of a particular resource. However, it actually refers to four distinct areas: human, social, economic and environmental – known as the four pillars of sustainability.

How do you write a sustainability statement? ›

Let's have a look at six steps you can take to develop your sustainability report:
  1. Set your goals before you start. ...
  2. Identify issues and choose indicators. ...
  3. Expect trouble in data collection. ...
  4. Analyse the data critically. ...
  5. State key observations. ...
  6. Communicate in a way that people will listen.
3 Jul 2019

What is the future of sustainable food? ›

A sustainable future for food

With the world population set to increase to nearly 10 billion people over the next 30 years, the industry must adapt and adopt new practices to reduce waste, cut greenhouse gas emissions and ensure that agricultural land is used as sustainably as possible.

What are three different examples of sustainable food systems? ›

Sustainable agriculture practices
  • Rotating crops and embracing diversity. ...
  • Planting cover crops and perennials. ...
  • Reducing or eliminating tillage. ...
  • Applying integrated pest management (IPM). ...
  • Integrating livestock and crops. ...
  • Adopting agroforestry practices. ...
  • Managing whole systems and landscapes.
10 Apr 2017

What do you study for food sustainability? ›

By studying sustainable agriculture, you can learn to create food systems that are responsible, justice- oriented, efficient, effective, and viable.
...
Popular Courses:
  • Environmental Implications of Agriculture.
  • The World Food System.
  • Ecological Agriculture.
  • Soil Science.
  • Culture and Food.
  • Nutritional Anthropology.

What are the 5 stages of sustainability? ›

Embrace the Journey: The 5 Stages of Corporate Sustainability
  • Stage 1: One-off projects. ...
  • Stage 2: Sustainability becomes part of organizational practices. ...
  • Stage 3: Sustainability drives business innovation. ...
  • Stage 4: An organizational culture of sustainability emerges.
4 Sept 2018

How do you embrace sustainability? ›

All companies say they are: sustainable.
...
I would like to give you the following 5 principles and some concrete tips to embrace sustainability within your business strategy.
  1. Switch from a linear to a circular system. ...
  2. Look beyond ecology. ...
  3. Aim for more than zero negative impact. ...
  4. Set up future proof partnerships.

What is the #1 Happiest job? ›

Engineers have the happiest job in the world, closely followed by teachers and nurses, according to analysis carried out by the Guardian.

What is the happiest job? ›

The 10 Happiest and Most Satisfying Jobs
  • Dental Hygienist.
  • Physical Therapist.
  • Radiation Therapist.
  • Optometrist.
  • Human Resources Manager.

What is the loneliest job in the world? ›

The “loneliest job in the world” is a reference to the presidency of the United States, supposedly a supremely lonely and isolating job because of the enormous responsibility that it entails.

What does a sustainability person do? ›

As a sustainability officer, you'll normally work for one organisation and you'll be responsible for evaluating the impact they are having on their environment and ensuring that they have policies, systems, and projects in place to ensure that they are making the best use of resources and can continue operating in the ...

What do you study to work in sustainability? ›

  • Environmental conservation. ...
  • Climate change. ...
  • Renewable energy. ...
  • Sustainability. ...
  • Environmental protection & control. ...
  • Environmental scientists & engineers. ...
  • Environmental law & litigation. ...
  • Environmental policy.

What is a sustainable job opportunity? ›

5 In this context, "sustainable job creation" refers to the process of generating jobs that contribute to sustainable development goals. In other words, we conceptualize "sustainable job creation" as the job creation process that promotes economic growth, social inclusion and environmental protection.

Why working for a sustainable company is good? ›

Enhanced social responsibility

In brief, businesses concerned about their impact on the world around them often make better decisions, leading to a stronger bottom line. Implementing sustainable business practices can help a company save money, increase profits, and become more socially responsible.

What are the benefits of working in sustainability? ›

A sustainable workplace strives to use resources not to impact the environment or employees' health. There are many benefits to promoting a sustainable workplace, including reducing environmental impact, reducing waste, recycling, improving employee health, and creating a more friendly and productive environment.

Why do you want to choose career in ESG? ›

For existing professionals who are planning a finance career change, achieving an ESG qualification can be a great way to add skills relevant to a growing sector to a resume. That said, even those professionals who already enjoy stable careers within the financial sector can take advantage of an ESG certification.

What is workplace sustainability and why is it important? ›

Sustainability has the power to unite staff to create a better work culture and work-life balance, and has a great impact on customers and the world. A healthy and sustainable workplace correlates to happier employees and as a result increases employee productivity, and lessens work-related illnesses.

Do people want to work for sustainable companies? ›

The survey found a growing interest in employees wanting to apply and accept jobs from environmentally sustainable companies, with 67% of the respondents reporting that they are more willing to apply for, and 68% more willing to accept positions from such companies.

What does it mean to work in a sustainable way? ›

Basically, it's all about employing work practices that use up less natural resources and produce the minimum amount of waste and pollution. The aim is to make sure that our activities don't hurt the ability of future generations to meet their own needs and enjoy a good quality of life.

What does it mean if a job is sustainable? ›

At its most basic, a sustainable career is one that endures over time through the entire work lifecycle. Not to be confused with a “green” career in sustainability, a sustainable career is one that can grow with you throughout the years, that has meaning to you, and that makes good use of your skills and experience.

What is the most sustainable job? ›

Top 25 Green, Sustainable, and Alternative Energy Careers Best Jobs for 2021
  • Air Quality Engineer. ...
  • Chief Sustainability Officer. ...
  • Conservation Scientists. ...
  • Energy Analyst. ...
  • Energy Engineer. ...
  • Environmental Consultant. ...
  • Environmental Engineers. ...
  • Environmental Health & Safety Specialist.

How do you pursue a career in sustainability? ›

While many hands-on careers in sustainability, like wind turbine technician and environmental engineering technician, start with vocational training or an associate degree, most green jobs require at least a bachelor's degree. For example, engineers need only a bachelor's degree to start their career.

What do you study to work in sustainability? ›

  • Environmental conservation. ...
  • Climate change. ...
  • Renewable energy. ...
  • Sustainability. ...
  • Environmental protection & control. ...
  • Environmental scientists & engineers. ...
  • Environmental law & litigation. ...
  • Environmental policy.

How do you prepare for a sustainability interview? ›

Top 5 Sustainability Interview Questions
  1. Why did you decide to go into the field of sustainability? ...
  2. Tell me what interests you most about this specific role. ...
  3. How would you describe your work process? ...
  4. Tell me about a recent challenge you faced while working on a sustainability project.

What is ESG interview questions? ›

ESG Job Interview Questions
  • Where did you study? ...
  • How willing are you to learn new skills? ...
  • Are you a team player? ...
  • What transferable skills will you bring to the role? ...
  • Tell us about the scope of your Sustainability/ESG experiences up to this point. ...
  • What sort of technical skills do you have?
3 Feb 2022

What are the 3 essential pillars of ESG? ›

The 3 Pillars of ESG. Successful businesses focus on three core essentials: people, process, and product.

Why is sustainability important in simple words? ›

Sustainability improves the quality of our lives, protects our ecosystem and preserves natural resources for future generations. In the corporate world, sustainability is associated with an organization's holistic approach, taking into account everything, from manufacturing to logistics to customer service.

What is an example of sustainability? ›

The foundations of environmental sustainability are: safeguarding water, saving energy, reducing waste, using recyclable packaging, limiting or eliminating the use of plastics, using sustainable transport, reusing paper and protecting flora and fauna.

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