Dream Job: Sustainability Educator

Looking for a career that integrates sustainability? This new series spotlights NC State alumni who are making a difference in sustainability.

Diego J. Cancel, a 2016 graduate of NC State majoring in Environmental Technologies and Management, has been passionate about sustainability for years. While at NC State, he was an NC State Steward and completed several sustainability-related internships. Now he’s in Miami, where he works as a sustainability educator.

How is sustainability part of your current work?

Sustainability is at the core of my work! Currently, I work at a local Miami non-profit named Dream In Green (DIG). DIG’s mission is to empower individuals — especially youth — to lead in the response to climate change and other environmental challenges facing South Florida through educational workshops, classroom learning, online community forums and interactive tools. DIG has two main programs: the Green Schools Challenge and the Water and Energy Learning and Behavior workshops (WE-LAB). 

Through the Green Schools Challenge, K-12 students and teachers are directly involved in implementing environmental solutions at their schools. Students come together as a Green Team to build a green foundation and complete fun monthly challenge activities related to energy efficiency and conservation, waste reduction and recycling, water conservation, alternative transportation, food security and ‘green’ living (buildings and careers). Throughout the school year, teachers can apply for grants to facilitate sustainable and green initiatives. Schools receive points for activities completed, and the program culminates in an awards ceremony highlighting the top-performing schools and students.

The WE-LAB program consists of 1-hour workshops focused on educating residents on water and energy conservation and its impact on both resources and their utility costs. The workshops also provide information on recycling efforts and government financial incentives to promote conservation. Attendees receive a free toolkit with items like a low-flow shower head and LED bulbs in order to make immediate changes at home.

How did NC State prepare you for a sustainability-related career?

The Environmental Technologies and Management program at NC State was perfect for my goals and career. I have always wanted to teach youth and adults about the environment and sustainability as an expert on the topic. The curriculum taught me all the aspects of climate change: from the science to technology like solar, wind, tidal and other renewable energies. There was also hands-on experience in topics like soil, water and air quality.  Overall, it gave me the knowledge I needed to teach others the significance of sustainability and why preserving our flora, fauna and natural environment is so important. 

What message do you have for current NC State students hoping to integrate sustainability into their career?

Actively seek opportunities during your college years in the field that you would like to work. For example, I worked with Triangle Land Conservancy doing environmental education one summer, and it gave me great insight on how that field works. I worked for the City of Raleigh Office of Sustainability as well, and I learned a lot from them. Outside opportunities will both help you learn, but also help you figure out exactly what direction you want your career to go.

Do you want to be featured in this series or know someone who should be? Let us know