Dream Job: Town Sustainability Coordinator

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

Megan Pendell, a 2017 graduate of NC State majoring in Environmental Sciences (minor in Applied Ecology), shares about her jump from campus to a sustainability-related career.

How is sustainability part of your current work?

I am grateful to have earned my dream job! In July 2020 I began my role as the Sustainability Coordinator for the Town of Apex. My team includes a Sustainability Analyst, and we are working to build the newly-founded Sustainability Program from the ground up. In our first year, we are striving toward three main goals: Creating the Apex Sustainability Action Plan (ASAP), creating a baseline municipal Greenhouse Gas Inventory, and planning creative community outreach efforts. I am proud that Apex commits to 100% Clean Energy by 2050 for town operations.

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

The NC State Environmental Sciences (ES) program was a vital line in preparing me for my sustainability career. The ES program carves out course hours for students to deem a Focal Area in any interest, which wisely recognizes the systemic influence of environment in most all areas of study (a mirror of sustainability, as well). I had the freedom to choose a Focal Area of my own creation: Climate Change and Water Resources. In addition to taking relevant courses, I chose to study abroad in tandem with my Focal Area. Studying abroad in South Africa was a pivotal point in my college career path and became a direct influence in why I chose to join the Climate Reality Project (CRP) back on campus. The experience I gained through leading the Grassroots Program within CRP greatly contributed to my foundational experience in sustainability leadership, which in turn built up my resume for a career in government as a Sustainability Coordinator.

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

A wild truth lives in the words of Jane Goodall, “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference and you have to decide what kind of a difference you want to make.” In the sustainability realm, we talk a lot about what’s called the triple bottom line, or 3 Ps: People, Profit, Planet. Sustainability is a system and works within systemic structures, encompassing the Venn diagram of social, economic and environmental. In essence, everything you do has a flow point to sustainability. Dare to lead in your life path and identify the flow points back to the heart, to sustainability, to Nature’s rule (I implore you to go nerd out about Biomimicry!). The best education is awaiting you outside the classroom; study abroad, network with professors, peers, and community members, and volunteer to earn hands-on experience in diverse arenas. A moment, a person, an experience, a connection (however small) could very well be the pivot point in your path. Be open, flexible and curious about change. Often, we maneuver a path that is different than expected. And that is exciting! Sustainability is a Wolfpack mentality; we are all deciding our footprint. Meditate on this: What kind of impact do you choose?