Interview with eco communications coordinator, Galen Drinnan

Galen Drinnan My Out of 10

Follow Galen at @galendrinnan and learn more about the non-profit Ontario Ecoschools at ontarioecoschools.org.

What do you do?
I work as the Communications Coordinator for a non-profit registered charity called Ontario EcoSchools. In a nutshell, we foster environmental leadership and eco literacy in students all across the province. Schools can adapt the program to their own needs and use it to run environmental lessons, campaigns, and initiatives that help kids develop green habits.

How long have you been in this field for?
In environmental education, about 10 months. However, I’ve worked in media for nearly six years – it’s really the link between this job and my last one.

What inspired you to pursue this career?
I’d been working for a big broadcaster for about five years, starting right out of my media degree in university, and I’d grown pretty tired of it. The people were wonderful and I had a great team, but I also found I had no real interest in moving up or pursuing goals within that space. More and more, I was interested in the environment in various ways – food production, sustainability, green energy, etc. – so when my girlfriend proposed we go traveling, I decided it was time for a change. We left our jobs and apartments and went volunteering on farms and smallholdings in Europe for what ended up being about four and a half months.

That experience allowed me to gain some new perspectives on life and work, and so when I got back and it was job hunting time, I knew something within the environmental sector was where I wanted to be.

What was the biggest hurdle in attaining your career goals?
A lot of environmental/outdoors-oriented jobs require some level of formal education in the sciences, and while I’m really interested in that, I don’t have anything official under my belt. I was nervous that might hold me back from breaking into the field. Luckily, I was able to use my media training as a bridge and it’s worked out well.

What do you like most about your work?
Our organization is about 10 people – way smaller than anywhere else I’ve worked in the past. But that small size means I get to wear a lot of hats and try new things all the time. Access to constant learning, problem solving and skill sharing is a ton of fun. Plus, I think I work with the smartest, most dedicated and supportive bunch of people around, and it makes all the difference.

What do you find most challenging about your work?
In having a small team, the other side of the coin is that there’s always too much to do in a day. Plans and trajectories for a given task can change really quickly, so in certain respects, planning too far in advance for your workload can almost be a waste of time. One thing I can say for sure is that my time management skills are definitely being exercised.

If you weren’t a communications coordinator, what would you be?
Do I have to choose just one thing? There’s a lot I’d like to do! The short answer is still something environmental – anything from being a hiking guide, working at a provincial/national park, urban food farm, or working at a celestial observatory in some capacity.

Name one hobby you have that’s not related to your work.
This past year, I’ve really leaned into my interest in space and astronomy. I’ve loved stargazing since I was a kid (even with limits from city light pollution), and last spring I finally took the leap and bought a telescope. I’m lucky that my apartment has a backyard, so when the sky is clear, I can check out the moon, planets and even a few deep-sky objects. I’m also branching off into astrophotography and learning how to take pictures through my telescope as well.

What’s the first thing you do in the morning?
It depends on the day, but it’s either a shower or throwing on the kettle for coffee. Even on days I don’t need to be up and out of the house, I still like to shower early so I can be ready for anything. At the end of a day, I generally feel better when it’s been a productive one.

And last thing you do at night?
It varies. Often I’m washing dishes and listening to a podcast, which is a nice way to wind down from the day. Sometimes (and I seem to have less and less time these days), I can squeeze in some video games. I think I should probably get back to reading more, though – I love me a good sci-fi/fantasy book.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you enjoy your work?
Most of the time, I’d give it a solid 9 – I really love and believe in what the team and I do. It’s jaw dropping to see the incredible environmental feats kids are accomplishing in their schools and communities. Education is empowering, and teaching young people to respect the planet snowballs into a wider social responsibility. I feel very privileged to be a part of that process.

 

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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