Alison Brown, Environmental Communications Consultant
Alison Brown is a Bay Area-born environmentalist. Her identity was shaped in part by the ethos of the sustainability-minded culture that permeates California.
She further shaped her environmental consciousness as a student at U.C. Santa Barbara, attaining a degree in Environmental Studies, and later moving abroad to Australia and attaining a post-graduate degree in Sustainability Management and Journalism.
Her time abroad was instrumental in crafting her love of environmental messaging, a strength that suites her well as a professional communications consultant, as well as the Marketing and Communications Chair of WEN.
What is the educational and career path that led to your current career?
I began the U.C. Santa Barbara Environmental Studies program in 2004 and focused on climate change. I really enjoyed this program because it was the ideal balance between the humanities and sciences, so I was able to learn about environmental issues from both sides of the spectrum. After graduation, I worked in the Bay Area for a few years in both finance and non-profit fundraising, but entry-level environmental jobs were hard to come by. In 2011, I decided to move to Australia where the economy was strong due to their mining boom. I spent the next four years working on solar and energy efficiency projects while completing a dual master’s program in Sustainability Management and Journalism. It was an amazing four years and I loved learning about environmental issues from an international perspective, but ultimately I wanted to be closer to home so I returned to California in 2016.
How did you become interested in environmental work?
In the Bay Area during early 2000’s, it was normal to be putting solar panels on your roof and my grandparents owned the first Prius, so you could say I was aware of what it meant to live a more “environmentally friendly” lifestyle from an early age. When I started the Environmental Studies program at U.C. Santa Barbara and began learning about climate science, that’s when I knew this was the right path for me professionally. One of my strengths is my ability to understand complex ideas and information and translate it into more digestible material, hence the career focus on environmental communications. I really value a role where I’m able to bridge my creative and analytical sides and help people understand what’s at stake. I’ve also always been passionate about inspiring others to care more deeply about the environment, which I’ve showcased through my work as a photographer.
Discuss any mentors that have helped or inspired you to reach your aspirations.
I’ve been working for a company called Frontier Impact Group based in Melbourne, Australia for about five years, which is managed by Jennifer Lauber Patterson. She’s been instrumental in showing me the path towards entrepreneurship and isn’t afraid to take risks on new technologies. She got her start in the environmental industry in the finance sector, so I’ve always valued her economic approach to environmental issues. I’ve learned that even if you can’t get someone on board with climate change, you can always get them on board with saving money.
What do you think are some challenges and opportunities facing women in the environmental movement today?
I think 2017 was a very exciting year for women. Starting with the Women’s March in January, women across the board seemed more energized and empowered in 2017. I think 2018 will be a pivotal year where we will see a lot of changes and I’m hoping we’ll see more women entering politics and other leadership positions. I think women have a huge advantage when it comes to utilizing their intuition in the business world, which I believe provides a more balanced perspective in certain respects. However, given that the environmental industry is still predominately male, I think organizations like WEN are instrumental in creating a safe community for women to turn to in order to feel empowered in their professions. As the new Marketing and Communications Chair for WEN, I’m excited to expand our impact in the Bay Area and help develop a mentorship program that will support the professional development of more women in the environmental industry.