Carol Goodstein has more than 20 years of experience in sustainability communications.
Left with lingering regret that I’d stayed in college rather gone to crew for a bareboat charter company, post graduate school, I decided to pursue the peripatetic path of travel writing. The pay was pathetic, the perks were perky, and the real plus, as it turned out, was not describing windswept shores or racing rapids to would-be visitors but telling the stories of the people living in and struggling to protect bucolic destinations. Because, as I learned, the world’s most iconic natural places are far too frequently sought after by developers, loggers, factory-style farmers, miners and tourists and tend to teeter on the precipice of destruction.
So I decided to double-dip—a write-up of the Yucatan’s blossoming resort scene provided a chance to interview local environmental activists on their campaign to protect the subterranean limestone rivers. River rafting in Costa Rica led to a story on the traditional medicines of the indigenous Bribri.
In addition to launching my journalistic career, travel writing, served—as it turned out—other purposes. Soon after returning from the Lacandon rainforest, I met my husband—also travel writing at the time—and before long, we shared more than our wanderlust but home and hearth; we had our first child. While I’d imagined triumphantly slinging her across my back and continuing to pursue nomadic reporting, I found myself delighted with the prospect of staying snug in Brooklyn and producing armchair articles on the adventures of farmers, foresters and scientists for the then-fledgling Rainforest Alliance.
It was a dream job, and a couple of years after having our second child, I was able to return to the road and resume my onsite reporting on certified banana farms, community forestry concessions and women’s weaving cooperatives.
It wasn’t long before big companies cottoned onto the value of the Rainforest Alliance’s business-friendly approach, particularly because in those days, it was novel for conservationists to collaborate with companies. The Rainforest Alliance formula steadily gathered steam and my responsibilities evolved from drafting newsletters and annual reports to producing videos, social media platforms and digital campaigns. I was the lead for a far-flung team of creatives, and we partnered on promoting sustainability with corporate VPs and CEOs at Lipton, Whole Foods, McDonald’s, Dunkin Donuts and hundreds of other companies.
Fast-moving and game-changing. But, I missed the down-and-dirty-roll-up-your sleeves days when the organization was less political and polarized. (Sound familiar?) So on the heels of a heady campaign win, I took every strategic and creative lesson I’d learned and jam-packed them in to a new experience with a small, struggling, sustainability nonprofit. New brand, website, content, campaign in less than a year.
The pace was grueling, but I did discover I wanted to do it again and again—help organizations working to protect vulnerable people and places to shape and share their stories. And that’s precisely what I’ve been doing every since for nonprofits, philanthropies, communities and universities around the world.
If you’ve got an organizational story that you’ve been eager to tell, let’s talk about how I can help you craft your narrative and use it to catalyze change.