TECHNICAL VOLUNTEERS   |   Description   |   Logistical Details   |   Benefits   |   Apply


Sustainable Living Network
The Sustainable Living Network is a volunteer-run, not-for-profit organization, dedicated to supporting people, groups, and communities to move towards healthier, more sustainable ways of living through inspiration and education.

The network was founded in 1999, by Jillian Hovey, with a view to developing a one-stop shopping for all things related to sustainable living that were in the realm of subject areas that Ms. Hovey had expertise in and was being consulted about. The areas that we focus on are: permaculture; organic farming, gardening, and urban agriculture; natural building techniques; renewable energy; alternative grey water and black water treatment systems and composting toilets; ecovillages, cohousing, and intentional communities; communication, facilitation, consensus, and conflict resolution skill development; as well as personal growth and health. The focus is on inspiration and education, which is accomplished through participation in projects at the network, summer student positions, internships, courses and workshops, and consulting.

Sustainable Living Books
Sustainable Living Books is a volunteer-run community service project of the Sustainable Living Network, which helps us fulfill our mandate of inspiration and education about sustainable living. The community service bookstore has made available over 4,000 different books and other resources on sustainable and healthy living at eco events and shows over the past six years. We have a draft web site up at, and hope to have the site functional by the end of this summer.


We are looking for motivated people, with positive personalities and a desire to learn while giving of their time, energy, and expertise. We are especially open to people who are clearly committed to a life path of movement towards health and sustainability, and who have a strong interest in the areas the Sustainable Living Network is involved with. Organization, self-motivation, critical thinking, and the ability to communicate effectively with others are very important skills and attributes that we are looking for.

Except for summer students, for whom we receive funding from the HRSDC, everyone at The Sustainable Living Network is a volunteer, including the founder and Executive Director (aka "Head Volunteer") Jillian Hovey. We work together as a team, building community while we learn about sustainable living, and grow as human beings.

There is always more to do than we have people to do it. The work is primarily to help in the development of The Sustainable Living Network, and the Sustainable Living Books community service project.

Right now, as we are doing so much development of our electronic office infrastructure, we especially need people to help who have computer skills.

Preliminary Description of Projects that We Need Help With:

Contact database:

  • continuing database design – fields, functionality, programme, etc.
  • creation of a common core of fields, so that the database can be used in multiple platforms (office- and/or web-based contact database, computer- and web-based email programs, palm pilot, sign-up stations at shows, etc.)
  • development of interface with Customer Relations Management aspect of Sustainable Living Books
  • development of applications (such as emailing lists, etc.)
  • development of a customer profile to elicit corrections to existing data and gain new, more detailed info
  • drawing in data from Jillian’s email
  • data cleaning

Sustainable Living Books Project :
(Would like to have the site be functional by the end of the summer)

  • continued development of MySQL forms to hold book description data that will dynamically interface with the user web site
  • development of the hierarchical categorization system for the books (5 root categories, with up to 6 levels of sub categories)
  • completing and polishing data for our 3,000 titles
  • development of methodology for mass input of electronic data about books rather than manual date entry
  • development of business back-end to deal with processing orders, and how this relates to our contact database and customer profiling
  • development of methodology for research of new titles
  • possible development of print catalogue development

Coding of web sites:
( and

  • work with the graphic designer to complete designs
  • perform the coding of the graphic design
  • develop the coding that relates the hierarchical categorization system for the books to the structure of the articles about sustainable living at

Image Database:
(We have an electronic catalogue in Extensis Portfolio of 6,000 slide images, and growing number of images from digital cameras, of sustainable living projects from around the world, to be used in slide shows, web sites, and promotional materials)

  • work with other volunteers to ensure that the cataloguing is done intelligently (tied to key words in the hierarchical categorization system for the books and articles, and maximizes effectiveness for identifying images that will be used for the web sites

Resource Centre and Library:

  • aid others in the development of an electronic cataloguing system

The list above is a brief overview of the areas of our work that we can use help with. For a more detailed overview of Computer-Oriented projects, please CLICK HERE.


The workplace is in two offices in the home of Jillian Hovey, which she shares with two housemates. We occupy the whole house, which is in a residential neighbourhood in the Garrison Creek bed, on Alberta Avenue in Toronto: we are between Oakwood & St.Clair and Ossington & Davenport.. There is access by several different routes of the TTC. Bicycles can be securely parked at the office, and are encouraged. There is also street parking during the day for cars.

Written directions: [html] [pdf]
Online directions: [google maps]

Intention of Volunteering (what you get out of it / What we Get out of It)
All volunteers are here to learn. We work hard to create a supportive learning community, where we all work together intelligently and learn from each other. We organize volunteers to work effective to accomplish necessary tasks and projects; and volunteers receive an opportunity to develop skills, and have more experience for their resumes.

Work Environment
The tasks are challenging and rewarding. We are strongly committed to developing highly functional work teams, and a casual but intelligently rigorous environment. You can work from home as often as you like, but you will need to come into the office more at the beginning of, so that we can develop a relationship with you, and we can all work together to develop an understanding of how you and the team will approach the work.

How Much Time Do I Have to Commit?
There is a lot of flexibility in the volunteer work, which depends on the skills and interests of the volunteers currently involved, the availability of the volunteer and the person who will work with the volunteer, and the priorities of the Sustainable Living Network.

Most of the focused work at the Sustainable Living Network is accomplished in the summer. For the remainder of this summer, the months of July and August, we would like to get as much intelligent, productive work done as possible. We are also very interested in people who will continue to be involved with us beyond the summer: it takes a lot of time and energy to get people up to speed with our projects, and we like to get as much return on our investment as possible. Similarly, if you do not think that you will really be able to sustain a meaningful relationship with us, and make a reasonable contribution to our projects, then please be clear about that, as it may not be appropriate for you to get involved.

Process of Determining what you will work on
Besides reading these orientation documents, you will have conversations with us (one-on-one, in small groups, over phone, in person, by email) about the projects, your skills and interests, developing a work plan and work team, etc. This is a process that we work on together, and we want you to step forward and help us to figure out the best way forward with the projects.

Job Descriptions
We will start with an initial description of what we think that you will do, and then revise it over time. WE will have check ins every two weeks to formally review your progress: there will be opportunities to voice concerns, get clarification, re-negotiate you commitment, etc. But please, do NOT wait until those meetings to communicate – things run better when everyone communicates pro-actively, and we e require you to be more forward in speaking up than perhaps you ever have been before!

As well as a specific job description (that, as indicated above, can and likely will, change and grow over time) we will forge an over-arching understanding of the nature of your volunteer involvement. This will include: what you will do; what skills you want to develop; how much time you have available (frequency and length of commitment); etcetera.


Core Skills Development
Regardless of how old you are, what country you come from, and how much schooling and experience you have, there is ALWAYS room to improve you abilities with core skills, such as:

  • Personal organization, goal-setting, time management, and self-management
  • Team planning: time lines, goals & objectives, performance evaluation
  • Project organization, and potentially project leadership
  • Working on own and in groups
  • Communication: in person, phone, email, fax, letter
  • English language skills (spoken, and written)
  • Consensus, and conflict resolution
  • Office organization and management
  • Computer and software proficiencies
  • Customer service skills (phone and in-person)

Great Environment for Becoming Better at Process Skills
We are highly process-oriented, meaning HOW we communicate and get the work done, is very important. Organizations have begun to realize that good process gives more effective business. For example, leading business schools, such as Harvard, are teaching courses in emotional intelligence. These are not skills that are traditionally taught and valued in our conventional world. If you want to develop a competitive edge, making you much more employable, the “soft” skills of communication and process are very important to develop.

Making Better Use of Your Academic Studies
Many people find that school does not usually allow them to really work with what they have been learning. Volunteering with us gives them a great opportunity to apply their academic learning to real problems; also, doing so at the Sustainable Living Network is more comfortable than most corporate environments – we understand that people are here to learn, and we create a supportive environment where good critical thinking is valued.

Getting On-The-Job Experience for New Immigrants
We recognize that some of you are professional from your country of origin, and are trying to find work in your field here in Canada. Working on interesting and challenging projects at the Sustainable Living Network is an excellent opportunity for you to fain on-the-job experience here in Canada, while you are looking for paid employment. Being able to show your volunteer work on your resume not only adds to your portfolio, it demonstrates that you have taken initiative to continue to improve your skills now that you are here in Canada, and while you are looking for work.

Also, we are able to provide a supportive environment for you to improve your English language skills, and help you understand the norms and customs of Canadian culture.

Subsequent Part-time or Full-time Employment
We are very open to people developing and part- and full-time working positions for themselves with the Sustainable Living Network. This can be achieved through public and/or private grants (we can issue charitable tax receipts), government employment programs, and through developing a profitable business idea.

Volunteer Perks
Volunteers become eligible to purchase books from the Sustainable Living Books community service project for reduced prices, down to our cost. Similarly, volunteers become eligible to attend workshops offered by the Sustainable Living Network for reduced costs, down to free.

There are opportunities beyond the immediate environment of the Sustainable Living Network, such as travel to eco events and projects, and potential eligibility to be referred to placements with other organizations.


You can download and fill out the volunteer application form:  [html] [pdf] [doc] [zip (pdf+doc)]


Pictures Copyright © 2003 Jillian Hovey.
Copyright © 2003 Sustainable Living Network.