The green sector is one of the fastest growing parts of the economy, and it is expected to create millions of new green jobs in the coming decades.
What Is a Green Job?
The simplest definition of a green job is a job that benefits the environment in some way. However, many social entrepreneurs and other leaders of the green economy define green jobs more strictly as jobs that benefit the environment while offering a comfortable living wage and opportunities for advancement. In this way, green jobs can provide both environmental and social benefits.
Many “green collar” careers are essentially blue collar careers that have been updated to reflect the changing needs of the 21st century. For example, factories that once produced gas-guzzling SUVs and luxury cars can be reopened to produce hybrids and other light cars with smaller carbon footprints, construction workers can be retrained in green building and remodeling techniques, and landscaping crews can practice organic lawn care, or give up on lawns completely and start designing edible landscapes, xeriscapes, and permaculture homesteads.
Other green jobs are updated versions of traditional white collar careers, such as green mutual fund managers, environmental journalists, green architects, and many social entrepreneurs.
Green collar jobs are often local by definition, so they can not only provide a living wage and advancement opportunities for individual workers and families, they also benefit the economy and sense of community within their local region more than many traditional careers.
Major Green Career Sectors
Although the variety of green jobs is almost endless, there are a few green industries that stand out for the number of good green jobs they are producing. These include:
Green Consulting – The amount of information out there about green living can be vast and confusing for non-specialists, and a growing number of private individuals, businesses, and organizations are hiring green consultants to help them find ways to reduce their environmental impact and go green at home and at work, while saving money and time. Green consultants can specialize in one or two areas, such as energy conservation or waste reduction, or be generalists.
Renewable Energy – As we seek to break our dependence on foreign oil and return to a clean, safe energy economy, the renewable energy sector, including wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, and wave, is expected to explode. It is already one of the fastest growing sectors of the green economy. Examples of the types of jobs this sector will produce include wind turbine manufacturers, solar panel installers, and passive solar architects.
Green Building – Studies estimate that by 2030, 75% of current US commercial and residential buildings will be either new or substantially retrofitted to improve energy efficiency and conservation. Other green construction jobs include things like building infrastructure for high speed rail and other mass transit systems, retrofitting factories to produce green products such as turbine blades, and more.
Recycling and Waste Management – The average American produces about 4.5 pounds of garbage per day, of which only about 1.5 pounds is recycled or composted. Waste management is already a serious problem in many regions and it is critical that we develop news ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle our waste. Jobs in the recycling, salvage, toxic waste management, and related industries are likely to be a major growth sector for many years to come.
Water Management – Water pollution and water conservation are already critical issues in many regions of the United States and around the world, and thanks to global climate change, they are likely to become even more serious problems in the future. Jobs in this sector will likely include rainwater catchment system installers, water treatment specialists, urban designers and architects specializing in stormwater runoff reduction, and more.
Sustainable Agriculture – The world’s population is expected to exceed 9 billion by 2050, and raising enough food to feed so many mouths in a sustainable manner is likely to be a major preoccupation in the coming decades. Promising careers in sustainable agriculture include organic farmers and researchers, community garden managers, permaculture designers, hydroponic and aquaponic specialists, and more.
Where Can I Learn More About Green Career Opportunities?
If you are interested in learning more about the different kinds of green careers available, how to get education or training for green careers, or how to find a green job, the following sites are great resources:
Green Careers Guide is a great website to start your search. It includes detailed coverage of many different green career options, a directory of green degree programs and other education providers, information for green entrepreneurs, a blog covering green industry news, a large database of articles with tips and advice about choosing and finding a green career, and a job board.
Green Career Central is run by Carol McClelland, author of Green Careers for Dummies. Green Career Central offers a seven step plan to help you narrow down your career choices, get good training, build your green network, and find the green career of your dreams. Membership at the site includes access to an extensive database of resources, teleclasses, and more.
Where Can I Find Green Degree Programs and Training?
A growing number of colleges, universities, and vocational schools are offering green degree or certification programs. One example is the Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco, California, which offers students an MBA in Sustainable Management. The program combines a rigorous education in the theory and practice of business management with transformative ideas about sustainability, systems thinking, and social justice that enables its graduates to develop practical yet innovative solutions to creating or managing a profitable yet socially and ecologically conscious business and, ultimately, a more sustainable society.
A good general guide to finding green educational resources is Green For All, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people lift themselves out of poverty with green careers. The site includes a helpful directory of education and job hunting resources, as well as information about Green For All’s outstanding green education and awareness programs among low-income communities.
If you have a specific career or sector in mind, another great place to research educational opportunities is on the websites of industry organizations, which often offer lists of degree programs and other training available for the industry.
Where Can I Find a Green Job?
There are a number of green job boards on the internet. Green Collar Earth is a fantastic resource that connects green companies with green job seekers. Green job seekers can upload their resume, peruse job listings, or research green career options through their ample resources and blog.
For a no-frills experience, you can also try the Green Jobs Network, which has a nationwide job search engine by location, category, and more.
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