Future green workers

Tune in to greener occupational pastures.

You love the idea of making the world a cleaner, greener place. Wouldn’t you also love to get paid for it? You just might be in luck: Green jobs are growing at an impressive clip. In fact, the very definition of a green job has changed dramatically. Once the purview of foresters, farmers, and environmental-science professors (and, yes, the occasional website editor), green jobs now exist in all sorts of sectors.

In fact, at the end of 2007, Achim Steiner of the United Nations Environment Program predicted that “millions of new jobs” would prove to be a silver lining of “the cloud of climate change.” In the U.S., says UNEP, more than 5.3 million environmental jobs were generated in 2005 — 10 times the number in the U.S. pharmaceutical industry. See, it’s like we’ve always said: tree-hugs, not drugs.

If you’re ready to get your hug on — and get paid for it — we’ve got suggestions for what to do and where to look. Here’s how to start.

What are your skills that can pay the bills?

Level One: The Baby Step

Figure out what you’re good at. So you want a green job — but what is a green job, exactly? Take some time to think about the skills you have (or, if you’re new to the job market, the education you’ve acquired), and then think creatively about how you might translate that into employment. You don’t have to be an environmental studies major to work in the field. Maybe you’re a chef who wants to be green or a master’s student who wants to do something water-related. Don’t define your opportunities narrowly — these days, any job can be green.

“Hey, it’s Steve, we met at GreenDrinks …”

Level Two: The Next Steps

Talk to people. You know how they say finding jobs is all about networking? They don’t lie. Talk to your friends, family members, and strangers on the bus about your desire to add an eco-hue to your life. Chances are they’ll know someone who works in a soil lab, or at an organic restaurant, or in the IT department at a renewable-energy company. Ask them to connect you with these green peeps, and then grill the green peeps on how they found their jobs — and how they think you should go about finding yours.

Get training if you need it. It’s all well and good to want to make the world a better place, but earnest ambition will get you only so far. Be realistic about what you have to offer employers, and recognize that this is a competitive market — what with green being the new black and all. Whether you’re a real estate agent looking to brush up your eco-knowledge or you want to learn the ins and outs of horticulture, there’s a program out there for you.

Find the ring, then toss in your hat. It’s tricky to apply for jobs without knowing what’s out there. So spend some time looking at such useful resources as the GreenBiz job board, Idealist, and other sites. Scour general job sites too. And check out Kevin Doyle’s tips for finding a green job locally — as he notes, job titles and descriptions aren’t always a giveaway when it comes to green.

Level Three: The Big Step

Grow your own. Can’t find a green job you like? Consider starting your own eco-business, perhaps partnering with like-minded acquaintances on the venture. If that feels too daunting, keep looking for work at existing companies, and volunteer at an environmental organization or company on the side. And hey, while you’re stuck in your non-green job, do what you can to bring some eco to your office. Change is possible no matter who you are or where you work — bet your bottom dollar.

Resources

Information, trends, and advice
Green for All
GreenBiz.com
Environmental Careers Organization of Canada
The ECO Guide to Careers that Make a Difference
Great Jobs for Environmental Studies Majors

Job listings
Orion Grassroots Network
Green Biz job board
Idealist.org
Environmental Career Opportunities
Green Energy Jobs
GreenJobs.com
SustainableBusiness.com