Green Pathways to Greenbacks
Identifying current and future trends in the environmental profession
The unprecedented scientific consensus
regarding climate change
has revitalized a green movement
in our country. A number of states are
demanding reduced emissions and more
renewable energy, many consumers
want environmentally friendly products
and services, and businesses are competing
to satisfy this response. This
green economy has created new jobs
and career paths for environmental
professionals. With all this excitement,
finding eco-friendly employment is
becoming much easier.
Five Hottest “Green
1. Zero waste recycling
2. Energy auditing and retrofitting
3. Green auto service (service on
hybrid and future green vehicles)
4. Solar panel installation
(Source: Natural Resources Defense Council)
Green Collar Jobs
The demand for renewable energy, such
as solar and wind, has created a new
breed of jobs called “green collar” jobs —
and business is good all across the country.
In Silicon Valley, the solar industry
currently employs an estimated 1,000 to
2,000 people and is growing at 35 to 40
percent a year, according to a SolarTech
white paper released in June. Another
10,000 to 20,000 solar workers are
expected to join the field over the next
decade. Of these, approximately 60 percent
of the jobs will be in manufacturing
and installation, 20 percent in sales and
marketing, and 20 percent in engineering.
Massachusetts’ clean energy industry
is the fastest growing sector (ranked
the 10th largest cluster) in the state.
The industry can expect 30 percent
job growth in renewable energy firms
and 25 percent for energy efficiency
firms over the next year, according to a
state survey conducted in August. Maryland
PIRG, a nongovernmental public
interest organization that strives to protect
consumers and promote good government,
reports developing wind energy
resources in the mid-Atlantic would
create more than 11,000 jobs in wind
turbine manufacturing and installation,
and more than 700 jobs in wind farm
operation and maintenance by 2014.
US PIRG reports expanding Colorado’s
renewable energy standard would add
4,100 jobs through 2020. The initiative
requires the state’s largest utilities to
obtain 3 percent of their electricity from
renewable energy resources by 2007
and 10 percent by 2015.
With all these available jobs, the
industry lacks the skilled workforce to
fill these positions. So, in August, the
U.S. House of Representative approved
the Green Jobs Act of 2007 to help train
American workers for jobs in the renewable
energy and energy-efficiency industries.
The act approved up to $125 million
to establish national and state job
training programs, administered by the
U.S. Department of Labor.
With ever-changing environmental laws
and regulations to adhere to, “companies
are growing teams focused on environmental
issues—teams that are more
cross-organizational with a strong strategy
component,” said Emma Stewart,
director of environmental strategy for
Business for Social Responsibility. These
environmental compliance teams help
companies plan, develop, execute, and
monitor environmental projects to
ensure compliance with federal, state,
and local environmental laws. Big firms
are recruiting visible, high-level managers
to lead these teams and to develop
strategies to mitigate their environmental
footprint. In the private industry, the
number and rate of government regulations
and policies passed is directly proportional
to the employment growth for
The government is not alone in keeping
tabs on a company’s environmental footprint.
Many financial firms are hiring
sustainability analysts to examine and
rank the sustainable practices of companies.
These analysts gather data on companies,
review, and interpret the information
to provide analysis on a scorecard
for the holdings. Dow Jones hires
In 2007, the U.S. Department of Labor
compiled a list of the fastest growing
occupations from 2004 projected to
2014. These three environmental jobs
ranked within the top 50 listings. No. 1
on the list was home health aides.
No. 24: Hydrologists
Income: $43,605 and up
Number in 2004: 8,000
Projected number in 2014: 11,000
Education required: master’s degree
No. 26: Hazardous materials
Income: $28,590 to $43,604
Number in 2004: 38,000
Project number in 2014: 50,000
Education required: moderate
No. 29: Environmental engineers
Income: $43,605 and up
Number in 2004: 49,000
Projected number in 2014: 64,000
Education required: bachelor’s degree
sustainability analysts with a variety of
backgrounds, though in-depth knowledge
of finance and sustainability is a
must. A good time to apply for these positions
is April through August, when the
majority of the index analysis is conducted.
Goldman Sachs released a report
at the UN Global Compact Summit in
July stating that companies considered
leaders in environmental, social, and
governance (ESG) policies also are leaders
in stock performance — by an average
of 25 percent.
The Business Angle
“Stakeholder expectation for corporate
environmental performance is a rapidly
changing landscape,” says Stewart.
Today, it is necessary to align environmental
responsibility with business success.
For this reason, Stewart notes an
increasing number of companies seeking
guidance from environmental professionals
who also have business savvy.
“A major change within the profession
will be an increased need for multidisciplinary
professionals with business
knowledge and environmental expertise.
The majority of companies need candidates
who can navigate a profit-and-loss
statement and present to senior executives
in their language, as well as understand
the environmental science, the
credible players, and the stakeholder
trends,” said Stewart. These multidisciplinary
professionals are able to see “the
big picture” and are better equipped to
solve real-world problems.
The verdict is in—the burning of coal
and oil has increased concentrations of
heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere
and now the race is on for companies to
create new products and services to mitigate
our dependency on these resources.
A report by Riedel Marketing Group,
entitled HomeTrend Brief: The Environmental
Movement Past, Present, and
Future, predicts the market for environmentally
friendly products will grow significantly
over the next four years as
more Americans recognize the need to
protect the environment on an individual
As an example of companies’ commitments
to developing eco-friendly products
and services, GE has already doubled
its budget to $1.5 billion for technology
research and development to
reduce energy consumption and waste.
The company’s Ecomagination products
generated $10 billion in revenue in
2005 and are forecast to exceed $20
billion by 2010.
Using research from the Natural
Resources Defense Fund’s Creating the
California Cleantech Cluster, as companies
continue to invest in new products and
Emissions brokers: Since 2003, brokers have been able to trade greenhouse gas
emission credits on the Chicago Climate Exchange. These brokers identify projects
that are eligible for receiving carbon credits and help buyers and sellers connect. Global
carbon credit trading doubled to $28 billion from 2005 to 2006 and the market could
be worth trillions of dollars over the next decade if the U.S. adopts a mandatory emissions
credit trading system.
Biomimicry engineers: This field studies naturally occurring processes in animals,
plants, and microbes to solve human problems. For example, architects and engineers
built a mid-rise building in Harare, Zimbabwe that has no air conditioning, yet stays
cool thanks to a self-cooling, termite-inspired ventilation system. The UltraCane was
inspired by how bats navigate in darkness. The cane uses ultrasonic signals that
bounce off objects and alerts users to obstacles.
Green architects: With an increasing demand for energy-efficient buildings, green
architecture is becoming mainstream. A growing number of architects are obtaining
certification to go green.
Green lobbyist: Environmental advocacy groups have become bigger and better
funded in recent years. Companies rely on lobbyists to represent their needs in these
Renewable fuels engineer/biologist: The ethanol industry is growing at a rapid
rate. EPA’s Renewable Fuel Program will increase the volume of renewable fuel
required to be blended into gasoline to 7.5 billion gallons by 2012, and as a result, the
program will create new markets for farm products, increase energy security, and promote
the development of advanced technologies.
Climate risk analyst: Many insurance companies are now offering policies to promote
energy efficiency and help reduce global warming. Climate analysts provide the
industry with information to determine the risks associated with extreme flooding,
storms, or temperature changes.
Ecological economist: These economists determine the value of the environment
and the naturally occurring services it provides, like flood control, soil formation, pollination,
and food production.
Environmental scientists: The job outlook is expected to grow due to stricter environmental
regulations and an increased public awareness of the environment. The
Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) expects the strongest job growth to be in privatesector
Environmental engineers: Employment is expected to increase much faster than
the average through 2014. More environmental engineers will be needed to comply
with environmental regulations. An increase in public health concerns also will spur
demand for environmental engineers.
Urban and regional planners: Most new jobs will be in local government, as planners
will be needed to address problems with population growth, especially in affluent
Conservation scientists/foresters: As Baby Boomers retire, the need for these professionals
will increase. The BLS forecasts that most new jobs will be in state and local
governments and in private sector forestry and conservation consulting.
Environmental lawyers: The Environmental Careers Organization forecasts steady
growth for environmental law opportunities, with a majority in private practice.
Sources: Forbes.com and Monster.com
services, the job market should rise.
Cleantech products and services offer
forms of energy generation that don’t
produce pollution. According to the
research, California companies created
one job for every $56,700 of venture
capital invested in cleantech products
and services. Each dollar also yielded an
average of $3.12 in revenue. By using
these numbers, conservative calculations
indicate an investment of $3.2 billion
in California cleantech would create
51,517 jobs and $11.2 billion in revenue
The Water Industry
The water industry’s infrastructure is in
need of serious attention and repair.
Over the next two decades, the water
industry must invest in infrastructure
rehabilitation for a sustainable network.
The Water Infrastructure Network
estimates that this need will exceed $1
trillion by 2020. As the dollars begin to
flow in, professionals in the water and
wastewater industry with creative and
efficient management ideas will be in
high demand, as will technicians, engineers,
Professions in an
Wind turbine engineers
(Source: Eco-Economy: Building an
Economy for the Earth—Norton, 2001)
Let’s use the Georgia Environmental
Facilities Authority (GEFA) as a case
study. To date, the GEFA has approved
$2.1 billion for infrastructure projects in
water, wastewater, solid waste, recycling,
and land conservation loans and
grants, and as a result, Georgia created
an estimated 30,000 jobs.
Those concerned with protecting the
health and well-being of a community
and the environment will have no problem
finding jobs, especially in the public
sector. The number of available jobs for
environmental health professionals far
exceeds the number of qualified applicants.
A recent report to Congress concluded
that the United States will need
up to 137,000 additional environmental
health professionals over the next
few years. Accredited undergraduate
programs currently graduate only 600
students annually, and new undergraduate
enrollment in environmental
health is low.
The Pew Environmental Health
Commission found that federal government
agencies involved in air
quality/radiation, water quality, solid
waste, and pesticides/toxic substances
all lack sufficient qualified personnel
to address health issues related to
GIS Skills in Demand
In our complex, high-tech world, information
is power. Information arrives
from many different sources — government
agencies, satellites, monitoring
stations, surveys, reports, laboratories
— and knowledge of geographic information
systems (GIS) is critical for success.
No longer a unique tool for specialized
industries, GIS is rapidly
becoming a tool used by a number of
disciplines—real estate, remediation of
contaminated sites, public health,
crime mapping, national defense, sustainable
resources, landscape architecture,
archaeology, regional and community
planning, transportation, and logistics.
The vast majority of available jobs are
with engineering, architectural, and
technology firms, but any field that has
a geographical reference can benefit
from someone with GIS skills.
For environmental professionals, GIS
skills rank up there with Microsoft®
Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. The U.S.
Department of Labor identified geographic
information technology as
“one of the three most important
emerging and evolving fields, along
with nanotechnology and biotechnology.
Job opportunities are growing and
diversifying as geospatial technologies
prove their value in ever more areas.”
It’s an exciting time to be in the
environmental field. What’s going on
in the industry can be reminiscent of
the tech boom in the 1990s, but with
one major difference—this is no trend,
nor bubble. The mindset of environmental
responsibility is not going away
and the field can expect a period of job
growth for at least the next decade.
This article originally appeared in the 11/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.