Environmental Lovins Green jobs of the future, apply now
By Noah Buhayar Posted Thu May 15, 2008 3:50pm PDT
I recently returned from San Diego, where the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) was holding its annual conference.
From tech startups to renewable energy contractors, the exhibit hall was teeming with job opportunities. Just about every rep I talked with said their company or organization was growing -- and growing fast.
By ASES's count, there are now more than 8 million "green-collar" jobs the United States, serving a nearly $1 trillion market in renewable energy and energy efficiency. (Think assembly line workers at a wind turbine plant, energy auditors, green architects, etc.)
The Society says those figures could grow to 40 million jobs (about a quarter of the country's workforce) and fuel a $4.5 trillion industry by 2030.
Better yet, these jobs are geographically dispersed. From Vermont's success with energy efficiency to rust belt renewal in Pennsylvania to Texas wind farms to the California photovoltaic industry, there are opportunities in just about every part of the country.
If you've just graduated or if you're looking for a career change and an opportunity to be part of the new clean, green economy, here are a couple tips to get your search started:
Think efficiency. A lot of the new, green economy is about doing more with less. Energy service companies (ESCOs) -- businesses that implement energy efficiency measures and make money by taking a percentage of their clients' savings -- employ thousands of people directly and indirectly in the United States.
Weatherizing houses may not sound as trendy as installing solar panels, but it can have a much greater effect on a family's energy consumption, finances, and quality of life. Beyond energy, there are a number of organizations doing the same kind of work for water and other natural resources.
Consider using the skills you already have. According to the ASES report, "the vast majority of the jobs created by RE&EE [the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries] are standard jobs for accountants, engineers, computer analysts, clerks, factory workers, truck drivers, mechanics, etc." That means there's probably a job for someone with your skill set in these industries.
Get educated; get involved. If you don't have the skills for the job you want, reading up on the topics, taking classes, or volunteering are a great ways to get started. Rocky Mountain Institute has an extensive library on many of topics of interest, as do the Earth Policy Institute, Worldwatch Institute, Environmental Defense, and NRDC.
Trade journals such as Solar Today and Home Power are also good resources for reading up on the renewable energy sector. Organizations such as Solar Energy International and Yestermorrow Design/Build School can teach you skills needed for careers in this field. Many vocational schools around the country are also adding programs to prepare people for these jobs. And if you're interested in volunteering, idealist.org has an extensive list of opportunities.
Once you've narrowed in on what you want, there are plenty of green job boards (greenjobs.com, greenenergyjobs.com, ecojobs.com, etc.) worth checking out on the Web.
At Rocky Mountain Institute we talk a lot about how the economy can evolve in a way that is better for people and the planet; we call this evolution Natural Capitalism. As businesses start shifting in this direction, it's an exciting time to join the green movement by aligning your career with your values.
As Van Jones, founder and president of Green For All, told a rapt audience at the ASES conference: "You have no idea how much good you're going to do."
Noah Buhayar is a fellow at Rocky Mountain Institute.