How to Go Green: Job Searches

job search green jobs careers reading newspaper photo

Photo credit: Getty Images/George Doyle

[By Christine Lepisto]

How much time do you spend every day at your job? How much of that time do you spend frustrated that your green personal life doesn't translate in the workplace, wanting to do more with your professional life? If you daydream about aligning your personal convictions with a fulfilling and inspiring professional position, then maybe it's time to think about a green job search.

With the stock market scuffling and the economy having a tough time, the conventional job market isn't what it once was. How can you ensure that your job isn't going to go the way of your portfolio? Heed the words of Van Jones, whose new book, The Green Collar Economy, lays out a path to a greener future that starts today. Jones says, "The time has come for the nation to give greater support to the problem solvers -- the clean-energy producers, green builders, eco-entrepreneurs, community educators, green-collar workers, and green consumers. We have the chance now to create new markets, new technology, new industries, and a new workforce. Let's do it right -- with good wages, equal opportunity, and pathways to success for those whom the pollution-based economy left behind."

If you're ready to claim your piece of the pie in the booming green job market, be heartened that hundreds of thousands of jobs are springing up, thanks to green trends or laws and funding related to peak oil or climate change. The wages for many specialties in environmental or green fields are higher than average. But how do you know which one of the new or existing green-collar jobs fits your personality and skills? And how do you find your dream green job? The time is right to make the leap to a green job.

Maybe you have other reasons to think about a green job search, too. Once upon a time, being a greenie was about "us" against "them," about standing on the outside throwing rotten fruits, marching behind banners demanding a better world, or even making the ultimate sacrifice of life or liberty to take action. The new generation of activists and greenies has found that "we" are "them." Not only are our choices the choices that drive the markets, but we can be much more effective changing the world from the inside. You can make a real difference by working for sustainability.

"But wait!" you may be thinking. "I work in ________ (fill in the blank: accounting, teaching, metal working, carpentry, chemicals, housekeeping, transport, retail, sales...) How can I find a greener job?" Better to ask yourself: where will my job be in the future, if sustainability is not key to my company's bottom line? You don't want to be left behind; you want to be at the forefront of the new economy. According to "Job Opportunities for the Green Economy," (pdf) a report released in May 2008, "millions of U.S. workers -- across a wide range of occupations, states, and income levels -- will all benefit from the project of defeating global warming and transforming the United States into a green economy."

For all these reasons and many more, a green job hunt may be your destiny. Here are some tips on how you can start the search to find your dream green job.

Back To Top Λ

Top Green Job Search Tips

  1. Green the Job You've Got
    Whether you work in a small or a large company, or founded your own business, there are probably ways eco-performance can be improved, which is a good way to get some green momentum going before you take the plunge and hit the open market. Get inspired with our How to Go Green: At Work. You can start with some great EnergyStar Tips, like going paperless in your office or cubicle, but that's really just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. Green your commute, or telecommute. Find your professional wardrobe at the thrift store. Green your office environment and your lunch habits. Then get your colleagues in on the fun. Your green efforts now will make great fodder for conversation when you finally get your job interview with Green & Co.

  2. Go Where there's Growth

    The green job market is booming. The demand for environmental or atmospheric scientists, hydrologists, urban planners, landscape architects, sustainable designers and environmental teachers outstrips the average economic growth rate. Consulting firms are all targeting this juicy market and hiring to serve it. Opening your own business in green niche markets may be attractive. Funds and donations for environmental causes are supporting more non-governmental organizations and activist groups. Financial types are all running after the "triple bottom line" and windfarm investments. All this adds up to one thing: going green is big business, and there are new jobs created every day to support the burgeoning industry.

  3. Follow your Heart
    Join green groups, read green blogs, enjoy an evening at green drinks (or start a green drinks if there's not one in your area). Keep track of which topics draw you in. Do your ears perk up at the mention of organic corn; does alternative energy spark your interest; do you have a desire to design? When you meet someone whose green career you envy or admire, start asking questions: What do they love about their job? What do they hate? You may find your rosy picture dulled by reality. Or your interest may be further piqued. Even if you don't make it all the way to career change, you will have a lot of fun learning and make new friends.

  4. Inventory your Strengths
    If you are like most people, you will be happiest doing the things you do best. So think of this step as a quest for self-fulfillment rather than as a thankless chore necessary for putting bullet points on a new resume. Write down the three things you like best about your current job. Then write down the three biggest successes you have had in the past several years. What are the skills you used to generate that success? Finally, write down the three things you think you could do or would like to do. Do you have the skills to realistically pursue your wishes? Which skills should you improve for your dream job? Use this improved understanding of your own drives and capabilities to steer your search for the next step in your career. (And put them on your resume: that way you'll get the job you were put on this blue earth to do.)

  5. Decide: Are you an Outsider or an Insider?
    Sustainable development needs all types of people. Activists' demands spur social trends which regulators must respect. Without regulators, businesses would react only to market demand. But committed designers, engineers, planners, managers, operators and others inside of business and industry are essential to drive real change, rather than simple greenwashing. Is it sacrificing your green principles if you take a job with the "worst company in the business"? No! In fact, that may be where you are best placed to make the biggest potential difference. So if you have the gumption, consider going over to the "dark side" to see if you can make it brighter. At a minimum, do not fear that you are betraying your principals by going to work for the company that lags in the green field; they need you.

  6. Start Networking

    By now, you have some contacts in a few green fields and you have an idea what you want. It is time to get strategic in your networking. Ask your contacts in the area of your interest for introductions, and references. Katherine Hansen reports in A Foot in the Door that over 75 percent of jobs are never advertised (it's not what you know, it's who you know!). Your network will be the key to finding your dream green job.

  7. Build a Green Resume
    As soon as you have some fields which you think may be interesting, try to get involved. Volunteer to help out in a project, to start a green campaign, or to be the back-up for the greenest guy/gal on staff where you work right now. This will build your skills and give you confidence that you are making the right choice for your next career move. Look for tips in our guide for How to Go Green: Volunteerism.

  8. Consider Going Back to School
    The field of green is moving so fast that many of the skills needed for today's careers were not taught routinely even a few years ago. Additionally, if you are really looking at a career change, the cost of some new qualifications will most likely pay themselves back in higher salaries as the demand for competent green employees skyrockets in the countdown to global warming and peak oil. Training in Renewable Energy or, more specifically, jobs in solar, are becoming easier to find. And, federal funding may be available to help you find your green path forward.

  9. Don't Go Back to School
    Finance. IT. Gardening. Art. Communications. You name it: you can go green with just about any training or job area today. This world needs a paradigm change in which there are not green jobs, but all jobs are green. A study of environmental jobs in nine U.S. states found some interesting facts: in Florida, for example, environmental protection generated more jobs for sheet metal workers than geoscientists, more jobs for electricians than chemists, more jobs for accountants and auditors than for medical scientists and more jobs for computer programmers than hazardous material removal workers. Industry growth means companies are willing to do on-the-job training if you bring a basic skill set to the game. Look for a company in an environmental field that will hire you based on the resume you have now.

  10. Search for Your Dream Green Job
    Increasingly, though, job searches involve using the 'net at some point; happily there are some online job search sites devoted to green jobs, including the TreeHugger Jobs Board. And many leading job search engines, like include categories for environmental or sustainability related work. So your new green job may be just a click away; keep reading for some links to get you started in your research. Know what you want, work your network, and use your internet resources as research tools so that you come prepared to negotiate, and land that dream green job.

Back To Top Λ

Green Job Searching: By the Numbers

  • 3.3 million: Number of jobs which could be created by the Apollo Project, a $300 billion green investment plan named after the U.S. moon-shot program. For comparison, the April 2008 Federal Stimulus Package of consumer rebates amounted to about $100 billion.

  • 5 million: Number of new green jobs that would be generated if 25% of all American energy were produced from renewable sources by 2025, according to the RAND Corporation and University of Tennessee.

  • 154 million: The total workforce of the United States.

  • 2.3 million: people employed in the renewable energy industry globally, in countries where data is available.

  • 2 million: Employees in the oil and gas and oil refining sectors globally, in 1999.

  • 25: Percent of Fortune 500 Companies that have a board committee member overseeing environmental performance, compared to 10 percent five years ago.

  • $82,217: Average salary for hydrologists employed by the federal government in 2007. For comparison, the average salary for a man in 2007 was $45,113; $35,102 for a woman.

  • 2018: Year all chemicals sold in Europe will have finished evaluations to ensure that the benefit to society from the use of the chemicals is greater than the health or environmental risks, under the Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals (REACH) law. Lots of work = lots of jobs. Not just in the E.U., but for every company that sells there.

  • $100 million: Dollars the Energy Savings Act of 2007 allows in training for "green-collar jobs."

  • 50: Number of countries which have established targets for renewable energy as part of Greenhouse Gas reduction policies.

  • $1 trillion: Global sales, in dollars, from renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, geothermal and ocean wave power in 2030.

  • 10: Times more workers employed by the environmental industry than the pharmaceutical industry, six times more than the apparel industry, and three times more than the chemical industry.

Sources: Apollo Alliances, Time magazine, BlueGreen Alliance, United Nations Environment Programme, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Wikipedia, European Union, E Magazine, Foreign Policy in Focus, Wall Street Journal, Management Information Services, Inc.
Back To Top Λ

Green Job Searching: Getting Techie

Life Cycle Assessment
Known simply as LCA in geek-talk, life cycle assessment uses complex computer programs to track many different variables which arise in the full life cycle of a product. The results can differ greatly depending upon which variables are chosen and how they are weighted, which often leads to conflicting claims (are disposable diapers really better than cloth?). Nevertheless, the objective of LCA is to obtain a scientific answer to the question: which is the best product for the environment? If you can learn how to do life cycle assessment, you can step into a field which is on the threshold of stepping out of the shadow of greenwashing and into the limelight of strategic planning. Learn more about how LCA works in your daily life in TreeHugger.

LCA is just one example of computer modeling, or computer simulation, of real-life systems. As weather forecasting has improved and proven the hypothesis that complex systems can be understood based on sets of mathematical rules, models are being increasingly used for a wide array of applications, from predicting global warming to determining the fate of pollutants released into the groundwater. Learn models, and your job is waiting for you.

Triple Bottom Line
Out: bottom line. Trendy: only Scrooge and Montgomery Burns run companies just to make money. You know just how trendy this is by the proliferation of acronyms: TBL, 3BL, 3P. Every business person knows that what does not get measured does not get done. The triple bottom line is a new method for calculating a company's performance which includes "key performance indicators" in the social and environmental areas. All three of the P's (people, planet, profit) are distilled into a picture which will help investors decide which company is the most sustainable -- and put their money there. Get more definitions from the Dictionary of Sustainable Management.

Chief Sustainability Officer
If you don't know what this one means, don't worry about it: you won't be interviewed for the position. But stop by some day across from the chief technology officer's corner and introduce yourself to the new CSO. Maybe the networking will help you get ahead with your own green ambitions.

Back To Top Λ

Where to Start Your Green Job Search

TreeHugger Jobs Board
Green Jobs renewable energy job searching

Green Jobs at
Green Jobs Network
Environmental Career
Diversity Working
Jobs at
Environmental Jobs Directory
Back To Top Λ

Green Job Searching: From the Archives

Dig deeper into job searching with these articles and resources from the TreeHugger and Planet Green archives.
Green Jobs Boards
TreeHugger Jobs Board
TreeHugger Green Job Board Posting
Tips on Green Job Searching
Green Jobs for Grads
Land a Green Job
Get a Green Job
Green Employment Resources
Working with the Environment
Find Work in an Environmentally Responsible Organization
Make a Green Living
Green Job Growth
Green Eyes On: Green Jobs
Cleantech Jobs are Getting Hot
New York Times on Green Collar Jobs
Green-collar Jobs or a Rust-belt Future?
Green Jobs: the Future is Now
Arguments for Green Collar Jobs
Training for Green Jobs
Training in Renewable Energy
Solar Job Training on the Rise
Not Enough Wind Turbine Maintenance Technicians
Federal Funding for Green Pathways Out of Poverty
Related Guides on How to Go Green
How to Go Green: At Work
How to Go Green: Volunteerism
Back To Top Λ

Further Reading on Green Job Searches

Get more info on green job searches in these other sources.
Green Jobs In the U.S.
UN: Tens of Millions of New Green Jobs on the Horizon reports the findings of a new report from the United Nations that efforts to reduce climate change and its effects are already generating new jobs in many sectors.

Millions of Jobs of a Different Color is the New York Times examination of jobs fueling the green economy in the 21st century.

What Is a Green-Collar Job, Exactly? Time magazine investigates.

Green For All's Green Jobs Now is activists Van Jones' effort to help green jobs spread.

What the Economy Needs Now Are Good, Green Jobs takes a closer look at Van Jones and his efforts to great 'green collar jobs' across many industries.

Green Collar Jobs examines how green jobs are gaining traction in the San Francisco area.

Other Tips and Links Sources Green@Work magazine offers information on corporate sustainability management. Let the Green Jobs Conference assist your search for a greener job.

The Idealist has collected volunteer opportunities.

Planetfriendly good work links has more links than you can dream.

You can find tips on jobs in specific fields from Job-site

How to Go Green: Job Searches
[By Christine Lepisto]