What Exactly Is a Green-Collar Job?

It’s a hot buzzword, but what’s a real “green-collar job”?


In the heart of this recession, with unemployment soaring and traditional jobs being exported overseas, the hot buzzword in the careers arena is “green.” Green-collar jobs are being talked about everywhere.

The current administration is hoping that the emergence of green jobs will be a major economic stimulus. But is the hype over green jobs creating false hope with unrealistic expectations?

Let’s examine that question from four different points of view.

1. Entrepreneur

Gayle Oliver-Plath, founder/CEO of CareerEco, a green job-search community, looks at green jobs as any positions that can help reverse negative environmental impact or provide environmental sustainability.

2. Corporation

For corporate management, a very pragmatic overview of green jobs, products and services is that they should be focused on providing effective performance while reducing or reversing ecological impact, sustaining the environment and maximizing the productive and responsible use of natural resources.

3. Government

VP Joe Biden’s task force identifies green jobs on whitehouse.gov in this way: “Green jobs are jobs that provide products and services which use renewable energy resources, reduce pollution, conserve energy and natural resources and reconstitute waste.”

4. Author

Carol McClelland, executive director of Green Career Central and author of the forthcoming book “Green Careers for Dummies,” goes a step further and looks at green jobs through a series of goals, which I like very much. A green job:

  • Generates and uses clean, renewable energy.
  • Lowers greenhouse gas emissions and pollution.
  • Conserves energy, water and natural resources.
  • Minimizes and reuses waste.
  • Decreases the use of hazardous materials as inputs and outputs.
  • Promotes biodiversity and restore ecosystems.
  • Remediates/reverses/minimizes human impact on the planet.

I have just scratched the surface with these definitions of green jobs and careers. Simply stated, however, this burst of interest underscores the fact that our nation is just beginning to define this new world and approach a consensus on what it includes. Our understanding will continue to evolve as we rapidly become more environmentally conscious.

Employers lure job seekers with green ideals

According to CareerEco’s Plath, businesses must ultimately adapt to new environmental technologies and consciousness to hold the interest of job seekers, especially as the economy revives. If they do not, they will fail to be competitive in the jobs marketplace for talent that embraces sustainability. She is right on target. And this is relevant to each and every industry, not just the new, green ones.

Every industry is green, not just energy

Are there green job opportunities out there? You bet! Most people think in terms of jobs in “energy” industries like biofuels, wind, solar and hydro. Without question, job opportunities exist in those industries. However, just about every industry is thinking green, which opens up green jobs within those industries.

Dave Sanders, managing partner of global search firm WorldBridge Partners and practice leader for clean technology, said that there is an emerging need in major corporations for people who understand the business issues surrounding “going green” and who can help identify ways those companies can maximize profits and mitigate risks. Opportunities abound for energy-efficient data centers and lighting, and companies want to eliminate processes that waste energy. Here is just one simple example: accountants. Can “bean counters” really be green? Absolutely! With emerging emphasis and growth on “cap-and-trade” initiatives, there is a demand for accountants who can perform the internal environmental audits within every company and industry.

The growth of green opportunities is projected to be vast. Here are a few jobs compiled by The Green Economy Post that have a green impact:

  • Emissions trader
  • Climatologist/environmental meteorologist
  • Corporate social responsibility professional
  • Solar installation

Green jobs are even expanding into state and local governments. Take a look at what The Sierra Club is doing through their “Cool Cities” initiatives, and consider how your role may fit into these types of initiatives.

Now that you can see the opportunities in green careers, how do you transition and make yourself marketable for a green job? In next month’s article, we will cover all the tactics on how to land a job in the new world of green opportunities.

Don Straits|Don Straits, CEO and Dragon Slayer of Corporate Warriors, is recognized as a nationwide authority on contemporary job search strategies for senior-level executives