Environmentally Friendly Careers
Sustainable. Carbon footprint. Environmentally friendly. Green. All these buzzwords that talk about protecting our environment have led to a frontier that is growing in momentum. Working a green collar job can help save the world. Wouldn’t that be such a great feeling to know that what you do truly makes a difference?
WHAT DOES "GOING GREEN" REALLY MEAN?
Going green goes beyond the 3Rs: reuse, recycle, reduce. It’s about minimizing your impact on the earth in any way you can to best preserve the delicate ecological balance. Whether it’s something you believe in or not doesn’t matter, quite frankly, because green is a “thing” that’s been cultivating for awhile, and it’s only appearing to get stronger with each passing day. As the earth’s population keeps growing, our natural resources are being called into question as to whether or not they will be able to support this growth. Going green means that you’re choosing to lead a more ecologically acknowledging lifestyle, from what you eat, to what you wear, to what your career choice is.
TRENDS CAUSING THE GREEN MOVEMENT
Even though green has been around for decades, there are some major factors contributing to its advancement.
- Population: As the population increases, more of the earth’s resources are being used to sustain the people. Some scientists and activists believe the earth will run out of the goods needed to maintain quality of life, while, of course, at the same time, another school of thought heads in a different direction.
- Fracking aka hydraulic fracturing: Fracking is where oil and gas are extracted from the earth using liquid injected deep into the ground using high pressure. “Stop fracking” activists and protesters are everywhere, asking every passerby for a signature on their petitions. You see fracking in the news, being blamed for disasters such as sinkholes and even major earthquakes.
- Climate change: Also called global warming, it is defined as a rise in the earth’s average surface temperatures. Some of the change in the climate is manmade, while some is cyclical. However, there are many issues and dangers to the earth and all its inhabitants. It’s due to this that many of the green jobs and movements are in high gear.
- Word of mouth and social media: Social media is where you’ll find armchair activists fighting for a cause with a click of the keyboard and multiple status updates, relying on peer pressure to gain followers. And it’s working. Word of mouth is one of the most powerful tools of all. Think about it: Someone whose opinion you respect is talking sense about a cause close to his or her heart. The words move you, and you jump on that bandwagon. And so on, and so on. Social causes spread like wildfire.
- Biomimicry: This is a relatively new innovation. It seeks to solve our resource depletion problem by copying the designs found in nature and attempting to replicate them in the most natural way. One example would be wind turbines inspired by humpback whales. Another perfect one is velcro, which was created copying the way burrs stick to surfaces.
WHAT IS A 'GREEN' JOB AND A GREEN COLLAR WORKER ANYWAY?
The unofficial definition of green jobs states that green jobs were created to restore, protect, and conserve the natural environment. The meaning could vary depending on what source you use to find your answer. Green collar workers are employed in the environmental sectors, whether they are in design, policy making, technology, or engineering. Their work improves and protects our world and the way we live. Green jobs may actually open positions for millions of qualified workers, which will not only help the environment but also the economy.
Green isn’t just for industries such as biofuels, wind, solar, and other environmental sources. It’s also about minimizing the environmental risks brought about by major and minor corporations and businesses by focusing on performance without impacting the earth.
For the job to be considered green, it must hit some of these key points:
- Promotes and restores the natural ecosystems
- Cuts down carbon footprints
- Conserves natural resources such as water
- Finds ways to reuse, recycle, and reduce
- Decreases hazardous waste materials
- Decreases greenhouse gas emissions—any gases caught in the atmosphere that absorb infrared radiation, which can trap heat in the atmosphere
TYPES OF JOBS CONSIDERED "GREEN COLLAR"
In every sector, green careers exist. Whether you are going for a certificate or degree, you can safely find a job working in environmentally friendly fields.
Green collar skilled trades: Many of the following green careers only require you to have an associate degree or complete an apprenticeship.
- Wind turbine technician: Reining in the wind’s power and using it to our benefit is what wind turbines are all about. Technicians are needed to inspect, repair, clean, calibrate, and maintain all things wind turbine. You can get an associate degree through most community colleges, or you can be trained through an apprenticeship. It’s one of the fastest growing careers, at 108 percent through 2024. The median annual salary is over $52K.
- Solar panel technician: This career will require you to have either a one year apprenticeship or a diploma from a trade school. This trade is growing rapidly, at 24 percent over the next few years. The median salary for a solar cell technician is $34K but, with more experience, you’ll earn over $60K.
- Water quality technician: You’ll need a high school diploma or GED, along with on-the-job training to work as a water quality technician. You will manage the machines that control the quality of the water we use in everyday life. The average salary is over $43K, but you can make over $70K after a few years of experience.
- Energy-efficient construction: Green or energy-efficient construction is becoming more commonplace in the building industry. More focus is being placed on creating residences and businesses to be sustainable, green, and smart. Construction laborers earn an annual salary of over $30K, while equipment operators make $46K and managers over $85K.
- Robotics technician: As robotics grows more advanced, there will be a need for routine maintenance, installation, and upkeep, as well as other factors that go into all the various types of robotics. Expect to earn over $50K annually.
- Solar sales reps: They give estimates on cost for installation of solar products to interested customers. Very often, their work week goes beyond the standard 40 hours. A good solar sales rep is very persuasive, sometimes easily talking customers into buying solar products even if they didn’t have a major interest in them. For their efforts, many solar sales reps earn well over $80K annually.
- Energy auditors: Home and business owners are becoming more energy-aware and conscientious. Energy auditors, or energy raters, can help the building owner make the property more energy efficient, which has the potential to save the owner thousands of dollars per year. They earn over $68K per year.
- Energy engineers: HVAC technicians, air quality techs, sound, electric—all these trade careers are beginning to lean toward the green realm. Especially as people are updating their antiquated systems. In many instances, specialized certifications are available that will qualify you to work on the newer systems.
- Hydrologist: They study how the water moves through the earth’s crust, which enables them to figure out how to get water to places where it’s needed. A bachelor’s degree is the minimal requirement for this type of career, and often employers prefer a master’s degree. The median pay for hydrologists is over $80K.
Many fields are starting to include a green segment as our nation moves towards a more sustainable way of life. If you enjoy an eco-friendly lifestyle and want to make a positive impact on the environment with your career, then a green job is right for you!