Go Green with Your Future Career

by Heidi Anspaugh

The Green movement is a political movement that advocates environmental conservation, sustainability, nonviolence, and social concerns. The movement includes political parties such as the Green Party and organizations like Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace. This effort to create the sustainable management of resources and the principle of “thinking globally, acting locally” is extending itself to business practices as more and more companies are “going green.”

Going green generally starts locally, on the individual level, with choosing to adapt a simpler and eco-friendly lifestyle, and by reducing the need for purchased services and goods. It can also involve becoming more active with the local Green Party, which is a political group that emphasizes participatory democracy and a consensus decision-making process. When it comes to business, the green movement influences companies to take a more environmentally-friendly approach to how they run their business. This can run the gamut from Xerox introducing “green” printer paper, computer hardware companies that build servers requiring less power to run, businesses sponsoring tree planting campaigns, or corporate conglomerates like Walmart pledging to cut 25% of their fuel use.

For environmentally-conscious individuals who fantasize about jobs where they get to save the world, the happy news is that there are lots of green career options besides working in a hippie grocery store:

1. Work for a sustainable company Every year SustainableBusiness.com makes a list of the top 20 companies whose business practices are changing the world for the better, or who are advancing technologies that solve environmental or social problems. These companies are in the industries of energy efficiency/renewable energy (Fuel Tech), natural resources (BWT Water Technology), Green building (Land Securities), consumer products (Canon), and natural foods/products (Whole Foods). Do some research on which companies in your area are committed to sustainability by using resources such as GreenBiz.com and EnvironmentalCareer.com.

2. Environmental Engineer Environmental engineers identify, assess and resolve problems concerning the environment. They might also design, install, operate and maintain measuring devices that determine the level of pollutants in air, land and water. The job requires a bachelor’s degree in engineering and 2-4 years of experience in the field or in a related area. Utilities engineer is a technical engineering role that that develops recommendations and regulations, examines proposed utility projects, and analyzes controversial issues in the energy and water areas of the region. This role might involve working for a Public Utilities Commission and being part of a multi-disciplinary task force consisting of engineers, accountants, regulatory analysts, and/or attorneys. Educational requirements are a bachelor’s or master’s degree in engineering or a closely related field.

3. Park Naturalist Working in a national park is probably one of the first environmental jobs that comes to mind when thinking of a “green career.” This is an in-demand job and requires that one wear many hats: educator, writer, historian, geologist, scientist, and mentor. Daily job tasks might include conducting nature walks, field outings, site tours and campground talks, as well as responding to information requests from the public. Aspiring naturalists need a 4-year bachelor’s degree in environmental interpretation or outdoor education. Most major in forestry or botany, with a minor in environmental education.

4. Business Development There are many ways that business careers can meet the standards of environmentalism and sustainability. One can become a Project Manager for an environmental consulting company like Ecology and Environment, Inc., for example, or become an “eco entrepreneur” and start a green business. A green business can be in any industry (auto repair shops, printers, hotels, restaurants, landscapers, wineries, janitorial and laundry services, grocery and retail stores, home remodelers, attorneys, architects, engineers, gift services, etc), just so long as it makes a strong commitment to comply with environmental regulations. There is a list of official Green Business Standards that must be met, and a business must also target resource conservation and pollution prevention. Sound daunting? There is actually a lot of flexibility in how these standards can be achieved, and may resources out there to help green business workers and owners.

5. Information Technology Green computing is not a new concept or mysterious new technology. It simply means doing system administration, IT management, Web development and design, and software production for green companies that make a commitment to finding ways to use less energy and limit waste. Major software companies like IBM and HP have already made promises to save companies money by creating lower-powered servers and recycling old computer parts.

There are many other popular and in-demand green career options, including botanist, forester, soil conservationist, environmental compliance specialist, soil scientist, geologist, and waste management manager. But no matter what your career path is, there are many companies whose business revolves around finding entrepreneurial ways to battle problems like high oil costs, global warming, harmful chemical waste, and finite resources. Read company profiles, and visit green business websites to find your next save-the-environment job.

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