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Natural Awakenings

Discover Top 10 Green Jobs: Make a Living off Helping the Environment

Apr 01, 2009 03:00AM ● By Brita Belli, Kathryn Gutlebar, Julia Hirsch, Jessica Knoblauch and Shawn Query

Across every industry, new job possibilities are emerging for those with the skills to bridge the divide between the old, fossil-fuel-based economy and the new, energy-efficient one. Many corporations are partnering with nonprofits and hiring corporate social responsibility managers.

1) Green Globetrotters: Travel and Hospitality
Green travel employees generally work for private companies, government and public institutions and nonprofits. The Green Hotels Association, for example, states that “A ‘Green Team’ can turn hotel employees into educators, showing us how we can be more sustainable.”

Connect: International Ecotourism Society, 202-347-9203,; Green Hotels Association, 713-789-8889,; Lindblad Expeditions & National Geographic, 1-800-EXPEDITION,

2) Sustainability Stewards: Planning and Land Use
Local governments are increasingly interested in how they can reduce their communities’ carbon footprint and are turning to city planning professionals for direction. A new view of smart urban planning, which emphasizes sustainable and transit-oriented development, is growing, particularly in the Southeast, California and the Pacific Northwest. Stormwater management and wetlands restoration are other areas coming to the forefront.

Connect: American Planning Association, 202-872-0611,; International City/County Management Association, 202-289-ICMA,

3) Complementary Care: Health and Medicine
A 2008 survey reports that 38 percent of U.S. adults and 12 percent of our children use some form of alternative care. The most popular holistic techniques are deep breathing exercise, meditation, chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation, massage and yoga. While both coasts are stocked with natural-care physicians, the need for alternative practitioners is spreading across the rural states.

Connect: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 1-888-644-6226,

 4) Power Pushers: Energy and Renewables
“Solar and wind are already multibillion-dollar industries,” says Peter Beadle, president of, “but hydrogen and fuel cell production are still in the nascent stages.” Job seekers will have an easier time breaking into the renewables industry via marketing and sales. Workers also are needed to install and maintain solar panels and wind turbines, and certification is readily available.

Connect: Apollo Alliance, 415-371-1700,

5) Planet Protectors: Legal Careers
Environmental law groups go to court. Lewis and Clark Law School students, in Portland, Oregon, can get environmental law certification with their degree, and most go on to work in state or federal government offices or private practices with an environmental bent.

Earthjustice, a nonprofit that started as the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund in 1971, employs some 150 lawyers, communications specialists and fundraising and general support personnel. They also keep an online list of job openings.

Connect:  Lewis & Clark Law School, 503-768-6600; Earthjustice, 1-800-584-6460,

6) Green Geeks: Information Technology
“People think there is some kind of mystery, ‘Where are the green jobs?” says Marie Kerpan, founder of consulting practice Green Careers. “There are a bazillion companies where you can take your skills and put it to work in a green company.” She particularly notes opportunities in outreach, fundraising and political awareness.

Connect: EcoVentures International, 202-667-0802,

7) Eco Educators: Green Learning
Sustainability coordinators have been joining the ranks of educational institutions looking to go green. Although not many schools offer degrees in sustainability, that’s beginning to change; more schools are either converting existing programs or starting new ones.

Connect: Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education,, 859-258-2551,; Presidio School of Management, 415-561-6555,

8) Better Builders: Design and Construction
Green builders already have a competitive advantage over traditional builders in both commercial and residential arenas, advises Ashley Katz, manager of communications for the U.S. Green Building Council. That advantage will continue to grow as sustainable, energy-efficient building practices become the norm. Opportunities exist for green-minded engineers, contractors, architects and designers as well as more employees in service businesses making green products and materials.

Connect: U.S. Green Building Council, 1-800-795-1747,

9) Improving Industry: Corporate Social Responsibility
To make corporations more responsive to environmental, human rights and health issues, corporate responsibility advocates have persuaded some corporations to move from thinking solely about profits to the three P’s—people, planet and profits. Job seekers need knowledge of labor law and
human resource management.

Connect: Social Venture Network, 415-561-6501,

10) Organic Occupations: Food and Farming
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, land used for organic crops increased from 48,000 acres in 1997 to 122,000 acres in 2005, and that number continues to grow, opening doors for students seeking experience on a working farm through the Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF).

Some workers manage organic farms by leasing it through a land trust. Other jobs exist in farmland protection, education opportunities at on-campus student farms and in the restaurant/hospitality niche, with a need for chefs specializing in local foods.

Connect: WWOOF, 831-425-FARM,; Northeast Organic Farming Association, 203-888-5146,

Illustrations by Joe Weissmann

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