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What Does Our Carbon Footprint Have To Do With Job Creation? Just About Everything.

Jobs are on everyone’s mind these days.


Naturally, we are searching everywhere

under the sun for how to grow new jobs … and while we’re at it, ways to stop relying on pricey and arguably unsustainable fossil fuels.

This, perhaps accidentally, birthed the increasingly popular term “green jobs.”

For every policy wonk that claims that renewable energy is the pathway to much-needed new jobs, someone else pooh-poohs it as a costly expenditure. But the big picture is this: Even if you’re not working on 230-watt photovoltaic modules, your job may still be a green. Just a different shade of green.

Green jobs: Not just for hippies

What’s a green job? A few stereotypes come to mind: Someone who sells organic produce at the farmer’s market. The aforementioned engineer who’s perfecting the photovoltaic bulb. A forest ranger promoting the Smokey Bear mantra. Or how about those clipboard-toting Greenpeace workers on the sidewalk?

But green jobs deserve a much wider definition. Here are some unlikely green jobs you may have never thought of:

Legal Warriors

Lawyers, in their suits and complicated vernacular, don’t come across as crunchy-granola tree huggers. But they are essential to managing the outcomes of many environmental disasters.

Remember Chernobyl? That sparked a trial investigating senior engineers, a plant director, and employees. Remember the $236M verdict against ExxonMobil? A high-profile legal team orchestrated that payout.

Some students, after earning an undergraduate degree in environmental science, decide to go to law school so they can become environmental attorneys. Many new environmental local and federal laws are being passed, pressuring companies to meet sustainability measures. Your “client” may be a factory with a pollution quota. Or, if you specialize in toxic tort law, your clients may be seeking compensation for mesothelioma as a result of asbestos.

Healthcare professionals

Speak of Chernobyl, its impact on human health is still felt over a quarter-century later. The thousands of Chernobyl victims suffered from side effects such as birth defects, premature aging, and nervous system damage.

Last year, the World Health Organization released a report predicting the side effects of those living in the Fukushima Daiichi areas – including a 70 percent higher risk of developing thyroid cancer for girls exposed as infants.  The increasingly obvious link between human health and the environment is why schools like Ashford University now offer a Bachelors degree in Health Care Studies with a transfer concentration in Environmental Science. The curriculum explores the U.S. healthcare system, a multicultural approach to issues and delivery systems, long term care, as well as the interface between ecology and health.

Public Relations Maestros

In a hyper-wired world where billion can insta-tweet their opinions about a missing jetliner or a devastating mudslide, well-honed crisis management messages are crucial. That’s part of the reason why, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates, Public Relations careers will grow 12 percent in the next eight years.

Sustainability will continue to be a big motivator for environmentally conscious consumers – such as moms who want to purchase non-toxic cleaning detergent, or a young urban professional who is concerned about the fuel efficiency of his new vehicle. It’s up to savvy PR teams to generate the message of sustainability to these demographics.

Sales Mavens

Saving the world isn’t just for idealists and geeks. Just like Google wants to hire those with the talent to negotiate deals and sell products, many environmentally-oriented companies are also thirsty for sales talent.

Bio-Fuel companies seek regional sales managers to broker deals with restaurants and institutions that produce vegetable oils that can be used in biodiesel refineries. Energy monitoring companies need sales directors to work with a global energy monitoring clients to maximize the energy efficiencies of their power station portfolios.

These are real-life examples of green job descriptions floating around on the Web now. But sealing the deal doesn’t just rely on inborn talent for persuasion – education supplies the critical thinking tools. Liberty University’s 120-credit hour Bachelor’s in Green & Sustainable Management includes classes like Composition and Rhetoric, Intermediate Business Computer Apps, and Strategic Planning/Business Policy.

Project Management Virtuosos

What do Excel spreadsheets, status reports, and juggling million-dollar projects have to do with saving the Earth, anyway? A lot. Because it takes multiple teams to achieve sustainable goals, it takes a savvy project manager to orchestrate all of the chaos into measurable goals:  Writing hundreds of emails to lead hydrologists. Donning a hard hat and boots to trek out to the project site. Many price negotiation phone calls to wholesale suppliers of solar panels.

No day in the life of an environmental project manager is ever alike – and demand for these skills will grow 15 percent in the next 4 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s why schools like University of Phoenix are offering programs like a Bachelor of Science in Project Management – with an emphasis on Environmental Science. The 120-credit program includes courses like Project Procurement Management, and Integrated Cost and Schedule Control.

The new era: Green jobs

The definition of green jobs will continue to evolve, as we wrestle with big questions about how to sustain the planet. One thing is for sure: Congress certainly doesn’t think it’s a bunch of tree-hugging baloney. Seven years ago, the Energy Independence and Security Act passed, incorporating the Green Jobs Act of 2007. This act authorized up to $125 million funding for job training programs to make up job shortages in key areas of renewable jobs.

While money may not grow on trees, some jobs can save trees.  So, even if you don’t picture yourself designing the new breed of cars that hum on battery juice, or magically turning leftover oil from French Fries into renewables … you just might be a candidate for a green job.

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