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It’s easy to limit green jobs to solar panel installers,
energy-efficient building architects and wind turbine
manufacturers. But green jobs encompass so much more. They include
all positions that ensure the well-being of the environment.
The renewable energy sector, of course, employs a lot of engineers
and other scientists. Yet green jobs also encompass urban planners,
bike repairers, corporate social responsibility advisers and solar
sales people. Public transit workers and teachers can have green
(Even my position as a reporter for AlternativeEnergy.com is green
because I inform people about renewable energy sources.)
Most green jobs are just like any other jobs. They are in major
industries such as manufacturing, construction, sales and
agriculture. They are both white collar, usually requiring a
four-year degree, and blue collar, requiring little prior
experience or training.
The majority of green jobs are “middle skill,” necessitating more
education than a high school diploma but less than a bachelor’s
degree, according to the Apollo Alliance, which aims to make green jobs
a national priority.
Employees can often transition to green jobs with just a little bit
Construction jobs can be green, for instance, with education in
retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency. Electricians can work
as solar installers or designers with training in photovoltaic
“Put simply, if a job improves the environment, but doesn’t provide
a family-supporting wage or a career ladder to move low-income
workers into higher-skilled occupations, it is not a green-collar
job,” Apollo’s report said. “Such would be the case with workers
installing solar panels without job security or proper training, or
young people pushing brooms at a green building site without
opportunity for training or advancement.”
Another key feature of green jobs is that most can’t be outsourced
For example, American buildings can’t be retrofitted from China.
Green jobs are good for local economies.
Renewable energy is often very labor intensive, especially compared
with fossil fuels.
The Union of Concerned Scientists found that wind creates 2.4 times
more jobs than coal or natural gas during plant construction and
1.5 times more jobs during long-term operations and maintenance.
[See The Clean Tech Revolution]
“There’s just not a lot of jobs in drilling and producing oil and
natural gas,” said Keith Schneider, Apollo’s communications
director. “…Whereas in wind, you’re taking a natural resource and
you’re just adding a tremendous amount of value to the product in
order to turn it into an energy source. There’s manufacturing,
shipping, assembling, maintaining, managing. The same thing with
But alternative energy is a much smaller industry than energy
In 2006, 450,000 jobs were created in the renewable energy
industry, while 8 million jobs were created in the energy
efficiency industry, according to the American Solar Energy Society.
Although wind and solar power are “free,” efficiency is a lot
cleaner and cheaper.
Construction and manufacturing are likely to be the biggest green
sectors because of the huge growth in the solar and wind
industries. But don’t fret if you’re afraid of heights. There’s
never been a better time to get a green job in an increasingly wide
variety of fields.
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