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How to Define a “Green Job”

You want to find a “green job,” but eco-friendly job-hunting isn’t as simple as asking how to find a job that helps the environment. Defining green jobs — and subsequently finding an environmentally conscious career — means understanding how you want to contribute to the green economy. With specific environmentally mindful goals in the definition, it’s easier to discern exactly how green jobs are expected to reduce the impact of humans and industry on the environment and to aid sustainability.

Most of the green jobs you hear about in the media have a direct impact on the state of the planet, often by decreasing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions, waste, and pollution. The people in these jobs see the connection between their work and the state of the environment. Using the definition developed in preparation for the first meeting of the Middle Class Task Force headed up by Vice President Biden, and adding a few more ways to directly improve the environment, direct-impact green jobs work toward these goals:

  • Generate and use clean, renewable energy

  • Reduce pollution

  • Conserve energy and natural resources

  • Reconstitute waste

  • Decrease the use of hazardous materials as inputs and outputs

  • Remediate or reverse human impact on the planet

  • Promote biodiversity and restore ecosystems

But not all jobs in the green economy have a direct impact on the environment. Some positions allow people to make their contribution to the planet more indirectly. Rather than hands-on, in-the-lab, on-the-roof, or in-the-forest kind of work, people who hold these jobs have the following roles:

  • Creating and enforcing green laws/policies/regulations

  • Educating, inspiring, motivating, and persuading people/companies to take greener, more sustainable actions

  • Funding or investing in green initiatives/companies

Although these green jobs are rarely mentioned by the media, the work done in these areas has a profound impact on the shape of the green economy. Without updated policies, directed funding, and renewed motivation, the green economy won’t develop and grow very effectively.

As the green economy matures and more companies implement sustainability initiatives, it’s likely we’ll come to a time when all jobs have a green component to them. By then, we may not distinguish between green jobs and traditional jobs because there won’t be that much difference between the two. In the meantime, however, it makes sense to focus on jobs that enable you to have the most positive impact on the environment.

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