Green Jobs – Kick-Start Your Environmental Career

Whether we live to work or work to live, one thing is for sure-Americans spend most of their time on the job. And though many of us would like to dedicate those working hours to a cause we can feel good about, something that would motivate us to get up every day-besides simply paying the bills-it hasn’t been easy to align our philosophical leanings with employment opportunities. But times have changed. Applying your professional know-how in the name of a cleaner planet has never been easier. Here are some Lazy Environmentalist strategies for finding the ultimate green job.

Build green credentials

Depending upon your industry, you can give your career a green boost and build your credentials by becoming certified in a specific green area. Those with careers tied to the building industry can become accredited by the U.S. Green Building Council, the driving force behind today’s green building boom. LEED (Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design) accreditation is typically sought by real estate developers, architects, interior designers, engineers, contractors, product manufacturers and suppliers, and consultants who advise on the development of green building projects. In 2004 there were roughly 10,000 LEED-accredited professionals in the United States working on green building projects. By 2008 the number had swelled to more than 40,000 professionals.

The demand for green buildings is creating accreditation opportunities in related industries as well. EcoBroker International offers green certification for licensed real estate agents. The certification equips them with the knowledge to advise both residential and commercial clients on the environmental merits of every type of building, from houses and apartments to office parks and manufacturing facilities. More than 3,000 certified EcoBrokers are currently practicing around the country, and the numbers are rising.

Develop green skills

Finding work in the green economy is not always as easy as simply applying for a job. Some positions require special skills sets and knowledge, and those equipped with the new know-how are often in high demand. For example, throughout Southern California, many cities are turning to alternative fuels to run their public vehicle fleets. Buses, garbage trucks, street sweepers, sewer cleaners, maintenance trucks, and other municipality-owned vehicles are increasingly being run on cleaner fuels to combat local air pollution and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These new and improved vehicles require trained technicians to service their fleets. That’s why just east of Los Angeles at the Rio Hondo College of Automotive Technology, aspiring technicians can enroll in the school’s Alternative Fuel Training Program. The two-year program trains students to work on vehicles that run on cleaner power sources such as electric, hydrogen, fuel cell, compressed natural gas, liquid natural gas, biodiesel, and ethanol. According to John Frala, co-coordinator of the program, new graduates are in high demand and can expect to earn starting salaries between $18 and $22 per hour.

Go corporate

Whether it’s at Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, Home Depot, Target, J.C. Penney, or Staples, eco-aware products are continually hitting store shelves. Consumers are demanding green products, and the largest corporations on this planet are responding. As a result, opportunities are increasing for green-minded corporate professionals with backgrounds in finance, operations, human resources, design, marketing, and brand management.

Take Clorox. In January 2008, the company introduced a new line of natural cleaning products called Green Works. Made from plant-based, biodegradable materials, the brand is an affordable, widely accessible, healthy solution for cleaning the home. Just a few months later, it was already the market leader in its natural product categories-such as all-purpose, bathroom, toilet bowl, and glass and surface cleaners. This is good news for consumers and great news for everyone who works for the Green Works brand. From operations professionals responsible for making sure Green Works products reach retail stores to marketers who generate awareness of the brand and accountants who tally up sales, employees of this Clorox division are being paid to foster positive environmental change. To find companies at the top their environmental game, head to ClimateCounts.org, an organization that ranks companies according to a comprehensive set of environmental criteria.

Follow the venture capital

Not the corporate type? There are still plenty of options and strategies for landing your dream green job. The first order of business is to follow the money. For the past few years, venture capitalists have been pouring capital into young, green-minded companies to help them grow. Flush with cash, these young startups are often hiring and are prime places to inquire about jobs. In 2008, RecycleBank, a company that makes it easy and rewarding to recycle, raised $30 million to expand its services throughout the United States. eSolar, a company that plans to build solar power plants starting in Southern California, raised $130 million. And Gridpoint, a company that helps make the energy grid more efficient, raised $15 million in addition to the more than $100 million it’s raised since launching in 2003. From entry- to executive-level jobs, you can be sure these companies and others like them are staffing up. Take eSolar, which was founded in 2007 and one year later already had 70 employees. To track these venture capital investments, visit regularly updated blogs such as Earth2tech.com and Greenvc.org. Also check out the “Deals and Investments” section of CNET’s Green Tech blog.

Promote change from within

Sometimes the best way to get a green job is to remain exactly where you are and let green opportunities come to you. A few short years ago, it was common thinking that most corporations were too entrenched in traditional ways of doing business to embrace substantive environmental change. This no longer holds true. Today companies in nearly every industry-whether it’s Exxon Mobil in energy, MTV Networks in media, or Dell Computers in computer electronics-are assessing how they do business and implementing environmental measures directly into their day-to-day operations. For Exxon Mobil this means investing nearly half a billion dollars in a new factory that will manufacture a key battery component for next-generation hybrid cars running on lithium-ion batteries. At MTV Networks, the Kids and Family Division prints Nickelodeon Magazine on 100 percent recycled paper and creates environmental messages for youth through innovative strategies like multiplayer online eco-themed games. And Dell Computers uses energy-efficient software in its employee computers to better manage energy costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Odds are your own company is rolling out some kind of green initiative. Now’s the time to get involved.

Research new openings

When there are no green openings at your current company, don’t despair. There are plenty of online green job boards that will help you search for a good fit someplace else. Greenjobsearch.org enables you to search by keywords or location to identify a broad range of opportunities. The more specifics you give-using terms like “solar manager” or “wind turbine installer”-the more relevant the results will be. Greenjobs.com focuses specifically on jobs available in the renewable energy industries, while the Green Dream Jobs section of SustainableBusiness.com is a great resource for short- and long-term positions with green companies and non-profit organizations. Check out the job board at Treehugger.com, one of the web’s largest environmental sites, for a tremendous array of current job openings all over the United States and Greenbiz.com’s Green Careers section for high-quality openings at many of today’s brightest green companies and organizations.

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