Some of the hottest sectors for new green jobs right now are: travel and hospitality, planning and land use, alternative health and medicine, renewable energy, environmental law, information technology, environmental education, design and construction, corporate responsibility, and food and farming.© Getty Images
With just about every company trying to green its products, services and internal operations these days, there has never been a better time to find a green job. Jobs in eco-advocacy and in "hands on" environmental work such as pollution cleanup and land use planning are more abundant than ever. And green issues are driving the creation of new jobs in many other vocations as well.
The November/December 2007 issue of E — The Environmental Magazine reports that some of the hottest sectors for new green jobs right now are: travel and hospitality, planning and land use, alternative health and medicine, renewable energy, environmental law, information technology, environmental education, design and construction, corporate responsibility, and food and farming. Those with experience in any of these fields should find plenty of opportunities that can help marry their skills with their green principles.
Analysts point to the alternative and renewable energy sector as offering perhaps the most opportunities. "Solar and wind are already multibillion-dollar industries," says Peter Beadle, who launched the website greenjobs.com in 2005. Hydrogen and fuel cell technologies also offer many opportunities, he says. Technical personnel—engineers, installers, etc.—form the backbone of such industries, but marketing, sales and communications specialists are needed to get the technologies to market.
Congress also wants to make sure there are green jobs for disadvantaged and disenfranchised Americans. In August 2007 the House of Representatives passed the Green Jobs Act as a vehicle to use the green economy as a "pathway out of poverty." The bill calls for spending $125 million for job training in renewable energy, energy-efficient vehicles and green building. One-fifth of the money would be earmarked for those most difficult to hire: at-risk youths, former inmates and welfare recipients.
The Senate passed a similar bill earmarking $100 million for "green collar" job training in various sectors of the economy. Both bills have been rolled into the larger Energy Bill recently passed by the House and now under consideration by the Senate. If the bill passes, President Bush could still veto it, in which case its sponsors would likely reintroduce the green jobs provisions once a new administration takes office.
Regardless of what comes out of Washington, green job seekers should have no trouble ferreting out good opportunities on their own. Checking in with the websites and human resources departments of companies you already know and patronize is a good strategy. There are also dozens of websites that post green job opportunities, including ecojobs.com, EcoEmploy.com, environmentalcareer.com, environmentaljobs.com, greenenergyjobs.com, greenbiz.com, sustainableindustries.com and sustainablebusiness.com.
CONTACTS: E — The Environmental Magazine; Environmental Career Opportunities; EcoEmploy; EnvironmentalCareer.com; EnvironmentalJobs.com; Green Energy Jobs; Greenbiz Jobs; Sustainable Industries Jobs; SustainableBusiness.com
Dear EarthTalk: Why aren’t compact fluorescent light bulbs taking over more quickly from incandescents, given their substantial energy-saving advantage? And what about recycling them when they ultimately burn out? I’ve heard they contain mercury.
—Nancy Holmes, Seaside, OR
A global shift to compact fluorescent light bulbs, in lieu of incandescent bulbs, could close some 270 power plants worldwide.© Energy Federation
Analysts at the nonprofit Earth Policy Institute (EPI) estimate that the United States could close 80 coal-fired power plants if Americans switched over en masse to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). A global shift, says EPI, could close some 270 power plants worldwide. CFLs use less than a third of the energy required to power a traditional incandescent light bulb to produce the same amount of light.
It’s hard to say exactly why a quicker transition over to CFLs hasn’t yet taken place in the U.S., given this substantial energy- and greenhouse gas-saving potential. China, Australia, Canada, Venezuela and Cuba have each committed to phasing out incandescent bulbs entirely within the next five years, and dozens of other countries, including all 27 members of the European Union, are deliberating whether to follow suit.
In lieu of a federal mandate in the U.S. calling for a switchover to CFLs the private sector, with some prodding from green groups, is taking some of its own initiatives. The nation’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart, announced last year that it would double annual sales of CFLs to 100 million by 2008 as part of an effort to green both operations and inventory. Home Depot, Lowes and local hardware stores everywhere are getting into the act as well, giving CFLs prominent shelf space and offering deals to promote them. And Energy Federation, Inc., which has been promoting the use of CFLs since the 1980s, will ship direct to consumers anywhere from its Massachusetts warehouse.
Meanwhile, a coalition of nonprofits—including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Alliance to Save Energy, American Coalition for an Energy-Efficient Economy and Earth Day Network—has launched an initiative with Philips Lighting, the world’s biggest maker of CFLs, to get Americans to make the switch.
Switching over to CFLs doesn’t come without trade-offs. Bulbs each contain trace amounts of mercury (usually four to five milligrams), a toxic heavy metal. Exposure to mercury can cause a wide range of health problems, including damage to the central nervous system, kidneys and liver. It is also a major contaminant, polluting groundwater and waterways and posing a health threat to wildlife.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the amount of airborne mercury present after a CFL breaks is negligible. Nonetheless, the EPA recommends that when a CFL bulb breaks, you should immediately open the windows and vacate the premises for at least 15 minutes to minimize the risk of exposure. Afterwards, you should clean up the breakage using gloves and/or paper towels or disposable rags (and avoid using a vacuum cleaner, which can stir up the airborne mercury). Remaining fragments, as well as any paper towels or rags used to clean them up, should be sealed in a plastic bag and disposed of at a local household hazardous waste collection site.
Burned-out CFLs can also be disposed of at such sites or, in some cases, recycled at the store where they were bought. To locate a CFL recycling facility near you, visit earth911.org and type in your zip code.
CONTACTS: Earth Policy Institute; Energy Federat
ion, Inc.; Earth 911