September 23, 2008

Monday Markets: Green Collar Jobs

You’ve heard of white collar jobs and blue collar jobs.  Now there is a third category: green collar jobs.

This week, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at green collar jobs — what green collar means, how many green collar jobs are available, and what you need to know to land a green collar job.

What does Green Collar mean?
According to San Francisco State University’s Raquel Pinderhughes, green collar jobs are "blue collar jobs in green businesses."  This cross-over definition seems to be the most widely accepted. In a New York Times piece, for example, the Chief of Apollo Alliance, an environmental group and labor union coalition, Lucy Blake agrees: “A green-collar job is in essence a blue-collar job that has been upgraded to address the environmental challenges of our country.” In the same Times article, the executive director of the Sierra Club, Carl Pope, said: “A green job has to do something useful for people, and it has to be helpful to, or at least not damaging to, the environment.”

Are you qualified for a Green Collar job?
Over at, Raquel Pinderhughes blogs about her research interviews with employers providing green collar jobs in California. She lists 22 different sectors in which these jobs are available:

– Bicycle repair and bike delivery services
– Car and truck mechanic jobs, production jobs, and gas-station jobs related to biodiesel
– Energy retrofits to increase energy efficiency and conservation
– Green building
– Green waste composting on a large scale
– Hauling and reuse of construction materials and debris (C&D)
– Hazardous materials clean-up
– Landscaping
– Manufacturing jobs related to large scale production of appropriate technologies (i.e. solar panels, bike cargo systems, green waste bins, etc.)
– Materials reuse
– Non-toxic household cleaning in residential and commercial buildings
– Parks and open space expansion and maintenance
– Printing with non-toxic inks and dyes
– Public transit jobs related to driving, maintenance, and repair
– Recycling and reuse
– Small businesses producing products from recycled materials
– Solar installation
– Tree cutting and pruning
– Peri-urban and urban agriculture
– Water retrofits to increase water efficiency and conservation
– Whole home performance, including attic insulation, weatherization, etc.

Many people come to green collar jobs with a background in blue-collar work; higher education is not a requirement for the vast majority of these jobs. Employers are looking for strong workers who are willing to work hard with have good communication skills.

How many Green Collar jobs are there in America?
According to a 2007 study by the American Solar Energy Society, renewable energy and energy efficient industries currently account for 8.5 million jobs in the United States.  With federal policy to support green industries, that number could grow to as many as 40 million jobs, which is equivalent to 1 out of 4 workers, by 2030.

How much do Green Collar jobs pay?
Most green collar jobs pay by the hour, with rates ranging from minimum wage to $22/hour and more. Variances depend on job location and specialization.

More resources on Green Collar jobs:
Green-Collar Jobs Overview @ Green For All
Making Green While Working Green
The Growth in Green Collar Jobs @ Newsweek

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