What is a Green Job?

There are so many definitions of what a green job is, that it's now getting to the point where it's difficult to know what a green job is. And the difficulty is increased by the lack of clear and agreed upon definitions of a green company and the categories of green products or services (is nuclear clean? is "clean coal" really clean?).

After a lot of research, this is my own definition of a green job:

  • A job at an association or non-profit engaged in environmental matters. You can research these associations easily at TheGreenJobBank. These include among many others: activist organizations, think tanks, and manufacturers associations.
  • A job at a State or Federal Government agency protecting the environment (EPA or similar agency at the state level)
  • A job at a clean technology startup company that works on clean technology products, renewable energy technology, or new recycling methods, or electric or hybrid automotive technology.
  • A job at an established company (i.e. not a startup) that derives more than half of its revenue from green products or services.
  • A job at an established company (small or medium) that employs more than half of its employees in green products or services activities.
  • Finally there are green jobs at large companies like GE (Wind Turbines) or BP (BP Solar) that have entire divisions dedicated to renewable energy technologies, such as BP Solar or GE Energy.
  • A job at any company whose function is to make the company more energy efficient (sometimes referred to as "eco consultant", or "energy consultant" or "sustainability consultant").

These jobs are not just technology jobs. Accounting jobs at a green energy startup are green jobs. Legal, marketing, sales, human resources and accounting jobs can all be green, depending on the company.

All that being said, there is a definition that I like from the United nations. Their Environment Programme report offers this definition:

"We define green jobs as work in agricultural, manufacturing, research and development (R&D), administrative, and service activities that contribute substantially to preserving or restoring environmental quality. Specifically, but not exclusively, this includes jobs that help to protect ecosystems and biodiversity; reduce energy, materials, and water consumption through high-efficiency strategies; de-carbonize the economy; and minimize or altogether avoid generation of all forms of waste and pollution."

In September 2010, the US Dept. of Labor Statistics release the official US Government definition of green jobs.

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Newer definition

There's a newer definition in the main part of the site at what is a green job?