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Green is the new black. Green is cool, it’s fashionable, and it’s profitable. For those who don’t believe in global warming, that’s fine. But, hopefully if you’re out of work you will at least consider a job in the green industry, because green is here to stay.

The term “Green Job” means a job with a company that offers a product or service that allows consumers to use less energy, or a paying gig that lowers the environmental impact on the planet. Apollo Alliance – a coalition of industry, labor, and environmental groups – describes green jobs as those that “pay decent wages and benefits that can support a family. It has to be part of a real career path, with upward mobility. And it needs to reduce waste and pollution and benefit the environment.”

But what exactly turns a job green? According to those in charge, any job in a green company or a green division of a company is a green job. Examples of green companies and organizations include organic foods and consumer products, energy conservation, renewable energy, green building, recycling, environmental cleanup, socially responsible investing, sustainable tourism, non-profit environmental advocacy.

In many cases, skills you already have may transfer from white-collar or blue-collar jobs to green jobs. The American Solar Energy Society predicts that over the next two decades at least one in four American workers will be employed in renewable-energy and energy-efficiency industries. This emerging phenomenon means more jobs and business opportunities will be available for independent contractors, from blue-collar workers to those with a Ph.D. Furthermore, this line of work isn’t just about making money. You can feel noble about how you earn your paycheck. Remember the whole concept of reinventing yourself? Well here’s your chance to have an extended Kumbaya moment while paying the mortgage. It’s time for you to change and time for the world to change.

Starting a green business or changing your career to green will probably require training, career counseling, and education. Most green jobs require a level of skill above a high school diploma, but many require only technical training or on-the-job training – perfect for someone who needs a job sooner rather than later.

Dozens of community colleges offer one-year certificates and two-year associate degrees in building and installing clean-energy systems. Training programs for the green energy sector are also offered on The Work Force Alliance website. Organizations like EcoEmploy.com post a running list of over 500 new jobs every two weeks. The latest training programs provide new skills for everyone from carpenters to marketing executives.

Organizations such as ICF International, Center for Environmental Health, Environmental Risk Communications, and Impact Sciences say they hire qualified people with bachelor’s degrees to work on everything from clean water projects to environmental policy work. According to university officials, starting salaries nationally range from $35,000 to $45,000 for graduates of two-year programs and $45,000 to $60,000 for graduates of four-year programs. That’s not too bad, considering you’re doing your part to save the planet and earning enough cash to fill up the Prius. Not everyone has the time, the inclination or the money to go back to college, but if you do you’ll have more choices.

What about the average out-of-work person laid off from a factory, a store, or an office? The jobs are out there for them. Solar panels need to be manufactured and then installed. And don’t forget the opportunities in recycling, wind farms, and buildings that need to be retrofitted. Not only will these jobs recharge the economy, but the earth will take notice that we finally give a damn. Imagine how your life will change if you go from a high-stress job in an office to a Zen-like career of planting organic crops. And who knows? You might even live a few years longer.


Candice Reed is the co-author of Thank You for Firing Me! How to Catch the Next Wave of Success After You Lose Your Job. For more job tips and information, check out thankyouforfiringme.org.

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