July 17, 2009
Going green: As state industries make changes, jobs are expected to follow
Special to NWjobs
Buoyed by the prospect of mixing passion with profit, growing numbers of workers are exploring “green-collar” jobs with an emphasis on respect for and protection of the environment.
Now seems like a good time. Of the $787 billion U.S. economic-stimulus package, $62 billion has been earmarked for clean energy, environmental projects and scientific research, and an additional $500 million is dedicated to green-jobs training. But what are these jobs -- and how can folks find them?
“Green jobs are not necessarily new jobs, but often traditional jobs in industries and companies that are adapting to new markets and opportunities available in a clean energy economy,” according to the 2008 Green Economy Jobs report from the Washington State Employment Security Department.
That’s certainly true for Lisa DiMartino, vice president of marketing for Ecohaus, a national pioneer in distributing environmentally responsible building supplies and household products. She says staffing at the Seattle-area company has grown from two workers in a tiny Bainbridge Island shop to nearly 65 at three new shops “with all the regular jobs you would imagine: bookkeeping, accounting, marketing, operations, warehouse and on the sales floor talking to customers.
Where the green jobs are
Industries with the largest block of green-collar jobs in Washington:
Energy efficiency. Construction-related industries make up 70 percent of employment in this category.
Preventing/reducing pollution. Agriculture-related industries represent more than half of this category.
Pollution mitigation/cleanup. Professional/technical services combine with waste management/remediation to represent more than two-thirds of the jobs in this category.
Renewable energy. Construction-related industries combine with professional/ technical services to represent nearly half of the jobs in this category.
--State Employment Security Department
“Everyone here has all the regular expertise that you find in a traditional retail store, but our products are different and our mission is different,” says DiMartino.
According to a Global Insight report prepared for the U.S. Conference of Mayors, some 750,000 green jobs existed nationally in 2006, and 4.2 million more are expected by 2038. “Washington has around 13,075 green jobs now, and that number could increase to over 100,000 by 2038,” the report says. “Nearly 50,000 of those jobs are forecast to occur in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue region.”
Another 2006 study, by the Union of Concerned Scientists, aims lower with its count. It predicts that the state’s Clean Energy Initiative “would generate 2,000 new jobs in manufacturing, construction, operations, maintenance and other industries in the state by 2025.”
To DiMartino, the figures aren’t as important as the goal. She says Ecohaus is committed to growing greener still “through lots of little steps. We’re all in the learning mode. As long as your intention is good and you’re making little steps, that’s what’s important.”
For those with good intentions but no green-collar work history on their resume, DiMartino has some advice for landing enviro-friendly employment: “Show off any activities or volunteering that highlight your passion” for eco-commitment.
Resources for leads to green-collar jobs include the Green Jobs Network, which lists private- and public-sector jobs statewide; and the Network for Business Innovation and Sustainability, which offers services including training and “Eco-Hour” networking for public and private sectors.
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