Growing a new economy: Green jobs are happening now.
With a struggling national economy, sometimes it’s hard to get our minds off the depressing monthly job reports and political mudslinging, and remember that there is encouraging news out there. This month we’re giving you a break from the downturn rhetoric to focus on one of the brightest spots in these rocky economic times: green jobs.
First off, green jobs are on the rise. Just two years ago there were 2.2 million green jobs in America, and now there are 2.7 million. Even in these tough times this trend isn’t expected to go anywhere; energy efficiency and sustainable power will be crucial to building a strong economy in the coming decades.
In the past year $243 billion has been invested in clean energy around the world, and that’s 30 percent more than the previous year. It’s estimated that in the next 25 years, global investments will top $5.7 trillion on renewable energy sources like wind and solar.
Did you know that more than 100,000 Americans work in the solar industry alone? And more than 6,730 new solar jobs were created between August 2010 and August 2011!
EarthShare member organizations are tracking and contributing to the development of our new economy. Restore America’s Estuaries (RAE) recently released a landmark jobs report, detailing how coastal habitat restoration is generating American jobs. The report says that investing in this kind of restoration not only produces jobs at a higher rate than many other sectors, but also helps to boost local businesses, regional economies, and property values. As RAE’s president Jeff Benoit put it, “Investing to restore our nation’s bays and estuaries is a win-win-win situation.”
In another new report from GreenBiz and National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF), it’s noted that companies and hiring managers are taking notice of the role of sustainability and environmental knowledge in the job market. Nearly 80 percent of the companies that responded to the GreenBiz/NEEF poll agreed that knowledge of sustainability and the environment would become a larger factor in hiring over the next five years. Their findings demonstrate that even industries outside the realm of traditional “green” jobs are making sustainable thinking and practices a priority.
Another place to look for green job expansion? How about our national parks and public lands? One of the biggest and best-studied categories of jobs linked to conservation of public lands is in recreation and tourism. Federal public lands see millions and millions of visitors every year. Additional jobs can be found in renewable energy development, which is just beginning to take place on many federal lands across the West and in forests across the country. And restoration and sustainable management of forests and watersheds can also create jobs because they are hugely labor intensive. In fact, spending in and around national parks stimulated 247,000 jobs in 2010.
Learn more from EarthShare member charity Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) about how the green jobs available today are only the beginning. RMI details the potential for a more robust economic future by 2050, without oil, coal, nuclear energy; one-third less natural gas; and no new inventions, all at a cost that’s $5 trillion less than business-as-usual. And if you love a good infographic, don’t miss RMI’s Reinventing Fire: Blueprint to the new energy era.
Ready to learn more about green jobs near you? Check out Environmental Defense Fund’s (EDF) interactive maps of clean energy jobs in 29 states and learn how accelerating the clean-energy transition will benefit individual state economies here. For a look at what some top green companies are doing to promote clean energy jobs and climate legislation, check out EDF’s list of business case studies. If you're a student with an eye focused on your employment future, the Student Conservation Association (SCA) is a growing source for green job skills development across the country. Make sure to investigate the SCA internship program for opportunities that will help prepare you to be part of the new green economy.