Civics & Politics The Environment Health Economics Social Issues Full Archive
NOW on Demand
Week of 5.29.09

Green-Collar Jobs to Watch Out For
By Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, CEO Green For All

Green for All is a national organization dedicated to improving the lives of all Americans through a clean-energy economy.

What is a green-collar job?

The simplest definition of comes from Green for All founder Van Jones:

"A green-collar job is a blue-collar job, upgraded to better respect the environment."

Five Top Green-Collar Jobs
  • Energy auditor
  • Insulation installer
  • Rail track layer
  • Iron and steel worker
  • Recycling center operator
Many green-collar jobs are in familiar blue-collar fields, like manufacturing, construction, and maintenance and repair. And like blue-collar jobs, many green-collar positions don't require a college or graduate degree. Rather, some additional technical skills and job training are enough to ramp up workers for green-collar jobs.

This is good news for our workers and economy—investment in green jobs training can quickly lead to a thriving workforce.

Good jobs, green jobs

Another simple, yet essential, tenet of a green-collar job is that it is a good job - for both people and planet.

The "people" part means workers in green-collar jobs must be paid a family-supporting wage, have benefits and safe working conditions, and have opportunities for career advancement. Pushing a broom for $6 an hour doesn't count as a green-collar job, even if it's a solar-panel factory you're cleaning.

We are singing the praises of green-collar jobs that are high-quality and provide opportunity for disadvantaged communities. Washington State has made an enormous move in that direction with their new landmark law. The legislation creates thousands of jobs in energy-efficiency retrofitting. It also includes job quality standards, and a provision that many of the workers be hired locally, from low-income communities.

"Pushing a broom for $6 an hour doesn't count as a green-collar job, even if it's a solar-panel factory you're cleaning."
Five Green-Collar Jobs to Watch Out For:

Over the next 18 months, green-collar jobs are expected to grow significantly in the United States, largely due to government investment through the stimulus package. Keep an eye out for these jobs in particular:

Energy auditor: America's buildings leak whopping amounts of energy through things like drafty windows, leaky faucets, poorly insulated attics, and inefficient light-bulbs. Simple fixes to retrofit buildings help homeowners save on energy bills, lower the use of dirty energy, and create jobs. The first step of an energy efficient renovation is having an energy auditor run a series of tests to determine how and where a building is wasting energy. Energy auditing can also be the first step on a green career ladder.

Insulation installer: Once the energy audit has been performed, workers implement the fixes. Often homes and buildings simply need better insulation to stay warm or cool. Putting in insulation is not a new field—but it is a green-collar job.

Rail track layer: Clean mass transit—think trains and zero-emissions buses—cuts down on carbon pollution and provides cheaper transportation options for Americans. High-speed rail requires track layers—another familiar field, upgraded for the green economy.

"Another simple, yet essential, tenet of a green-collar job is that it is a good job - for both people and planet."
Iron and steel worker: Wind and solar are clean and safe energy sources, and rapidly expanding fields. It takes 250 tons of steel to make one wind turbine - That's a lot of work for steel workers, many of whom are currently unemployed. A steel worker is a green-collar worker, if he or she is building renewable energy infrastructure.

Recycling center operator: As cities get smarter about treating waste sustainably, workers will be needed to for recycling, water treatment, and other public utilities.

These jobs, and many, many more, are the key to reviving America's economy and curbing climate change. Thanks to investments through the Recovery Act, some green fields will grow rapidly in the short term. Long-term investments can lock-in a clean, green future for our communities, our economy, and our workers.

Learn more at Green for All, or download the Green Jobs Guidebook

Green Jobs: Hope or Hype?

Top Green Jobs

Book Excerpt: "The Green Collar Economy"

Video: The Veggie Van

The Future of Green Jobs

Our Response to N. Korea

Personal Essay: The Impact of Sonia Sotomayor

Buy a DVD
Contact Us

Topics search results will display here.