Want to work in the ‘green economy’?
There are many reasons why we should all keep an eye on the ‘green economy’. You could be passionate about environmental issues or just interested in which jobs might emerge in the coming years. Whether you’re a committed green or not, one thing’s for sure, over the coming years we’re going to hear more and more about environmental issues. But why are they important? And how will they affect your working life? We try to answer some of your questions below.
Why do we need a green economy?
There’s been lots of research into the effect that human activity is having on our planet. This includes:
- industries that use a lot of fossil fuels like coal and produce a lot of greenhouse gas emissions, which can bring about climate change
- continuing to extract and rely heavily on fuel sources that will eventually dry up – oil and coal, for example
- upsetting the natural balance of our ecosystem by destroying places where plants and animals live
- using up more fuel than we need to in activities like transporting food from one side of the world to the other.
These are just some of the issues. The main theme that the research suggests is that we are using our planet’s resources too quickly, or too inefficiently. Some studies have claimed that if we continue the above activities at our current rates we will need the resources of three planets. Similar investigations have stated that it now takes the Earth one year and six months to regenerate what we use in a year.
Figures show that we have already extracted a large part of the earth’s oil supplies. These resources won’t replace themselves, like rain tops up our reservoirs – these resources will run out eventually. Fears are that as the supplies get closer to running out, the price of oil will rocket, causing tensions around the world. The prices of many of our daily activities could then be affected: filling up your car at the petrol station, the price of food and clothing, the cost of heating your house, train and air travel.
To try and prevent this from happening, one aim is to reduce our reliance on oil and coal. The main way to do this is to move towards other ways of generating energy, using resources that won’t run out (often called renewable energy), such as wind power, solar power and hydropower.
There are differences of opinion on how much of the damage is caused by humans and how to deal with it. But it’s generally accepted that we need to look for new ways to create the energy we need for the future and make sure that our activities don’t harm the planet, its plants and creatures.
We also need to use our existing energy more efficiently, reduce our waste and meet our needs with local products where possible. In other words, we need to live ‘sustainably’ – finding ways to meet our needs as humans (for fuel and food etc) without harming the environment and relying on energy resources that will eventually run out. Individuals and businesses need to find ways to reduce their ‘carbon footprint’ – the amount of emissions caused by an organization, event, product or person. The higher our carbon footprints, the greater the demand we place on nature.
This conversion to a green economy is a big challenge that could take many years. But in addition to protecting the future of our planet, it will also create many job opportunities.
What will the green economy look like?
It’s impossible to predict how the future will look, but some of the main aims in our green future could be:
- producing energy using low carbon methods and resources that will not run out – such as solar power
- minimising waste – reducing what we consume, reusing things like carrier bags, and recycling where possible
- using our resources more efficiently – cutting down our heating bills by insulating our home, using energy efficient light bulbs
- cutting down on ‘air miles’ by providing what we need locally – growing food locally, for example.
People that can help companies go greener may be very popular with employers in the future. This is because they may be able to save money with more efficient production methods, and there may be incentives that encourage companies to comply with environmental legislation. There could even be laws that relate to environmental issues, so staff that help companies meet their legal commitments may be in demand.
What is a green job?
According to the United Nations Environment Program, a green job is ‘work in agricultural, manufacturing, research and development, administrative, and service activities that contributes 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’.
Which jobs will grow and which skills will be in demand?
Here are some of the job opportunities that are predicted to come from the move towards a green economy.
Renewable & Sustainable Energy
The drive to find new ways of creating energy from resources that will not run out could create jobs for people involved in wind energy, solar power, fuel cells, biofuels, wave power, hydro power, geothermal energy.
As our natural fuel sources (such as oil) will eventually run out, we will need to make sure we don’t waste any of the energy they produce. This could mean jobs for people involved in energy efficient lighting, voltage optimisation, energy management, low power electronic equipment, and insulation.
Every product we make, from a yoghurt carton to a wooden chair, takes resources and energy to produce it. So we need to make sure the production methods are efficient and that the product gets used again if possible. This could create jobs for people involved in recycling materials, less energy-intensive manufacturing methods, reducing packaging, sustainable agriculture, low carbon materials.
But it’s not just jobs that are directly related to energy efficiency, renewable energy and cutting down on waste that will be in demand in the green economy. There are many existing jobs that will be needed in the green economy, such as PR officer, community liaison and jobs in administration or information technology.
What can companies do now to become greener?
All industries have a part to play in the move to a green economy. For example:
Retailers could replace inefficient spotlights with more energy efficient lights, such as compact fluorescent lamps or LED spots….
Hotel owners could reduce their energy consumption by installing light detectors that switch lights on only when they’re needed, and encouraging kitchen staff to switch off equipment when it’s not in use….
The food and drinks production industry could carry out more regular maintenance checks on their refrigeration equipment, to make sure there aren’t any leaks that are making the system have to work harder to keep things cool….
Farmers could consider using quality compost, which can be made from a wide variety of biodegradable materials, such as domestic garden (botanical) wastes or waste food. Using this compost alongside inorganic fertilisers can reduce the amount of fertiliser needed, which brings cost savings….
Where can I find out more about getting into a green job?
Our job profiles can tell you what a job’s like, how much you might get paid, which qualifications and experience you might need, and where the job opportunities are. Click on the jobs that interest you to find out more.
If you’re interested in the natural world, and looking after plants, animals and the earth, these jobs in environmental science might suit you:
- Landscape scientists
- Countryside officer
If you’re interested in engineering and want to be involved in how we produce energy, you could take a look at these jobs:
- Energy engineer
- Nuclear engineer
Recycling and waste management
If you’re passionate about reducing waste and making sure we recycle where possible, these jobs could be ideal for you:
- Recycling officer
- Recycling operative
- Waste management officer
- Recycled metals worker
If you’re interested in carrying out surveys on sites to see if they’re suitable for construction projects or public facilities like parks, these jobs might be a good choice for you:
- Landscape architect
- Landscape manager
- Landscape scientist
- Land surveyor
The construction industry has the responsibility of making sure that our buildings use energy more efficiently. If you’ve got good practical skills and want to play your part in making buildings go green, check out these jobs:
- Commercial energy assessor
- Domestic energy assessor
- Cavity insulation installer
- Leakage operative
- Thermal insulation engineer
- Industrial electrician
- Gas service technician
- Heating and ventilation fitter
- Refrigeration and air conditioning engineer
Where can I get more information?
You can read more about the green economy on these websites:
- WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme)
- Green Economy Coalition
- The Carbon Trust
- Guardian (green economy section)
- Global Footprint Network
- DECC (Department of Energy and Climate Change)
- DEFRA (Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
- LANTRA (Land-based and environmental industries)
- EU Skills