November is National Career Development Month which makes it the perfect time to reflect on the pressing need for green careers in a world grappling with climate change. As we prepare our students for the workforce and the promising green careers of the future, climate education can play a critical role in a sustainable, prosperous tomorrow.
With the growing awareness of environmental issues and the urgent need for sustainable solutions, green careers are set to play a pivotal role in the future workforce. Below are exciting green career paths — and professionals who are excelling in them — that you can explore with your students during National Career Development month.
1. Renewable Energy Engineer
- Responsibilities: Design and implement renewable energy systems, such as solar panels and wind turbines. Optimize energy production and reduce environmental impact.
- Skills: Strong engineering background, problem-solving skills, knowledge of renewable energy technologies, and project management abilities.
- Notable Contributor: Meet Jackson Williams, who helps generate carbon-free solar and hydropower for Duke Energy.
“Being able to work on projects that work toward our net-zero goals is something that’s really exciting.” ~Jackson Williams
2. Eco Builder
- Responsibilities: Construct sustainable, energy-efficient buildings using eco-friendly materials and methods. Prioritize environmental impact reduction in construction.
- Skills: Construction knowledge, green building certification, proficiency in sustainable construction practices, and creativity in design.
- Notable Contributor: Meet Michael Reynolds, the visionary architect and founder behind Earthship Biotecture, a globally renowned eco-construction company, dedicated to creating self-sufficient and sustainable architectural designs using recycled materials, passive solar energy, and natural ventilation to combat climate change.
“I have been looking for decades at the idea of taking care of the planet to provide our sustenance and architecture is the vessel to do that.” ~ Michael Reynolds
- Responsibilities: Care for and manage trees, ensuring their health and safety. Diagnose tree diseases, prune, and oversee tree preservation efforts.
- Skills: Knowledge of tree biology, safety procedures, tree maintenance practices, and climbing skills.
- Notable Contributor: Meet Kate Bolkin, an arborist focused on urban conservation and the importance of protecting plant life for wildlife. As a community arborist, she educates, plans tree projects, and envisions a future with stronger tree protection measures and individual environmental advocacy.
“I realized that the best way to protect animals is to protect their habitat, and that starts with botany and plant life and sustainable ecosystems.” ~Kate Bolkin
4. Urban Farmer
- Responsibilities: Cultivate crops and raise animals within city limits, promoting local food production. Manage small urban farms and community gardens.
- Skills: Horticulture expertise, knowledge of urban agriculture practices, community engagement, and marketing skills.
- Notable Contributor: Meet Stacey Givens, a leading urban farmer, who is dedicated to combating food inequity in urban areas by transforming vacant city lots into thriving green spaces and championing locally sourced, sustainable produce.
“You’re surrounded by plants, flowers, nature. It feels really soothing to be out here.” ~Stacey Givens
5. Nuclear Engineer
- Responsibilities: Design and operate nuclear systems, ensuring safety and efficiency. Focus on nuclear power generation, radiation protection, and waste management.
- Skills: Nuclear engineering background, safety protocols, problem solving, and regulatory compliance.
- Notable Contributor: Heather Hoff, transformed by her time in the Diablo Canyon control room, has emerged as a passionate advocate for clean energy and reducing the carbon footprint through nuclear power.
“I started feeling proud to help make such a huge quantity of clean electricity on a really small land footprint. Nuclear power actually is in really good alignment with my environmental and humanitarian values.” ~Heather Hoff
6. Environmental Health Expert
- Responsibilities: Evaluate environmental risks, assess public health impact, and develop strategies to mitigate health hazards. Monitor air and water quality.
- Skills: Public health expertise, data analysis, risk assessment, and communication skills.
- Notable Contributor: Meet Judith C. Chow, a scientist who has made significant contributions to the field of atmospheric chemistry and air quality monitoring, advancing our understanding of environmental impacts on public health.
7. Sustainability Expert/Officer
- Responsibilities: Develop and implement sustainability strategies within organizations, reducing environmental impact and promoting corporate responsibility.
- Skills: Sustainability knowledge, change management, data analysis, and stakeholder engagement.
- Notable Contributor: Meet Christiana Figueres, a distinguished climate leader and former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Christiana has been at the forefront of global efforts to combat climate change and forge international agreements for a sustainable future.
“For change to become transformational, our change in mindset must manifest in our actions. The planet will survive, in changed form, no doubt, but it will survive. The question is whether we will be here to witness it.” ~Christiana Figueres
8. Environmental Engineer
- Responsibilities: Address environmental challenges, such as pollution and waste management. Design and oversee projects to minimize environmental impact.
- Skills: Engineering background, environmental regulations knowledge, problem-solving skills, and project management skills.
- Notable Contributor: Meet husband-wife duo David Hertz and Laura Doss-Hertz who have revolutionized the way we think about water supply, developing a groundbreaking technology capable of producing clean water from the air, an achievement recognized with a $1.5 million XPRIZE award.
“There’s no restrictions whatsoever on how [the prize money is] used, but Laura and I have committed to using it all for the development and deployment of these machines, to get them to people who need the water most.” ~David Hertz
9. Landscape Architect
- Responsibilities: Plan and design outdoor spaces that are aesthetically pleasing, functional, and sustainable. Focus on integrating natural elements into urban areas.
- Skills: Landscape architecture expertise, design software proficiency, ecological knowledge, and creativity.
- Notable Contributor: Meet landscape architect Erin Kelly, ASLA who is on a mission in Detroit to unlock the potential of vacant urban lands for carbon sequestration and connect them to the expanding global offset marketplace, aiming to enhance the quality and community impact of offset projects.
“There’s so much opportunity to improve, not just environmental, but social outcomes because of the people’s adjacency with some of this land.” ~Erin Kelly
10. Food Scientist
- Responsibilities: Research and develop sustainable food production methods. Innovate in creating healthy and environmentally conscious food products.
- Skills: Food science background, research and development skills, knowledge of sustainable agriculture, and food safety expertise.
- Notable Contributor: Meet Maria Andrade, a dedicated agricultural scientist and recipient of the World Food Prize. Andrade has made groundbreaking contributions to food security by developing nutrient-rich, drought-tolerant sweet potatoes, positively impacting millions across the globe.
“Initiatives like Food Forever are helping tackle food insecurity and malnutrition in Africa. Protecting crops allows us to breed new varieties to meet the needs of local populations. I have worked in Mozambique to fortify sweet potatoes and make sure that children there get all the vitamins they need to grow healthy and thrive.” ~Maria Andrade
As we celebrate National Career Development Month, let’s remember that the key to educating the eco-conscious leaders of tomorrow starts with climate education. By empowering our students with knowledge and inspiring them with real-life success stories, we pave the way for a greener, more sustainable future.
At One Step, we’re dedicated to providing educators with the resources and support they need to guide students on their journey to these green careers, ensuring a better tomorrow for all.
Spark Student Climate Consciousness with One Step
Empower students to reduce their carbon footprint with One Step, a project-based climate program for grades 4–12 that aligns with educational standards. Our interactive, video lessons and hands-on activities guide students to tackle climate topics, minimize emissions, promote sustainability, and make eco-conscious choices throughout the year.
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