Giving Thanks for Green Jobs


The CLF Team.

This holiday season, what do many Americans have to be thankful for? In tough times, one answer that will be heard around more holidays tables is: “Jobs. Green Jobs.” At least, that’s my answer.

Yesterday was my first day as Conservation Law Foundation’s Senior Communications Manager. I feel fortunate to work for CLF, not simply due to this organization’s impressive history, or due to the great respect I have for all of my coworkers (pictured above). While unemployment remains stubbornly high, and job-creating clean energy programs are coming under attack, American workers face a difficult road. To have a job now is to be fortunate, to have one that works to build a vibrant future is to be blessed.

And so this Thanksgiving, I plan to give thanks for my job: one I believe in, and one I share with dedicated people. But I wonder: How many Americans can join me in giving such thanks? The answer depends upon how you decide to count.

Take the term “green jobs.” The definition of what precisely constitutes a “green job” can quickly become hard to constrain, as this Time story from 2008 argues. Phil Angelides, then Chair of the Apollo Alliance, defined a green job this way: “It has to pay decent wages and benefits that can support a family. It has to be part of a real career path, with upward mobility. And it needs to reduce waste and pollution and benefit the environment.”

What about the clean economy? According to a recent report by The Brookings Institution, in 2011 the clean economy employs some 2.7 million workers. You’ll also see that these jobs are growing – in some segments, explosively. Sectors such as wind energy, solar PV and smart grid grew at a “torrid pace.” As Bob Deans over on NRDC’s Switchboard said so well, “green jobs are growing strong in a weak economy, supporting nearly 3 million American families in hard times.”

However, if you look at their methodology, you’ll see Brookings is only talking about the “clean production economy.” There are more people working to put America on a path to a thriving, sustainable future than those producing goods and services. There are people – like those of us at CLF – working in environmental advocacy. There are environmental journalists and photographers. There are scientists, consultants, fishermen, and investors. And there are many, many others.

I tried to find an answer, a number, to describe just how many Americans work in green jobs. I wondered: who else depends on a thriving environment for their future livelihood?

The answer is simple: all of us. The environment is not an economic sector any more than air is a private commodity. Those who work in green jobs share a mission to create a more sustainable future — a future that we all share.

And so, this Thanksgiving I plan to give thanks – thanks to my colleagues at CLF, to my friends at organizations like NRDC, Patagonia, BluSkye, and others.  I plan to give thanks to the 2.7 million workers in the clean production economy. May that number continue to rise.

If you can, email me the names of organizations, jobs or people to whom you give thanks to for helping to create a more sustainable future. I’ll compile your answers into a future post.

In the meantime, from both myself and all of us here at CLF, have a happy, sustaining Thanksgiving.

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