Could the path to a more sustainable world involve the creation of as many as 20 million jobs?

This is the claim from prominent politicians like U.S. President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders, who strive to revolutionize the national use of energy and resources. The economy is suffering from both the climate crises and the coronavirus pandemic. Therefore, job growth opportunities and clean energy are much needed. To get there, however, we must build a path to sustainable work that begins with education. 

From the classroom to the workplace, sustainability should be a primary focus of the modern era. Here’s how we get there.

Educating for the Future

Sustainability starts with education. This means comprehensive climate studies taught in schools early on, all the way up to environmentally-forward degree options at a university level. Many programs and degrees like this already exist. However, a sustainable future depends on widespread funding and recognition of the importance of a green education.

Green Classrooms is one such program. Offered for free to elementary students and teachers, this program is a resource for educating students and teachers on waste prevention, water conservation, and energy efficiency. In addition, Green Classrooms provide resources for active learning at every grade level and are getting thousands of students engaged with conservation efforts through sustainability education. 

For example, the simple knowledge that the U.S. uses 65 billion sheets of paper every day can give students a better awareness of the importance of sustainability efforts. Moreover, this will pave the way for a dedicated generation to emerge, ready to make necessary changes to unsustainable business practices. 

The university level is the next step, where environmental degrees are gaining traction and influence. 

Green Degrees and Sustainable Careers

Achieving worldwide sustainability requires highly educated professionals able to innovate within their fields. Green degrees make this possible and are creating opportunities for professions like sustainability consultants. Such a position can build value for both the consultant and the business through cost-cutting, energy-saving practices.

But beginning a career in sustainable work often requires a post-secondary education. Universities are increasingly recognizing the value and necessity of these careers and are building green degree options to accommodate the need. With these new credentials on the market, sustainability consulting is becoming more popular. With this new career, and many others like it, comes the need to properly assess the worth of the advice given during consultations. Depending on your credentials, your expertise may be worth retainer fees and not just hourly rates.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that environmental science positions will grow 11% by 2026, with urban planning and environmental engineering rising by 13%. Answering the call of this growth, it is now possible to invest in a sustainable career through a variety of green degree options. These include:

  • Conservation Science
  • Agricultural Engineering
  • Environmental Science
  • Urban Planning
  • Environmental Engineering

With sufficient training in any of these sustainable career paths, professionals can begin the process of making businesses more sustainable. This is relevant in almost every industry and is increasingly recognized as a need both for customer retention and the security of supply chains and business opportunities.

In the beauty industry, for example, approximately 80% of customers express that sustainability is important to them. In answer, cosmetics companies are focusing on banning toxic ingredients, using recycled packaging, and embracing eco-friendly manufacturing. Therefore, this means an increase in demand for sustainability experts and a cleaner world for all of us. 

The Path to Sustainable Work

The nature of work is becoming increasingly sustainable as more and more industries turn to green practices like telecommuting. Making a true difference in global sustainability efforts, however, will require educating up-and-coming generations on the necessity of these efforts. Fortunately, we are already seeing an increase in the prevalence of such an education, from the elementary to the college level.

Finally, as more businesses and academic institutions recognize the value and importance of sustainability efforts, we can begin to build a better, cleaner future in which all work is sustainable work. In the meantime, supporting sustainability efforts in education and the workplace will help secure this future.

Author: Noah Rue