The 10 most promising green jobs of the future
Ecological engineers are working for us: an army of professionals who have taken care of the environment for their mission. Find out which are the eco-friendly professions that will slap the crisis.
They fight water pollution, work to guarantee cleaner air, give a second life to our waste, and invest money and creativity in cutting-edge production processes that respect the environment. They have contagious talent and energy: we are talking about the professionals who have made their mission eco-sustainability. Eco-chefs, “green” designers, engineers of hybrid cars, experts in wind and photovoltaic plants, defenders of our green lungs, recycling masters: keep an eye on them because they could be the ones to challenge the crisis.
In an economic phase dominated by the recession, new jobs linked to the reuse of materials, waste cutting and renewable energy are creating jobs. According to the last report of the International Labor Organization on “green” jobs, released at the beginning of June, the transition from the oil era to a green economy could generate from 15 to 60 million new jobs in the arc of the next twenty years. In the following pages, a selection of the 10 most promising environmentally friendly professions, from those born recently to the traditional ones but reinvented in a green key, with some advice on the training required to access them.
Up to 10,000 new hires in the coming years: a good incentive to push future engineers to specialize in the green construction sector. While the search for eco-sustainable solutions within houses and buildings under construction is spreading, the demand for professionals who know how to combine energy efficiency with pleasing aesthetic solutions is also growing. Do you want to install solar panels on the roof? The designer of photovoltaic systems will be able to integrate them to the best view and to the existing architecture. Does this new business district want to reduce energy waste? Better to call a specialist in energy planning management, who will tell where to cut and which plants to convert; and to design the insulation of a building, you naturally need a specialized engineer.
The environment engineering degree remains the most sought after degree from green building companies, but even architecture and design professionals can find an active and booming market in this field. After graduation, a good idea is to attend a master’s degree for energy consultants, in bio-architecture or in bio-building and energy saving, based on the specialization that you intend to pursue. The most enterprising ones can open an associated study of low-consumption buildings and energy requalification and work on their own, even if the assumptions in this field are not lacking. According to estimates by the CNI Study Center (National Council of Engineers), by 2020 more than 20% of engineering graduates could find space in green building.
Those who have a passion for chemistry and love spending time outdoors have the stuff to work in environmental monitoring. In particular, there is a growing need for these figures in the water control sector. The reckless exploitation of rivers, coasts and lakes is putting a strain on the aquatic ecosystem, one in five river water samples is of poor or poor quality, and a quarter of the groundwater is contaminated, in particular by nitrates, substances present in fertilizers.
NEITHER BLUE NOR CLEAR
It is estimated that in the Mediterranean, due to accidents, discharges and cleaning of tanks in the open sea end up 100-150 thousand tons of hydrocarbons every year.
Discovering which pollutants are dissolved in the seas and watercourses is the main task of the water monitoring technician. “The work includes a part of the operations to be carried out in the field and a second part in the laboratory,” explain the experts from the Marine Environment Quality Monitoring Department.
An environmental technician must know the main sampling and storage techniques of the samples, which vary according to the type of analysis to be performed. Once in the laboratory, the samples must be treated appropriately before being processed according to chemical or biological analytical techniques, to detect the presence of pollutants and any toxicity.
Do not miss the data processing phase: Last, but not least, are the treatment and presentation of the results in a correct way in order to determine the quality of the monitored waters. The overall assessment is done with the help of expert personnel, both on the basis of existing regulations and the industry bibliography.
A degree in biology, environmental science or chemistry will be for you, but also a technical-scientific secondary school diploma, followed by a period of internship in research institutes on environmental monitoring is an appropriate preparation. You can therefore work in natural parks, private laboratories, or in the REPA (Regional Environmental Protection Agencies), which can be accessed by public competition.
If the woods are your natural habitat and you want to contribute to keeping them healthy, you could find employment in the protection of the forest heritage or in the related industries. Until the 60’s and 70’s, working in this field meant joining the State Forestry Corps, being hired in the wood industry or in the forest plumbing sector (i.e. working, for example, to stabilize landslides, in the maintenance of irrigation canals or in avalanche protection).
Today those who study forestry are mainly used in the certification of the efficient use of wood masses, in the management of certified forests (i.e. managed in an environmentally sustainable way) and wood and cork work. But not only that: “Graduates in forestry disciplines increasingly find employment in” emerging “sectors such as biodiversity conservation, eco-engineering (environmental restoration, combating desertification, green building), urban green, biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry, spatial planning and architecture of the landscape, ecotourism and enhancement of typical products explains Professor Bartolomeo Schirone, of the Department of Agriculture, Forests, Nature and Energy of the University of Tuscia (Viterbo).
12 billion trees cover a third of the territory. A heritage of over 10 million and 400 thousand hectares of land, which has grown by 19% over the last 5 years and constitutes a gigantic green lung.
According to the Alma Laurea data, 70% of forestry graduates find work within three years of the end of the University. “In any case, next to the usual job search at companies and public and private institutions, I would advise young graduates to try the path of free profession, perhaps through the formula of associated studies,” continues Schirone. And during the course of study “do not neglect history and geography, because ecosystems change over time and space, and spend at least six months abroad, where the demand for forest specialists – for example in Sweden – is still very high.”
Duty as a good citizen, but not only. The recovery of reusable materials is becoming, for more and more people, a real profession. And we are not talking about the precious and irreplaceable work of the ecological operators (which are also the first link in this chain) but of municipal companies, public and private companies engaged in collecting the bulky waste and the garbage collected in the various bins in supervised areas and prepared, in which the materials are sorted and prepared to be sent to national supply chain consortia. A business that is worthwhile, and not only in environmental terms: according to a study.
ON THE PODIUM
Would you like to work in this area? You do not need a specific degree, but a good technical training is useful: for example a diploma in an industrial technical institute, followed by a training course at regional level to learn how to distinguish and treat the different types of waste and know the characteristics of the territory in which it will operate. A skilled recycler knows how to use the machinery necessary for the collection and storage of materials, respects the rules for safety and hygiene, is expert in the techniques of transport of various types of waste and knows the precautions to be taken in the treatment of dangerous ones.
Being a growing field there is, for those who want, the space to start a small independent activity. The most enterprising can in fact open an ecological station, an urban area equipped for the collection of urban waste. There are really every type, from the traditional ones, delimited spaces divided by type of waste, to the most innovative ones traveling solar-powered station with solar panels passing by quarter, on pre-established days. Or like the computerized ecological stations present in many minor municipalities, which recognize the user thanks to a nominal card and register the effectively separated waste by providing discounts on the Environmental Hygiene Tariff bill for the following year.
A renewed “green” look can help to relaunch traditional crafts, opening the doors to customers who pay more attention to environmental issues. In the future, for example, the restaurants run by eco-chefs will be more and more, kitchen professionals who prepare only seasonal, organic and zero-kilometer products, use little energy for cooking, better if coming from clean sources, they ban waste and launch crusades against artificial preservatives. If you want to become an eco-friendly chef, after the hotel institute you will have to specialize with a master’s degree on local or organic productions, and acquire a good deal of experience in the field, perhaps enriched with some work abroad.
From the stoves to the scissors, those of the eco-hairdressers: for colors and restructuring packs use only products of natural derivation, without sulphates, they provide the spigot valves to reduce water consumption, increase the collection, turn off the unused plates and buy the hair dryer of class A +, which limit energy waste and CO2 emissions. A necessary effort: according to the Kyoto Club environmental organization, the work of the 150 thousand hairdressers would entail the emission of 800 thousand tons of carbon dioxide: that emitted every year by 200 thousand cars that cover 30 thousand kilometers. Also in this case the road passes through a training course; but the salons already underway can turn to environmental energy consulting companies that monitor consumption and suggest strategies to reduce them.
Fashion is one of the sectors in which the green revolution is giving the most creative and encouraging results: from fibers made from waste materials (such as from rancid milk) to red carpet dresses made from recycled plastic bottles, from T-shirts compostable until the rethinking of the most polluting production chains (see that of jeans), an eye on the environment is now a must for those who fill our closets. In this case, after a good school for stylists, the specialization in “green” trends is acquired in the field. Maybe by joining a circuit for emerging stylists who make artisanal garments and make their own peculiarities with recycled materials.
More and more compatriots choose, for the long-awaited holidays, solutions that combine entertainment and attention to the environment. Use of public transport, accommodation and transport with reduced environmental impact, research of uncontaminated places and not affected by tourist villages, respect for local populations and their economy are the guiding principles of a sector that involves more and more operators and agencies.
Tourists also responsible for the sea: for a summer environmentally friendly a simple handbook to make beach life without damaging the ecosystem.
Here are also the master proposals of universities on the subject: after a degree in Tourism Sciences (or related courses) and a specialization in agent for responsible tourism, you can contact the cooperatives operating in the sector, as well as the traditional agencies tourists, who, to adapt to the demands of the market, are increasingly looking for figures of this kind to dedicate part of their proposals to this slice of responsible travelers. To recognize which operators are able to offer “green” holidays – and therefore also a job for potential agents – it is necessary to check if the branch is in possession of the CSR Tourism stamp, a certification active in since last year that guarantees transparency and reliability to customers who want to make this choice.
In order to work in the field of photovoltaics, engineering degrees seem to be the most suitable, as well as postgraduate masters in the field of renewable energy can be useful. This type of training can prepare, for example, future designers of photovoltaic systems for public and private buildings, engineers and specialized architects who can correctly direct the work of installers.
Anyone wishing to opt for a more technical job and learn how to install photovoltaic panels is good that starts from a preparation as an electrician or expert (in fact, an electrician enabled to connect the photovoltaic system to the electricity grid), and then continue with a training course in accredited bodies or regions. A good installer must know how to mount the photovoltaic panels and provide for their maintenance, as well as know the technical standards of the facilities and the legislation on incentives: among the useful sites to find information and find courses.
For those who were born with the soul of commerce there is the possibility of becoming a dealer of photovoltaic systems: a trader who works on his own and replenishes himself with material to be resold to companies or individuals. The knowledge (on the incentives of the Energy Account and on the procedures for requesting the authorization for the installation of panels) is acquired during courses organized by trade associations, regions or private individuals. The novice retailers can rely on a franchise network, which guarantees the right assistance to start the business.
If in the field of wind energy potential prospects are very promising – in 2011 the wind power installed in the world grew by 21%, with in third place for installed power – it is good to remember that in our country the sector it is going through a period of difficulty attributable, according to some operators, also to the contents of the new ministerial decree on electric renewables, which will come into force in January 2013.
The provision, which provides for access to state incentives upon registration in appropriate registers or through auctions, depending on the power of each plant, should allow to achieve the targets on renewable energy through a fairer incentive system and virtuous economic growth. But according to most of the insiders the new decree burdens the bureaucracy making it more difficult to access the facilities and slowing the development of the market. For ANEV (National Wind Energy Association) 34 thousand jobs are at risk.
To contribute to the creative phase of these means of transport requires a mechanical engineering degree, with specialization on vehicles and in particular in hybrid systems. From here, in addition to the path of research at the university, it opens the possibility of starting to collaborate with the major car manufacturers that are experimenting with new forms of eco-sustainable transport.
The second-generation bioethanol is a sector in which our country has a good chance of excelling at the patent level. It is indeed necessary to find truly innovative solutions that allow the use of green biomass without taking valuable agricultural land away from food crops and without favoring deforestation. For these reasons, the research world is still the protagonist of this productive sector.
The road to research is expected to heal in the future, and the premises are promising, an important conflict concerning biofuels. On the one hand, in fact, stand out the targets that ask to reach 10% of renewable sources in the transport sector by 2020. On the other hand there are the problems related to the deforestation of the areas to be used for the intensive biomass crops and the exploitation of lands otherwise dedicated to food production (especially agricultural land in developing countries). Factors for which first-generation biofuels are accused by many NGOs and environmental organizations to aggravate the already precarious food situation of the third world.