By Wes Muir, Director, Communications, Waste Management
When it comes to U.S. employment, these are unprecedented times for today’s working generation. With the economy in its current state of slump, finding jobs has become an ever-challenging endeavor. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the unemployment rate across the nation just reached a staggering 9.4 percent in July 2009, making the job environment the bleakest since 1983.
But amid all of the downturn, there is one sector that continues to witness job growth: clean energy.
The global environment industry has been described by the Environmental Business Journal as growing steadily since 1970 when it was valued at approximately US$40 billion per year. The U.S. is considered the world’s largest market for environmental technologies, estimated at about US$300 billion per year. Recent growth projections in the U.S. markets has been greater then 5% annually, outpacing overall economic growth.
Pew Charitable Trusts recently determined that the clean energy job sector has grown considerably over the past few decades. In fact, “between 1998 and 2007, clean energy economy jobs—a mix of white and blue-collar positions, from scientists and engineers to electricians, machinists and teachers—grew by 9.1 percent, while total jobs grew by only 3.7 percent.” In today’s economy, these numbers are nearly hard to grasp.
Other reports from think tank heavyweights, including Center for American Progress and Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) have declared their support in recent weeks of Pew’s findings. Both studies assert that the $150 billion investment in clean energy, set aside by the Obama administration, “could create a net increase of 1.7 million American jobs and significantly lower the national unemployment rate.” This clearly indicates that the clean energy sector is lucrative and ripe for new talent.
To further these efforts, former Congresswoman Hilda Solis pushed this policy forward via the Green Jobs Act, which later became a part of the CLEAN Energy Act of 2007. This legislation invested in the creation of employee training programs for a variety of green sector industries including “energy efficient building, construction and retrofits, renewable electric power, energy efficient vehicles, biofuels, and manufacturing that produces sustainable products and uses sustainable processes and materials.”
And the waste management industry is welcoming these efforts. As we continue to evolve new ways to handle waste, it is the green collar jobs that are bringing this change. Putting sustainable solutions at the forefront of our focus, we’re working to expand our environmental solutions for some of today’s leading waste challenges. It is this green collar workforce that is playing a key role in greening the world of waste management, including employees in the areas of landfill gas to energy, waste-to-energy, recycling as well as partnering with customers on initiatives and projects to recover materials in their waste stream that can be repurposed into other products.
Uniting together, policy makers, companies and environmentalists are working together to find new ways to decrease the industrial environmental footprint in years to come. With the health of environment as the center of these efforts, the impact on the nation’s job market is a helpful byproduct of these efforts. In turn, today’s workforce is not only helping the environment by producing energy-efficient solutions, but also improving and expanding its workforce. Thus, green jobs are not only helping the environment – they’re also allowing more people to go to work each day to help make a difference.