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The best jobs for Earth Day enthusiasts

Green jobs

Green jobs Credit: Green jobs

Earth Day, nestled between the start of spring and graduation, is the perfect time for aspiring environmentalists to consider a career in the green industry.

If you’re passionate or curious about environmental issues, there’s a slew of jobs available in New York City’s green market — a sector that is expanding.

As technology and energy efficiency become more lucrative, the city’s green industry seems to be following suit, Chris Schlottmann, associate director of environmental studies at New York University, said.

More than one-fourth of private firms in the city surveyed in 2010 offered green jobs, according to the state Department of Labor. Nearly 30% of those firms believed their green employment would increase.

“NYC is a major economic and creative center, which includes environmental professionals” Schlottmann said.

The four private sector industries with the biggest green component in the city are construction, building services, component manufacturing and professional services.

But within those, there numerous career trajectories you could follow, said Amy Norquist, CEO and founder of Greensulate, which designs and engineers green roofs in New York and parts of California.

“The niches are varied,” she said.

Norquist said passion for environmental issues helps in the job hunt, but any business experience can prepare you for working at an environmentally-conscious for-profit company.

Karyn Barsa, who got her start at an investment bank based in NYC, is now CEO of Coyuchi, an eco-friendly home goods company in California. Though maintaining business and mission is tough, Barsa said working somewhere with a “mission” is more worthwhile.

“There’s absolutely nothing more compelling,” she said.

Some of the city’s green industry growth can be attributed to increased government grants, particularly for green roofs, Norquist said.

“The Bloomberg administration has also been especially interested in environmental initiatives,” Schlotman added, referring to PlaNYC, the city’s decade-long agenda to build a “greener, greater New York.”

There are a lot of green jobs with the city for those who care about the environment, said Ian McHugh, who works as an environmental engineer at a Queens wastewater treatment plant for the Department of Environmental Protection.

“I’m not a tree-hugger, but I’m conscious of the environment,” he said. But, he advised, “I would definitely say it would help to have some background in environmental studies to work for the the DEP.”

Many of the nation’s biggest non-profit environmental groups also operate out of the city.
Environmental Defense, the National Audubon Society and the National Resources Defence Council have offices in Manhattan, with the Wildlife Conservation Society running out of the Bronx Zoo. All offer internships (some paid) for the environmental novice or scholar.

Internships are a great way to see what type of role you’d want at a nonprofit, Schlottmann said, adding seasoned professionals can give back, too.
“They can do pro-bono with a non-profit,” he said.

Norquist got her start at nonprofits like Earthjustice and the Beacon Institute.

“It’s a great career and tends to be pretty stable,” she said. “Especially for folks new to the workforce who are figuring out what trajectory they want to take.”

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