Danielle Cullen, Correspondent for TechnicianOnline
America’s “green jobs sector” is on the rise, according to a report from Environmental Entrepreneurs. The environmental group released a study earlier this month, which reported nearly 40,000 new green jobs created during the second quarter of 2013.
A green worker is usually employed in the energy industry and seeks to help lessen the human impact on the environment. A student seeking to work in the green jobs sector may study human impact on the environment and “greener,” more efficient ways of living. This includes everything from more energy-efficient homes to more sustainable ways to keep us safe.
Lynn Albers, a postdoctoral student in mechanical engineering, said that N.C. State offers courses to help students prepare for joining the green jobs sector. Senior-level electives include Energy Conservation and Industry Design of Solar Thermal Systems. Environmental studies graduates usually end up working for organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency or exploring a career in environmental law.
“Green sector jobs are offered in sustainability, energy efficiency, renewable energy development, energy storage and energy transportation,” Albers said.
Andrew Birch, a graduate student in hydrology, said green jobs are more than just an idealistic sentiment and that they are vital in today’s world. His research focuses on chemical and pesticide use in trees and agriculture, answering questions such as “Are products safe enough for use?” or “Is it okay to apply chemicals?”
“From a sustainability standpoint people are starting to realize how profitable it is to pay attention to the environment,” Birch said.
Birch said that he decided on a career in hydrology for various reasons.
“I grew up outside, [there’s] limited deskwork,” Birch said. “There’s the political and social side, like finding ways for people to understand topics like climate change.”
Birch also said the green job sector has a fun side.
“There’s some very cool research going on in the field,” Birch said.
For example, scientists at the University of California Irvine are currently conducting a study on reflectin, a protein produced by pencil squid, which enables them to change color and reflect light. Scientists hope to replicate reflectin’s properties to make military camouflage invisible to infrared rays.
Albers said it’s important to also demonstrate the importance of green jobs to younger students. N.C. State hosts Family STEM nights to encourage interest in elementary and middle school student through hands-on activities that teach science.
“[The goal] is to remove the fear factor of learning these disciplines,” Albers said. “It’s also to help the parents teach the materials to their children so they can succeed in school.”
That success in school should translate to real world success after college. Bryan Maxwell, a graduate student in environmental engineering said N.C. State graduates work for a variety of green jobs.
“Graduates [in Environmental Engineering] work for John Deere, the EPA and we had one [graduate] who was the Prime Minister of Irrigation and Drainage in Egypt,” Maxwell said.
Maxwell said green jobs will combine all disciplines to help remediate our impact on the world.
“You are getting to use the principals of engineering, math, and science to … turn back the hourglass of people’s impact on the world,” Maxwell said.