There is no standard definition of what constitutes a “green” job. At the national level, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently released what it considers to be a final definition of green jobs based upon public comments solicited during a six-month period, March to September 2010. According to this definition, “green jobs are either: (1) jobs in businesses that produce goods or provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources, or (2) jobs in which workers’ duties involve making their establishment’s production processes more environmentally friendly or use fewer natural resources.” The BLS will apply this definition for data collection beginning in FY 2011.
We define five core areas as green:
Generate clean, renewable, sustainable energy
Reduce pollution and waste; conserve natural resources; recycle
Educational, training and support of a green workforce
Natural, environmental-friendly production
Meanwhile, many states have already completed or are currently undertaking surveys to measure green jobs and related economicactivity. Policy direction and objectives specific to each state ultimately determine the scope of what is considered green, but the Workforce Information Council (WIC), a consortium of state and federal statistical agencies, has proposed its own working definition: “A green job is one in which the work is essential to products or services that improve energy efficiency, expand the use of renewable energy, or support environmental sustainability.”
In designing this survey and conducting its analyses, the DLIR sought a definition that was neither overly specific to be exclusionary nor so broad as to make it not useful. Given the nascence in data collection related to this area of the economy, and a recognition that an understanding of green jobs is in many ways shaped by the results of an initial assessment, we chose to supplement a broad definition with a vetting procedure. This approach provided a framework for the design of a robust scientific survey instrument and sampling procedure.
For the purposes of this report, we consider a green job to be one that engages in economic activity that makes a positive impact on the environment or energy sustainability, either on a full- or part-time basis.
Generate Clean, Renewable, Sustainable Energy refers to jobs in research, development, production, storage and distribution, and maintenance of energy (electricity and fuel) from renewable resources such as solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, ocean, and biofuels. Clean energy must have a positive net energy yield, relatively reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and be produced and distributed in a sustainable and safe manner.
Reduce Pollution and Waste refers to the prevention and control of commercial, transportation and industrial emissions and pollution; environmental cleanup; water treatment; and waste product management and treatment. Conserve natural resources refers to managing water and other finite resources more effectively. This includes land management, sustainable forestry and wildlife conservation. Recycling refers to re-use of materials in the production process. This area includes companies that collect aluminum, paper, glass, and other recyclable materials.
Energy Efficiency refers to reducing the amount of energy used to produce a unit of output. These jobs refer to the production, construction and installation of energy-efficient products, such as Energy Star appliances and more efficient lighting. This category also includes jobs related to bicycles and public transportation, and energy-efficiency services such as retrofitting and weatherization of buildings.
Education, Training and Support of Green Workforce refers to the provision of services to the other four green areas. This category includes activities to increase public awareness of environmental issues, activities to develop and enforce environmental regulations, and the provision of training in green technologies and practices to develop Hawai‘i’s green workforce.
Natural, Sustainable, Environmentally-Friendly Production refers to practices that reduce the environmental impact resulting from the production of any good or service. Included are alternative methods for production, and products that require less energy, emit fewer greenhouse gases or otherwise reduce impact on the environment. Examples are net-zero energy buildings that use solar panels or photovoltaic cells, and businesses that generate energy from recycling waste created during a manufacturing process.
Support staff positions are included as green jobs only when a business is 100 percent green. When a job containing green responsibilities is performed on a part-time basis, it is considered green whenever that responsibility occurs on a recurring basis. This recognizes that many green functions may be of a secondary or tertiary nature.
Broadly considered, a distinction is made between jobs that are simply performed outdoors or with nature and those that significantly contribute to environmental protection or preservation. For example, professions such as groundskeepers, landscapers and tree trimmers are considered green only if a portion of their regular responsibilities is ostensibly green, such as composting. Lawn maintenance and soil tilling alone would not suffice. Alternatively, a pest-control technician who provides a green alternative using organic or bio-friendly chemicals would be considered green.
Other examples of green jobs include: (1) in manufacturing, a chemist who produces environmentally-sound packaging, equipment and cleaning products that are less caustic than traditional products; (2) in construction, a worker who produces or installs green building materials such as alternative cement and manufactured wood products made from scraps, or a consultant who provides green building design and construction services; (3) in agriculture, a technician who installs smart irrigation systems, a farmer who uses organic and sustainable methods, or a biologist who researches alternative pest control methods; and (4) in materials, a product designer or engineer who develops biodegradable products, or a chemical engineer who researches a new chemical catalyst to decompose waste and reduce toxins naturally.
Green practices are not equivalent to green jobs. While green practice data was collected in the Survey, it is reported separately and includes responses from all worksites, regardless of whether a green job is reported.
For example, worksites that use recycled toner cartridges and paper, or food service establishments that recycle cans and bottles, are practitioners of green practices but do not fit the definition of green jobs unless they fulfill one of the five core areas noted above. Moreover, if an economic activity is known to be environmentally harmful, then any job associated directly with it would not be classified as green.