What's A Green Collar Job?

11/23/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Ben Jervey GOOD

Most blue- and white- collar jobs won't suddenly morph into "green-collar" ones. Many will be entirely new occupations--say, a wind turbine technician or a green roof landscaper. Others exist in expanding fields that could soon fall under the "green-collar" umbrella--like bus drivers or mass transit maintenance workers. But many more still will grow out of existing professions that require new skills specific to the growing clean, green economy: a construction worker newly trained in energy efficiency and insulation, an electrician who can install photovoltaics, a farmer converting his crop to organic, an auto-technician building plug-in hybrids, or an engineer programming a smart electrical grid.

To add another wrinkle, more and more advocates are emphasizing that in order to be considered "green-collar" (and not merely "green") a job must be good for the worker, and also for the environment. This is the cause currently championed by industry, labor and environmental crossover groups like the Apollo Alliance. Phil Angelides, the Alliance's chair, offered these specs: "It has to pay decent wages and benefits that can support a family. It has to be part of a real career path, with upward mobility. And it needs to reduce waste and pollution and benefit the environment." Thus, a necessary qualification is that a "green collar" job be, in essence, a good job; it's not enough for a job to simply benefit the planet. A solar panel sweatshop or a temp gig pushing papers for a biofuels startup just won't cut it.