What Makes a Job Green?

It isn't easy being green, Kermit the Frog famously sang, but at least it is now clarified. The Bureau of Labor Statistics published its final definition Sept. 21 of "green jobs" that it will use to measure their numbers, helping federal and state policymakers determine their success at fostering these industries. Associations (44 comments), state workforce agencies (22), private employers (20), state and local governments (14), unions (16), academic or research organizations (9), and federal agencies (8) submitted suggestions when BLS asked for comments in March 2010, and now BLS has decided which to accept and which to reject.

Road construction and environmental health didn't make the cut, but reuse of building materials and composting did. BLS excluded the preparation and sale of organic food and also distribution of green goods from the definition. Are nuclear power jobs inherently green? What about everyone who works for a public transit agency? BLS weighed those suggestions and many others, including whether to include jobs at solid waste landfills, incineration, waste-to-energy, or landfill-to-energy activities as green activities (yes) and whether timber tract operations are green because they meet sustainable forestry standards (yes).

Here is the final definition BLS will use in two planned surveys, followed by the text of explanatory details from today's publication:

Green jobs are either:

A. Jobs in businesses that produce goods or provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources.

B. Jobs in which workers' duties involve making their establishment's production processes more environmentally friendly or use fewer natural resources.

Green goods and services jobs, category A, are in one or more of five groups:

1. Energy from renewable sources. Electricity, heat, or fuel generated from renewable sources. These energy sources include wind, biomass, geothermal, solar, ocean, hydropower, landfill gas, and municipal solid waste.

2. Energy efficiency. Products and services that improve energy efficiency. Included in this group are energy-efficient equipment, appliances, buildings, and vehicles, as well as products and services that improve the energy efficiency of buildings and the efficiency of energy storage and distribution, such as Smart Grid technologies.

3. Pollution reduction and removal, greenhouse gas reduction, and recycling and reuse. These are products and services that:

  • Reduce or eliminate the creation or release of pollutants or toxic compounds, or remove pollutants or hazardous waste from the environment.
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions through methods other than renewable energy generation and energy efficiency, such as electricity generated from nuclear sources.
  • Reduce or eliminate the creation of waste materials; collect, reuse, remanufacture, recycle, or compost waste materials or wastewater.

4. Natural resources conservation. Products and services that conserve natural resources. Included in this group are products and services related to organic agriculture and sustainable forestry; land management; soil, water, or wildlife conservation; and stormwater management.

5. Environmental compliance, education and training, and public awareness. These are products and services that:

  • Enforce environmental regulations.
  • Provide education and training related to green technologies and practices.
  • Increase public awareness of environmental issues.

Jobs making production processes more environmentally friendly or using fewer natural resources, category B, are in one of these four groups:

1. Energy from renewable sources. Generating electricity, heat, or fuel from renewable sources primarily for use within the establishment. These energy sources include wind, biomass, geothermal, solar, ocean, hydropower, landfill gas, and municipal solid waste.

2. Energy efficiency. Using technologies and practices to improve energy efficiency within the establishment. Included in this group is cogeneration (combined heat and power).

3. Pollution reduction and removal, greenhouse gas reduction, and recycling and reuse. Using technologies and practices within the establishment to:

  • Reduce or eliminate the creation or release of pollutants or toxic compounds, or remove pollutants or hazardous waste from the environment.
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions through methods other than renewable energy generation and energy efficiency.
  • Reduce or eliminate the creation of waste materials; collect, reuse, remanufacture, recycle, or compost waste materials or wastewater.

4. Natural resources conservation. Using technologies and practices within the establishment to conserve natural resources. Included in this group are technologies and practices related to organic agriculture and sustainable forestry; land management; soil, water, or wildlife conservation; and stormwater management.

Posted by Jerry Laws on Sep 21, 2010


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