August 11, 2022

Noticed: Green Jobs Attract Graduates

Rachael Kleinberger was luckier (or smarter): she already knew she wanted out at age 25, quitting her job at a reality-TV production company for a position at a nonprofit organization focused on the environment.

“I want to do something helpful,” she said, “or do something at the end of the day that’s like, ‘This makes me feel good that I spent this much time doing it.’ ”

One doesn’t leave a promising media job for just anything these days. Ms. Kleinberger is one of a new wave of recent college graduates entering a career field that, like blogging and social media strategy, hardly existed a decade ago: environmental sustainability.

Suddenly, “sustainability” seems to resonate with the sex appeal of “dot com” or “start-up,” appealing to droves of ambitious young innovators. Amelia Byers, operations director for, a Web site that lists paid and unpaid opportunities for nonprofit groups and social enterprise companies — some 5,000 of which are environmental organizations — said the number of jobs related to environmental work has roughly tripled in the last three years. “A lot of new graduates are coming out of a world where volunteerism and service has been something that has helped define their generation,” she said. “Finding a job with meaning is an important value to them.”

The rapid expansion of green jobs isn’t confined to the nonprofit sector. There is money to be made here as well. Ivan Kerbel, director of career development for the Yale School of Management, a graduate-level business program, noted that environmental issues like reducing waste and carbon footprints were increasingly important to corporations of all kinds, something business students are recognizing. Even ultra-ambitious M.B.A. candidates with C-suite aspirations are integrating issues like sustainability into their education, he said.

“The leading companies have taken it on in a way that means you don’t have to feel like you’re self-ghettoized into this functional niche,” he said.

Ms. Byers attributed the growth in part to a generational shift toward “values driven” professions. Unsurprisingly, such jobs are often quite hip.

Ms. Kleinberger, now 26, of Santa Monica, Calif., said it was important that browbeating was not in her job description; creativity and inclusion were paramount. As part of her job at Global Inheritance, a nonprofit group that uses arts and creativity to encourage environmental sustainability, she helped organize D.J. performances, powered entirely off the grid, at the Coachella music festival in April; last month, the group took energy-generating bicycles that charge cellphones and iPods to the Indy 500.

“The way that they approach sustainability and conservation issues is really fun and innovative,” she said about her employer. “We fit right in at Coachella, let’s put it that way.”

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