In the US, concern surrounding anthropogenic climate change is growing, alongside increased interest to learn about environmental sustainability (1). While many champion individual action, such as recycling or purchasing electric vehicles, collective action and structural changes, such as total decarbonization, are necessary. There are many avenues to become more engaged in environmental work, whether it be through volunteering with a community-based organization or even incorporating sustainability into your career.
Image Source: Sustainable Cleveland
In the US, a significant portion of carbon emissions are attributed to the construction and operation of buildings. Buildings in cities like San Francisco and New York are recognizing the significant impact of their emissions, and are beginning to work towards energy efficiency via LEED Certifications and ENERGY STAR labels. The increasing demand for such certifications within the past 5 years calls for the hiring of consultants, engineers, and sustainability professionals. Companies like Sustainable Investment Group (SIG), and other environmental service companies, even hire college-aged interns to help foster a new generation of sustainability professionals.
Source: Careers in Sustainability
Degree programs that incorporate sustainability science alongside the traditional course of study are becoming more widely available, making studying your personal interests and their intersections with environmental causes more accessible. UC Berkeley and UC Davis, for example, offer BA programs in Sustainable Environmental Design, an interdisciplinary major that focuses on sustainable design at multiple scales of the built environment (2). Some examples of additional tracks that may not specifically address sustainability but can still lead to a career in environmental industries include Biology, Environmental Engineering, Agroecology, Mechanical Engineering, and Law.
I had the chance to interview Libby Dunne, Sustainability Consultant for SIG and 2020 college graduate, to find out more about her current role and her path to this position.
What is the major and minor that you graduated with?
“I majored in Biology with a minor in Environmental Sciences at Emory University.”
Why did you choose to minor in Environmental Services?
“After starting my classes at Emory, I really enjoyed learning about the ecology side of biology and learning more about the environment that surrounds us. The topics I learned about made me more intrigued to learn about these subjects, so I decided to minor in Environmental Sciences.”
Why did you decide to enter the green building and sustainability market?
“At first I did not know what I was getting into after getting accepted into SIG’s internship program, but I am really glad I did! Getting the opportunity to make a difference in the building industry and being able to contribute towards Fitwel and LEED certifications makes me feel like I am doing my part in fighting against climate change!”
Source: U.S. Department of Energy
Career opportunities within “green” and sustainability industries are vast, and are growing alongside expanding industries. Listed below are various positions that involve sustainability:
- Sustainability Consultant
- Renewable Energy Technician
- Engineer: including Mechanical, Environmental, and Civil
- Landscape Architect
- Marine Biologist
- Solar Engineer
- Zoning Technician
While many positions require a college degree, there are many positions available that do not, such as internships and technician positions. Whether your interest lies in architecture, engineering, art, or agriculture, there is a place for all skill sets in combating the climate crisis.
1 “Explore Climate Change in the American Mind.” Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, 22 Apr. 2021, climatecommunication.yale.edu/visualizations-data/americans-climate-views/.
2 “Sustainable Environmental Design.” Sustainable Environmental Design | UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design, ced.berkeley.edu/academics/bachelor-of-arts-in-sustainable-environmental-design/.
 “Good Jobs, Green Jobs.” Sustainable Cleveland, www.sustainablecleveland.org/good_jobs_green_jobs.
 “Sustainability Careers & Green Jobs.” EnvironmentalScience.org, www.environmentalscience.org/careers/sustainability-and-green-jobs.
 Energy, U.S. Department of. “Solar PV Technician (Commercial/Utility).” Solar Career Map, irecsolarcareermap.org/jobs/solar-pv-technician-commercial-utility