We speak often of “blue collar” and “white collar” work—that is, the differences between those who work with their hands and those who work in offices and institutions. But there’s another new category of work that is currently gaining prominence in America’s occupational landscape—green collar work.
The label “green collar” has been applied to a variety of different occupations, from landscaping and irrigation work to bioengineering and renewable energy production. Generally, “green collar” workers could be any workers that work in environmental industries. They may alter ecosystems or work towards preserving them. They tackle questions of pollution, conservation, renewability, and even environmental aesthetics (us landscapers do green industry work too!) This last election cycle, green collar work was pushed into the spotlight as politicians broached the subject of climate change and environmental sustainability over and over again. For many Americans, this was the first time they’d seriously considered the intersections between business and the environment. For green collar workers, this connection was next to natural. After all, their businesses are built around the environment. That’s why now more than ever, green collar workers are at the forefront of American industry. As they continue to find innovative (and profitable) ways to sustain, conserve, and renew the environment, other businesses are looking to follow their example.
An increased interest in environmental issues has led to an increase in green collar work. Colleges and universities have seen an increase in students enrolled in “green majors,” from environmental science to horticultural management and green engineering. Young people are eager to learn about sustainability and environmental conservation, and they are using that knowledge to build greener industries. Jobs in renewable energy production are projected to increase steadily, and the amount of landscaping and irrigation companies now offering organic forms of pest and weed control is on the rise.
This is particularly hopeful considering the stagnancy of many other kinds of work—especially blue collar work. With many manufacturing and manual labor jobs now being shipped overseas, former blue collar workers are finding refuge in green industries, where manual labor is still needed. Some have even started their own green companies, with focuses such as organic farming, eco-friendly lawn maintenance, and water conserving irrigation systems. The demand for these services is rising, and many industries are meeting that demand by becoming greener themselves. Energy companies are beginning to invest in renewable energy sources, grocery stores are putting stock in organic produce, and even the most rustic of car companies are beginning to see the silver-lining behind producing hybrid and electric vehicles. As long as communities continue to invest in green products, green collar work will surely remain in high demand. And, as long as the health of our environment stays at the forefront of our social consciousness, we can expect more and more industries to take a vested interested in sustaining, maintaining, and conserving ecosystems. Perhaps, one day, all work will be “green collar” work, but—for now—we still have a lot of work to do. Luckily, there are people willing to do it.