A Sustainable Career: A Look at Sustainability Jobs at Colleges, Universities and Beyond
By Kristina Cowan
Many of the job hats Craig Ten Broeck wears are green.
As the director of sustainability at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, he juggles a variety of projects, from food, recycling and energy efficiency to reducing the school's greenhouse gas emissions to increasing the use of renewable fuels.
Ten Broeck said he's looking to cut emissions because the college made a commitment regarding university sustainability goals as of last October to reduce its carbon emissions to zero. "That means all the emissions we can't avoid or reduce, we'll offset by supporting renewable energy development somewhere else, off campus," he explained.
The college also has set a university sustainability goal to become powered entirely by renewable energy by 2015.
While Ten Broeck's line of work is relatively new, it's becoming increasingly common, according to Dr. Tom Kimmerer, executive director of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, based in Lexington, Ky.
"The sustainability coordinator is a discipline that didn't exist as recently as three or four years ago. So essentially what we're seeing is the emergence of a new discipline, and if you look at how colleges and universities are going about that, they are having to look at people from other disciplines that fit the requirements," Kimmerer said.
Those others are often recycling coordinators or energy management officials, he said, because there are few people with formal training in sustainability.
"It's not just at colleges and universities. It's elsewhere. It's a growing discipline; I think we're seeing the emergence of a new market for sustainability jobs, and new job opportunities for people with the right kind of training," Kimmerer said.
"The creation of focused staff positions, such as Communication Coordinators, Green Building Assistants, Transportation Demand Managers, and Program Coordinators, suggests that campuses are recognizing the challenge of institutionalizing sustainability and are rising to meet that challenge," according to the digest.
Sustaining the Future - Sustainability Jobs
AASHE started with 30 members in 2006 and now has thousands. Members are from the United States and Canada and include two- and four-year schools, graduate schools, businesses, nonprofits and K-12 institutions.
"We're getting new members at a pretty good clip and I think the reason is that colleges and universities are realizing sustainability is critical, and they need help with it. And I think the growth of AASHE is the best testament to that," Kimmerer said.
Meanwhile, he said, schools and businesses also are discovering their need for individuals with backgrounds in sustainability. Not only will they be looking to hire specialists like Ten Broeck, but individuals with general knowledge of sustainability, according to Kimmerer.
"A college procurement officer deciding what kind of paper, foods, or coffee to buy-a person in that position with sustainability training is well positioned to have a positive influence on that enterprise," he said.
And as demand increases for workers with such skill sets, college programs offering sustainability degrees and training are likely to grow, Kimmerer said.
Julian Dautremont-Smith, AASHE's associate director, said so far, Arizona State University offers bachelor's degrees, master's degrees and doctorates in sustainability; Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania also offers master's degrees in sustainability. These don't include environmental studies programs, or more specific programs such as sustainable business or design, he said.
Ten Broeck agreed that a demand for sustainability specialists will continue to grow. He said, "A new dimension has emerged: How can we as humans live differently, in harmony with the environment, and at the same time live a quality lifestyle while reducing emissions and saving money?"