What Industries and Sectors Inspire You?

Think of the map as the face of a clock. Start your exploration at 9 o'clock and continue in a clockwise direction around the entire wheel. Scroll down to explore some of the key opportunities within each sector of the map. 



Environmental Science

Environmental Science is a term to describe an integrated, interdisciplinary approach to the study of the effects that human actions have on environmental systems. The industries in this sector are very scientific in nature.

It brings together multiple disciplines to cooperatively and collaboratively understand and manage the natural environment, solve environmental problems, and come up with strategies to restore air, land and water ecosystems.

In real world terms, it makes more sense to view Environmental Science from the perspective of the issues it deals with rather than trying to stick to a fixed list of sciences that are or will be solving these problems.

See Chapter 7 of Green Careers For Dummies for additional information about these sciences.

Atmospheric Science - Within this area scientists study meteorological phenomenon, greenhouse gas phenomena, global warming, how airborne contaminants are dispersed in the atmosphere, how sound propagation relates to noise pollution, and even light pollution. These studies would employ experts such as physicists, chemists, biologists,  meteorologists, and oceanographers.

Earth Science - Geosciences (also known as Earth Sciences) is a discipline that includes environmental geology, environmental soil science, volcanic phenomena and evolution of the Earth's crust. The study of soil erosion is one example of the ways geoscience would fall under the Environmental Sciences umbrella. There are four major disciplines in earth sciences, namely geography, geology, geophysics and geodesy. Some specializations in this area of science are geologists, environmental soil experts,  hydrologists, oceanographers, physicists, biologists, and even mathematicians.

Ecology - Ecology typically employs the analysis of the interactions between organisms and some aspect of their environment. Here you might address endangered species, interactions between predators and their prey, habitat integrity, effects of environmental contaminants on biological populations, or an analysis of the impact a proposed land development will have on species viability. An interdisciplinary team analyzing an ecological system being impacted by one or more stress conditions might include biologists, chemists, physicists, geologists, and ecologists.

Environmental Chemistry - Environmental chemistry is the study of the chemical and biochemical phenomena that occur in nature. Environmental Chemistry studies the sources, reactions, movement, effects, and outcomes of chemical species in the air, soil, and water environments; and the effect human activity has on them. It is an interdisciplinary science that includes atmospheric, aquatic and soil chemistry, as well as heavily relying on analytical chemistry and environmental and other areas of science. Most common occupations solving problems for Environmental Chemistry are physicists, chemists, biologists, and environmental soil experts.          

Green Chemistry - If you want to create safer and more efficient industrial chemicals, drugs, and consumer products, green chemistry is for you. Green chemistry addresses pollution and hazard prevention at the molecular level. This work is needed to reduce risks to both human health and the environment by reducing or eliminating the use and generation of hazardous substances used in chemical products and manufacturing processes in favor of more benign ones.

Hydrology - Hydrology is the science that studies the occurrence, distribution, movement and properties of the waters of the earth and their relationship with the environment within each phase of the hydrologic cycle. Hydrologic cycle, more plainly called water cycle, describes the continuous movement of water on, above, and below the surface of the Earth. Hydrologists study all of the physical, chemical and biological processes involving water as it travels its various paths in the atmosphere, over and beneath the earth's surface and through growing plants. Hydro-logical studies also provide insight for environmental engineering, policy and planning.

Natural Resource Management

If you are interested in guiding how we use natural resources in a responsible, sustainable way, consider the industries in this sector.

According to North Dakota State University, natural resource management is a systems approach to managing our natural resources and addresses the biological, engineering, social and economic aspects of managing natural resources as an integrated system. The focus is on three areas: biotic resources, physical/earth resources, and social sciences. When it comes to the environmental management and services, think air, water, land, waste, and forests as you explore the various facets of these industries.

See Chapter 8 of Green Careers For Dummies for additional information about these industries.

Air - Air Quality Management encompasses the monitoring, measurement, and control of pollutants in the air we breathe, be it in the city where we might be breathing pollution from cars and industrial sites, in the country where agricultural processes pollute the air, or microbial or in the buildings where we live and work. Strategies to reduce air pollution include urban and transportation planning, land use planning, technological advances in the manufacturing processes, design of products that cause less pollution when manufactured, improved regulation and enforcement, cleaner fuels, and improving the fuel efficiency of cars, trucks, cargo ships and other vehicles.

Fish and Wildlife - If biodiversity, care for ecosystems and the protection, conservation and restoration of wildlife habitats and wildlife populations appeal to you, consider a career in Wildlife and Fisheries Management. Your options will be varied. Depending on your background and interests, you might be involved in research, studying wildlife health, designing habitat restoration plans, or working directly with endangered species. This industry has positions for a wide range of specialists including biologists, physicists, experts in GIS/modeling, statisticians, mathematicians, chemists, climatologists and geographers and various interdisciplinary teams employing, for example, specialists in genetics, ecology, economics, physiology, limnology and other sciences.

Forests - Forestry is a very old industry with new concerns. Today's foresters manage forests with a view to sustainability, resource management, as well as the beneficial effects of forests on our climate. Cities are beginning to manage their "urban forest" as a means of cleaning up air pollution and reducing the temperature in the hot summer months. Timber products such as wood, wood pulp, and paper, are now certified to show that they are from responsibly grown and managed forests, taking into consideration not only the well being of the environment, conservation of resources, protection of water sources and wildlife habitats, and the needs of future generations.

Land Management - The objectives of Land Management are to ensure that our lands are used in a sustainable manner to benefit human endeavors while protecting natural habitats and preserving biodiversity of our ecosystems. The field is pretty broad and includes Conservation, Restoration, Remediation, Land Use and Land Trust Management.

Sustainable Agriculture - Sustainable Agriculture seeks to produce food, fiber, and livestock in a way that is profitable, environmentally sound, and good for communities. People in this industry strive to produce with the least possible harm to the environment and without depleting the earth's resources. To do this they model their practices after systems found in nature and use methodologies that are self-sustaining, Sustainable Agriculture embraces biodiversity, recycling of plant nutrients, protecting soil from erosion, water conservation, minimizing tillage, and more.

Water Resource Management - Water Resources Management includes water treatment to make water suitable for drinking, agriculture, and industrial uses and water conservation to identify ways to conserve water. Managing wetlands and flood water management are some other aspects of Water Resources Management.

Energy and Smart Grid

This sector of the green economy is multi-faceted from energy generation (including renewable energy) to transmission and distribution to storage and managing energy use. 

To understand the direction of this sector, be sure to read the Smart Grid industry profile below. The initial sections of the profile give a very detailed overview of the current state of the power grid and where it's heading.

See Chapter 10 of Green Careers For Dummies for additional information about these industries.

Smart Grid - This sector will transform our relationship with electricity from power generation, transmission, and distribution to consumption management, storage, and appliances. Don't think of this as a single industry, think of it as a multi-faceted sector that will continue to evolve over time.  

Power Generation - When we speak of Renewable Energy, we are describing resources that are naturally replenished within a short time span making them indefinitely sustainable. This includes energy from the sun, wind, heat from inside the earth, plants, and water.

Biomass/Biofuel - Biomass is another word for organic matter such as wood waste, agricultural wastes, and some specially grown crops are burned as fuel. Biofuel is solid, liquid or gaseous fuel derived from biomass. There are now several kinds of organic matter that are being used to create biofuel including algae.

Geothermal - Geothermal energy is heat from the earth. This renewable resource has been used by people for a very long time. Water seeping into underground reservoirs is heated by geothermal energy which can then be tapped for a variety of uses.

Ocean/Hydro - The Marine Energy sector focuses on capturing energy from ocean waves, tides and currents. Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion takes advantage of the temperature extremes between the surface and the depths of tropical oceans, creating an action akin to a slow motion natural heat pump. Hydro Energy, which captures the energy in the flowing movement of rivers, is usually thought of separately from Marine Energy. Water mills are a very old form of Hydro Energy, today we are more used to seeing dams converting water flow into electricity.

Solar - Solar energy does not require any fuel and does not pollute the air, from small solar calculators up to utility-sized solar farms.  Similar technologies for generating power from the sun are used regardless of the size of the installation, but we have chosen to address small-scale and large-scale separately since the nature of the companies and jobs are likely to differ for residential projects as opposed to commercial or utility-scale operations.

Waste-to-Energy - Waste-to-Energy is a renewable energy industry that is already established with 87 waste-to-energy facilities that burn organic and manufactured waste in carefully designed boilers that incorporate modern pollution control equipment to scrub the emissions from the burn and precise heat conditions to ensure that all waste matter is completely combusted. For each ton of municipal solid waste combusted, 500-600 kWh of electricity are produced. The electricity can be added to the grid while the steam produced can be used to heat buildings. These plants currently process only 8 percent of the waste produced in the United States each year, which means this industry has ample room to expand. Keep in mind; this is not like burning garbage in your back yard. Although this technology has a ways to go from a political point of view, it has been perfected technically over the last forty years. Many experts believe it is a viable solution to minimizing the impact on landfills while creating energy that removes more carbon emissions than it emits. Watch to see how this industry fares politically.

Wind - Another source of renewable energy is wind. Whether the wind is blowing over the plains, along the coastlines, or through urban areas, it can be tapped with the appropriate wind turbine.

Energy Storage - The intermittent nature of renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, call for systems to store energy, usually in the form of electricity, to heat and cool areas. Being able to store energy during off-peak hours and release it during peak demand will go a long way toward making these renewable energy sources economically viable. Another use for reliable and affordable energy storage is in remote locations when distributed energy systems are used to replace or supplement the traditional centralized systems. In these cases the energy is produced quite near the location where it will be used, and is released as needed. Energy storage technology makes it possible for energy to be generated during the less expensive times of low demand, and added to the grid when the demand is high or when additional capacity is called for.

Information Technology

Computer systems throughout the world consume tremendous amounts of power to run and to keep cool. As a result finding ways to run data centers and computer equipment in the most energy efficient manner is an important step toward sustainability.

The materials used to manufacture computer equipment is also gaining attention. The entire supply chain is being reexamined to determine more sustainable practices for designing, manufacturing and disposing of computer equipment.

See Chapter 10 of Green Careers For Dummies for more information about this industry.

Green IT - Green Computing is the reduced use of power consumption by computers and related machines and the proper disposal of electronic devices when its life cycle is over. It is a complex and still evolving area. The most prevalent areas being addressed in the business world today are power utilization, energy efficiency, materials and product design, supply chain, and life cycle concerns, including hazardous waste issues and electronic waste recycling.

Smart Grid - If you are interested in using your technical skills on the Smart Grid, be sure to explore the Smart Grid Sector as well.


Green building is the practice of increasing the efficiency of buildings and their use of energy, water, and materials, and reducing building impacts on human health and the environment, through better siting, design, construction, operation, maintenance, and removal--the complete building life cycle.

See Chapter 10 of Green Careers For Dummies for more information about this industry sector.

Green Building - Green building is the practice of increasing the efficiency of buildings and their usage of energy, water, and materials while reducing building impacts on human health and the environment, through better siting, design, construction, operation, maintenance, and removal--the complete building life cycle.  

Building Performance - Energy Efficiency - Energy Efficiency refers to using more efficient technology, building materials, appliances, and processes to use less energy, while providing the same or better performance. Although this trend is building in the residential market, don't discount commercial, industrial, or governmental applications as well.

Green Real Estate - Green Real Estate is an area that covers Commercial, Industrial, Retail and Residential Real Estate. At one end of the spectrum it might simply be a company that seeks to educate clients about sustainable housing. Or it might be a brokerage that only lists properties that are LEED compliant.

Green Interior Design - Interior Design is a multifaceted profession in which creative and technical solutions are applied within a structure to achieve a built-in environment. Green Interior Design goes beyond being just efficient, attractive, on time and on budget. It is a design that cares about how such goals are achieved, and about its impact on people and the environment.


Sustainable Transportation Careers

Transporting people, raw materials, products, and packages is big business. Although door to door, personal transportation vehicles and deliveries are convenient, this industry also claims one of the largest carbon footprints. Finding alternative ways to transport people and things is one of the biggest challenges of the new economy.

See Chapter 10 of Green Careers For Dummies for more information about this sector.

Alternative Transportation - Alternative Transportation addresses the various ways of transporting oneself from point A to point B with the minimal use of vehicles that are propelled by fossil fuel-powered combustion engines. 

Electric Vehicle Segment of Alternative Transportation - Concerns about global warming, energy dependency and the ever-escalating price of gasoline are the driving forces behind the growth of the electric vehicle market and its supporting industry sectors. The Department of Energy has invested $12 billion in advanced vehicle technologies.  Many of the major auto manufacturers have developed new-generation electric vehicles and many independent electric vehicle manufacturers are also offering electric drive vehicles. There are three types of electric vehicles: hybrid electric, battery electric and fuel cell electric. 

Supply/Distribution Logistics - To explore career opportunities in moving raw materials and finished products to their final destinations, see Manufacturing.

Manufacturing Cycle

Traditional manufacturing involves a linear process model – inputs to outputs, also known as Cradle to Grave. 

Green manufacturing's process model is more circular where parts from outdated or broken models are reused/recycled becoming inputs – popularly known as Cradle to Cradle.  Products include both green and traditional goods as long as they are manufactured sustainably.

See Chapter 10 of Green Careers For Dummies for additional information about this sector.

Material Science - Materials Sciences, also described as Materials Sciences & Engineering, is the study of the properties and performance of different materials. These studies have a broad range of applications in industry, including designing new materials specifically tailored to innovative products and manufacturing processes, testing and improving existing ones, analyzing cost-benefits in the materials' production, and determining weaknesses or causes of failure in a given application.

Industrial Ecology- Industrial Ecology offers insight into how we can use natural ecosystems as models for improving our design of industries, processes, products and services, including materials procurement, production, delivery, usage and disposal.     

Green Manufacturing - Green manufacturing is a method of production that reduces waste and pollution. These goals are addressed through product and process design, including scrutiny of the materials, components and systems that will be used for the product's manufacture. The objective is a product that, during its entire life cycle, will damage the environment as little as possible, will not be harmful to the people using it or the employees involved in its production, will not,during manufacture or usage consume more energy and natural resources than necessary, and, whenever possible, is biologically degradable or can be reused.

Supply/Distribution Logistics - A significant aspect of Manufacturing is Supply Chain Management. This means assessing how raw and processed materials and components are delivered to the manufacturing facility, and how the end product is delivered to the consumer. Whether charged with moving goods by road, rail, water and air, the logistics specialists must focus on maximizing efficiency and effectiveness of the transport while minimizing energy use, environmental impact, and cost.     Waste Management - The Waste industry is multifaceted, including solid, waste, hazardous waste, recycling, and resource recovery.

Printing and Publishing - If you are interested in the publishing or printing industries, familiarize yourself with the relevant issues in this industry profile. Green Printing and Publishing actually covers several industry sectors; Newspaper Publishers, Book Publishers, Book Sellers, Printers, and Paper/Pulp Manufacturers. Careers associated with these industry sectors will be the same careers as in non-green companies. The difference is in the measures the companies take to reduce their environmental impact on endangered forests, climate change, and people being displaced by destruction of the forests they live/work in/near.

Natural Personal Care/Cleaning Products - The Natural Personal Care and Cleaning industry consists of an array of eco-friendly and non-toxic personal care products used for personal hygiene, health, and cleaning. It includes products such as deodorant, toothpaste, face wash, moisturizer, shampoo, cosmetics, soap, supplements, and nail care. Due to the quest of consumers to live a more sustainable and organic lifestyle, there is a growing demand for healthier and safer personal care products.  Sales of personal care products labeled natural, organic or certified organic are expected to grow more than 50% to over $10 billion over the next five years.

Services and Experiences

Another sector of the green economy involved providing green services or experiences, often with green/organic/sustainable products. You can think of providing these services to consumers or businesses.

See Chapter 13 of Green Careers For Dummies for additional information about these industries.

Green Hospitality - Green Hospitality has several components including green lodging, green meeting and event planning, and green restaurants. In many cases, the careers associated with these three industries tend to be the same careers that exist in the non-green companies. The difference is that you work for a company that is committed to green, sustainable principles and actions throughout their enterprise. 

Ecotourism - Eco-tourism is an umbrella term for responsible travel to natural areas that strives to minimize the impact upon the environment and benefit the local communities.

Educating, Inspiring, Motivating and Persuading

Another key role for people who want to stimulate interest and increase greener actions is to education, inspire, motivate and persuade people to change their ways. Check out these industries to discover if one of these areas interests you.

See Chapter 12 of Green Careers For Dummies for additional information about these industries.

Green Media - The media sector is also going green in a couple of areas including Print Media, Broadcasting, Electronic Media, and Graphical Media. If any of these interest you, you may also wish to spend some time studying the Publishing Industry material on this website.

Eco-Psychology - Ecopsychology is a field of study that focuses on the interconnectedness between mental health and the connection to nature.

Sustainability Management and Consulting - Sustainability Management and Sustainability Consulting address the challenges companies and organizations face as they assess their impact on the environment and community, and implement strategies and initiatives to improve their sustainability status.

Shaping the Economy

One of the most important roles within the evolving green economy is proactively shaping the policies, form, and direction. Those in finance, law, policy, and advocacy are needed to give structure to the new economy.

See Chapter 11 of Green Careers For Dummies for additional information about these industries.

Green/Socially Responsible Finance Sector - Green Finances consists of several components. Green banks for creative financing options, green business brokers, socially responsible investing and asset management, green insurance, and venture capitalists.

Environmental Law - Environmental Law (and Ecology Law) addresses the complex, interrelated body of statutes, common law, treaties, conventions, regulations and policies affecting the environment. The topics addressed by people in environmental law is wide from natural resources and land to building and waste.

Green Policy and Direction - Green Policy and Direction actually covers several paths: Advocacy, Activism, Regulations, Legislation, and Lobbying. These terms often overlap, so that lobbying is included when speaking of activism, advocacy frequently covers lobbying and activism, and so on. Explore where you want to make an impact.

Fair Trade - Fair trade is a structured, well organized, growing social movement that uses market based solutions to promote, support and protect producers of goods and services in developing countries around the world.  Fair trade seeks to find ways for producers to become more self-sustainable and to green their business practices. 


Functions (that Cross Sectors / Industries)

In our research for the Green Economy Map and Green Careers For Dummies, we came across several functions that appear in a number of green sectors and industries.

If you are in any of the fields below, take a look at these profiles to discover the range of positions that are available to you.

As we identify additional functions that appear in numerous ways within the green economy we'll add them to this list.

Designing - People with a background in design can apply their creative talents in a number of arenas from product design and systems design to architecture and interior design.

Engineering - People with an engineering background can work in a variety of sectors and industries. Take a look at this profile for some specific ideas.

Environmental - People with a background in environmental sciences may find opportunities in various sectors and industries. Take a look at this profile for some specific ideas.

Planning - As our built world evolves to become more sustainable and environmentally responsible, planning is necessary. People with this training have several employment options throughout the green sectors and industries.