Green Opportunities for Your Chemistry Career

In a recent webinar, I presented information Green Opportunities for your Chemistry Career.  There is a lot of interest among chemists in greening their careers, and making their processes more sustainable.  There were a number of requests for the resource list, so I thought I’d share some of the information here.

Green jobs can be defined in a number of ways, but the Department of Labor (DOL) says “The green economy encompasses the economic activity related to reducing the use of fossil fuels, decreasing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, increasing the efficiency of energy usage, recycling materials, and developing and adopting renewable sources of energy.” The four main sectors of the green economy are Environment (preserving and protecting natural resources, managing their use in a sustainable way; using them more efficiently and productively; reducing or eliminating pollution and toxic waste), Energy (creating, storing, distributing and saving energy), Infrastructure (reducing the impact of human development activities on our world), and Support (government and regulatory administration research, design and consulting services).

Green jobs are also classified into 3 types – Increased Demand Occupations (bus driver), Enhanced Skills Occupations (electrician who learns to install solar panels, and New and Emerging Occupations (N&E) (Biofuels Production Managers).

Probably the areas of most interest to chemists are Green chemistry and sustainability.  Green chemistry is the utilization of a set of principles that reduce or eliminate the use or generation of hazardous substances in the design, manufacture and application of chemical products. The classic book on the topic, Green Chemistry: Theory and Practice by Paul T. Anastas and John C. Warner, lists the 12 principles of Green Chemistry.  They are as follows:

  1. Prevent waste.
  2. Design safer chemicals and products- fully effective, yet little or no toxicity.
  3. Design less hazardous chemical syntheses.
  4. Use renewable feedstocks.
  5. Use catalysts, not stoichiometric reagents.
  6. Avoid chemical derivatives-Avoid blocking or protecting groups.
  7. Maximize atom economy.
  8. Use safer solvents and reaction conditions.
  9. Increase energy efficiency: Run chemical reactions at ambient temperature and pressure whenever possible.
  10. Design chemicals and products to degrade after use.
  11. Analyze in real time to prevent pollution.
  12. Minimize the potential for accidents.

If you’re interested in learning more about this field, check out the following resources.

ACS Green Chemistry Institute -Conferences, Education, Grants, Awards, Industrial Innovation, Resources

America COMPETES and Green Chemistry

Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education

The American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE)

Clean Edge Market Reports

Earthways Center

American Chemical Council – Responsible Care


State of Green Business – published annually by

Green Job Boards

Careers in Wind (AWEA)

Clean Edge Jobs


CleanTechies – the business voice of the green economy

Green Building Council – non-profit community of leaders working to make green buildings available to everyone within a generation

Green Dream Jobs – from – Green jobs including solar and wind

SustainLane: Green Collar Jobs Board

TreeHugger: Job Board

Searching for Green Jobs

When you do a search for “green” on a job board, you’ll find a lot of job descriptions with “green card” in them.  Make sure to remove those ones (usually by putting “-green card” into the search term listing).

Keywords that are related to green jobs:  sustainability, solar, wind, green energy, green construction, environment, recycling, green waste, renewable energy, green transportation, green agriculture, green forestry, green consulting, green research, green design, green regulation, energy efficiency / conservation / power / utility / DSM / demand response / energy audit / energy star / gas / thermostats / electronics / building performance / construction / energy efficient / BPI / electrical / engineer / utility energy efficiency / clean energy /building science/construction/Installation project manager/utility solutions

Additional Resources

3rd IUPAC International Conference in Green Chemistry, Ontario, CA, 2010 Aug 15-18.

The “Sus” Word, C&EN, 2010 April 12, p. 39.

This article was written by Lisa M. Balbes, Ph.D. of Balbes Consultants. Lisa is a scientific communication consultant and author of: “Nontraditional Careers for Chemists,” published by Oxford University Press (2007).

23 Responses to Green Opportunities for Your Chemistry Career

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