Planet-saving careers

Posted October 13, 2011, by Mike Kermode

If you’re concerned about the future of the planet and want to do everything you can to make a difference, then an environmental career could be your door to personal fulfilment and a more sustainable future.

The need for qualified professionals in the environmental arena has never been greater. The government is planning to introduce a carbon tax in mid-2012 and its Climate Commission recently warned that unless Australia moves to clean energy sources by 2050, ‘the global climate may be so irreversibly altered we will struggle to maintain our present way of life’. Which means the time to act is now.

It also means job opportunities – lots of them. Specialised environmental expertise is emerging as one of the fastest growing areas of demand as environmental policies and practices are adopted in the public and private sector, in manufacturing, business, law, mining and energy, and education.

So how can you best direct your career to help keep the mercury – and the waters – from rising? Here are a few jobs that have the shared goal of minimising our hefty impact on the planet.

Environmental management

There are a growing number of roles dedicated to the minimisation of environmental impacts, protection of biodiversity and sustainable natural resource management strategies to protect Australia’s environmental assets.

Those with backgrounds in environmental management, environmental science, environmental engineering or natural resource management are becoming more valued and more in-demand for everything from high-profile infrastructure and development projects to mining and public policy. These roles often involve providing instruction on the scope of projects, developing protocols and systems to minimise environmental impact, and managing the care of environmental assets.

With skills in environmental impact and sustainability assessment, risk assessment and compliance monitoring, environmental managers play a pivotal role in ensuring that ‘best practice’ is followed in industries such as mining, energy, agriculture, building and construction, and tourism.

Energy conservation and auditing

Inefficiency causes waste, and with energy costs soaring, energy conservation is becoming an urgent priority for both individuals and businesses.

Energy auditors review and analyse energy flows and usage rates, looking closely at patterns of use, building design and infrastructure like lighting and insulation, and specifying ways in which energy can be conserved, and money saved.

An energy audit will look at the condition and efficiency of mechanical systems like air conditioning, hot water, refrigeration and heating, and may even include factors like the daily positioning of the sun and local climate conditions.

There is a growing demand for these services in residential, commercial and retail environments, in government departments, and in agricultural and industrial settings – especially for large companies that will have to adhere to GHG (greenhouse gas) obligations, or for businesses entering or escalating their operations in carbon trading.

All you usually need is a degree in electrical or mechanical engineering, a background in building services, or one of a host of environmental qualifications.

Environmental business management

In the face of environmental imperatives, one of the looming challenges for all businesses will be how to implement environmental practices while still making a quid.

Environmental business management is a field set to boom, mustering a unique combination of environmental expertise and business nous. Whether in architecture, mining, energy or tourism, these kinds of management roles identify environmental strategies and performance indicators that enable businesses to make the ‘triple bottom line’ of Planet, People and Profit.

This includes advice not just on the practical measures that businesses can take to lower their footprint directly – through employee choices, cost and risk reduction, project design, building infrastructure and technology – but indirectly through market forecasting,  business and community relationships, company ethics and investment decisions.

Simon Carter knows all about this. He’s the brain behind sustainability strategy and development consultancy firm, Morphosis. As well as designing and implementing energy reduction projects, Morphosis provides project advice to the private sector on investments and ensures GHG emissions data align with the law and stakeholder expectations.

‘It’s a space where there are a lot of terrific business opportunities available, but at the same time one of the really rewarding things for me is working with people who are operating to a higher purpose,’ says Carter.

The time is not far off when all jobs become green by necessity – when the concept of ‘sustainability’ has become everyone’s core business. With a little initiative, forward thinking and training, you could soon be leading the way to a more sustainable future.

Mike Kermode

Academy Xi
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