Submitted by Jenna Hall

Green is in, and we’re not just talking about the color. Rather the latest social buzz on Western’s campus and beyond is the greater symbolism of green sustainability and environmental awareness. Regardless of one’s opinion of global warming, our earth’s dwindling resources are scaring people and organizations into conservation in both practice and products. Green is packaged, labeled, advertised and sold on organic products, fair-trade coffee bean bags, recycled plastic water bottles and on the monthly energy bills. But now more than ever, the green label is sticking to the most important commodity: green careers.

Western is a leader in environmental activism, illustrated by the first on-campus Green Opportunities Expo, spearheaded by the Associated Students club Net Impact. The free expo will be held Wednesday, May 11, in the Viking Union Multipurpose Room from 1-5 p.m. There will also be sustainable career lectures in VU 565 rooms A, B and C with speakers from companies such as Costco, Microgreen Polymers, Calvert Investments, Earthcorps, Superfeet and North Cascades Institute.

“The goal of this exposition is to open the eyes of the students to the variety of green jobs in industries today,” said Kyla Hall, Net Impact’s marketing and communication vice chair. “Beyond promoting the green movement, I want this exposition to be a networking opportunity that connects innovative companies with well-qualified and passionate students. I want students from all disciplines represented on campus- not just Huxley or science students- to know they can help the environment with their unique skill set.”

According to Pew Charitable Trust reports, increasing demand in the workforce largely drives the green education movement. Therefore, while most sectors of the American economy are slowing, green industries are projected to see a major boom. The Obama administration has said that by 2016, occupations in clean energy and sustainability will be expected to have grown by 52 percent since 2000. Federal funding recently approved multi-billon dollar tax credits aimed toward 183 separate “clean-tech” projects around the U.S., which could create up to 41,000 more jobs.

Many of these projects span the entire range of clean technology, including wind and solar energy, as well as efficiency and energy management. However, even if you aren’t an engineer, biologist or geologist, there are eco-friendly career positions for people holding liberal arts degrees. According to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education more than 100 majors, minors or certificates with an emphasis in sustainability were created at American colleges this past year.

The green studies rise in popularity stems from student interest and also demand from potential employers. During an economic recession and high unemployment, students find studying sustainability attractive because of its relevant career applicability and availability. The more green conversations that happen on campus, the more seeds of environmental activism are sown, resulting in networking projects like the expo, Hall explained.

Environmental activism starts with knowledge, awareness and then personal action. Green change begins with an informative conversation, exactly what the expo hopes to nourish: a healthy balance of meeting personal financial needs through companies with a core of environmental and socially responsible values.

“Our earth needs help… this is evident,” said Hall. “Money doesn’t grow on trees. The solution to saving it is not a quick fix, but rather a conscious lifestyle that must be adopted by everyone, not just one or two people deciding to recycle plastic bags or buy organic… [T]he green movement is about promoting innovative ‘systems thinking,’ as much as it is using our career work to shift economic trends and save trees along the way.”

For more information, visit the Green Opportunities Expo page on Facebook or Twitter. You can also learn more at the club’s personal webpage link on Western’s Career Services Center’s website at www.careers.wwu.edu.