Clean Technology

As far as sustainability careers go, one of the fastest growing sectors is clean technology (cleantech, green tech, green technology).  It is the application of technology to minimize human consumption of natural resources by making efficient use of them or finding options to reduce the effect of human interaction on the natural world. 

While that may sound like a mouthful, essentially, cleantech is any process, product, or service that  mitigates negative environmental impacts through increased energy efficiency, the responsible use of resources, or environmental protection activities. Examples of this involve renewable energies (wind, solar, energy storage), the Internet of Things, water conservation, electric vehicle technology, and recycling. 

You may hear terms like: 

  • Circular economy: creation of products which last and can be reused, repaired and remanufactured, limiting the use of fresh resources and minimizing waste 
  • Blue technology: aquaculture, wave energy, cleaning plastics out of the ocean 
  • Regenerative agriculture: land management practice which rebuilds soil health, crop resilience and nutrient density in farming 
  • Green building/materials: environmentally sustainable sourcing and use of building materials and methods

Smart Cities 

Often when you learn about clean technology you’ll hear reference to smart cities.  As municipalities look at the way they do business, the day to day life of what happens in an urban area, and how that activity impacts our use of resources (natural, human and financial ).  Smart cities and the infrastructure involved create jobs in transportation, maintenance, policy, law, urban planning, technology, conservation and sustainability, security and law enforcement and many others.  Some examples of technologies you might work with that play a part in smart cities are: 

  • Electric buses and city vehicles
  • Sensors to help conserve energy—that tell street lamps when to turn on/off, that let municipalities know when to empty trash cans, that regulate/sync traffic lights and therefore traffic patterns 
  • Water conservation technologies/greywater collection and use 
  • Apps which tell you where to find open parking spaces
  • Crime mapping, security, and surveillance methods which reduce crime  
  • Air quality sensors to detect pollution and allow for targeted mitigation systems

Career Resources 

Majors and Concentrations 

A lot of people have a passion for conservation and sustainability, but wonder how to make a good living in the sustainability space.  Cleantech positions exist in law, policy, engineering, science, and math, all of which can lead into industry positions outside of nonprofits or government jobs (although great employment does exist in those areas as well!). 

Most cleantech jobs will require  bachelor’s degree, but many people will obtain higher academic credentials. Some majors to consider are: 

  • Environmental science 
  • Environmental engineering 
  • Environmental law 
  • Architecture and environmental design 
  • Marine science 
  • Renewable energy 
  • Sustainable agriculture 
  • Computer science 
  • Artificial intelligence/machine learning 

Jobs and Experiences: 

As stated earlier, there are many industries which provide jobs in clean technology: transportation, maintenance, policy, law, urban planning, technology, conservation and sustainability, security and law enforcement and many others. Potential job titles in the cleantech sector include: 

  • Green architecture 
  • Sustainable landscape designer 
  • Urban designer 
  • Hydrologist 
  • Environmental engineering technician 
  • Industrial hygienist 
  • Environmental lawyer 
  • Environmental chemist 
  • Ocean engineer 
  • Civil engineer 
  • Materials scientist 
  • Sustainable food systems manager 

Companies who hire in various aspects of the Cleantech sector: 

  • 8 Rivers 
  • ABB, Inc. 
  • ABT Associates 
  • ClimateWorks 
  • Cypress Creek Renewables 
  • Dewberry 
  • DC Energy 
  • Environmental Defense Fund 
  • Environmental Protection Agency 
  • Exxon Mobile  
  • Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission 
  • General Electric 
  • National Grid 
  • National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration 
  • The Nature Conservancy 
  • Navigant 
  • Nextera Energy 
  • Nexant 
  • Pacific Gas & Electric Company 
  • RTI International 
  • SolarCity 
  • U.S. Department of Energy

-By Jennifer Agor