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The Top Five Cities for Finding Environmental Jobs

Updated on August 3, 2012

Sustainability is quickly becoming a way of life as reliance on fossil fuels diminishes. The quest for sustainability is the right thing to do and notably figures in the progress of human civilization not only for its innovation but also because this “movement” has become global, reaching even into the biggest fossil fuel-driven societies.

Nevertheless, measuring sustainability is a problem—problematic because it is imprecise with different groups using different methods to measure different things. Even definitions are different, so it will be no surprise that results vary.

This is how we approach the top five cities for green jobs in America. There are many cities that are doing great things, but the sundry lists and reports are…well, different. Yet there is some discernible consistency regarding the cities that figure prominently—and they appear here.



  • As many as 1.9 million new green jobs are projected for the U.S. between now and 2020.


Portland is America’s greenest city with a good record in clean energy job creation. In 2007 the city created nearly 20,000 clean energy jobs. What contributes to Portland’s green job growth? Consider these things:

  • The “Grey to Green” Initiative begun in 2008 invests in green infrastructure to improve watershed management. The investment improves the quality of neighborhoods by planting 88,000 yard and street trees and 43 acres of eco-roofs, rivers, and streams and, thereby, expands the green collar job base.
  • One-half of its power is supplied by renewable energy sources.
  • The city features 50 LEED-certified buildings, which requires LEED-certified architects.
  • The city not only uses free light rail but also manufactures and implements street cars. These contribute to its robust public transportation system, another strong factor for green jobs.



  • There are about 2.7 million green jobs across the U.S., more than the total employed in both the oil and natural gas industries. Green jobs pay 13 percent more than the nation's median wage. Twenty-six percent of these jobs are in manufacturing, compared to just nine percent in the general economy.

San Francisco

Close on the heels of Portland is the “Golden City” that means green, approving $100 million in revenue bonds in 2001 to finance a renewable energy supply for a quarter of its government’s needs. San Francisco alone is partly responsible for California’s leadership in clean energy jobs. So what backs green jobs in San Francisco?

  • San Francisco is one of the nation's biggest producers of solar energy.
  • The city has a successful public transportation system used by more than 50 percent of the populace.
  • There are many large construction projects in the city that desire LEED certification.
  • San Francisco alone has close to one-third of California's green collar jobs: over 42,000.
  • Seventeen percent of the city's energy is derived from renewable sources.


IBM and Columbia Prepare Students for the Green Market

New York City

Yes, New York City. In fact, the "Big Apple" has the largest number of clean energy jobs of any place in the nation—more than 153,000. Although New York’s listing on green reports is a surprise to some, its endeavors to be more sustainable are top-notch and redefining the city. Why New York?

  • A whopping 80 percent of New Yorkers regularly rely on public transportation.
  • PlaNYC, a comprehensive sustainability plan driven by 127 initiatives for transforming grime to green, was launched in 2007. It purposes to dramatically improve air quality and allocates $1 billion for retrofitting buildings to increase energy efficiency and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent.
  • The Green-Collar Jobs Planning Commission collaborates with 50 community, labor, and private sector groups to support organizations and outreaches committed to sustainability. Some of these organizations work to move residents from welfare to green collar jobs.


Did you know...

...that green jobs account for more than one percent of Oregon's total employment? It's the only state with so large a percentage.


Like New York, Boston may be an overlooked contender in sustainability and green job growth; but its record is solid and growing more impressive each year. The city is an incubator to green technology, understandable since it is also the city with the highest concentration of colleges and universities in the nation. But this isn’t the only reason.

  • Wind power is Boston's third largest fuel source.
  • All new buildings are required to conform to LEED standards.
  • Most city vehicles are powered by electricity or bio-fuels. Bio-fuels boost the alternative fuel industry.
  • Big names and competing corporations in the city are forging new technology and clean energy pathways.


Did you know...

...that the top five sectors for clean-tech jobs are solar, biofuels and biomaterials, conservation, smart grid, and wind power?


Surprised again, you said? But this isn’t a hard one to understand. Detroit is the hub of the nation’s automotive industry and good things are happening there despite the hardships in Michigan. Here’s what’s going on in the "Motor City":

  • Department of Energy grants are funding factories and hybrid and electric car technology. This has created jobs for skilled but defunct auto workers. Prior to the recession, in 2007, the state had already created 22,000 new clean energy jobs. Now with the funding and the industry on the rebound, green collar jobs are growing rapidly.
  • Many automotive suppliers not based in Michigan are moving into the metro area.

The Bottom Five Contenders (6-10)

Los Angeles
Washington, D.C.


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    • ithabise profile image

      Michael S. 5 years ago from Winston-Salem, NC

      Thanks, Cardelean! I hope clean energy will make a huge difference with Detroit. Already I've seen some pretty nice cars from there. They could gain ground with clean tech innovation. I say make it an objective to mass market hydrogen powered vehicles...standardize it here, and they'll compete with Japan again.

    • cardelean profile image

      cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

      Excellent information! I have to admit that as I was reading and I got to Detroit I did think, huh? Then when went on to talk about the car industry it made much more sense to me. They are doing some great things.

    • ithabise profile image

      Michael S. 5 years ago from Winston-Salem, NC

      Reading up on some of the things Ford and GM are doing/planning is exciting. In fact, their designs, in my opinion, have already so changed to compete with the Asian leaders. Thanks, Mekenzie, for reading and your kind words.

    • Mekenzie profile image

      Susan Ream 5 years ago from Michigan

      Great hub - I live in Michigan and have experienced the hit to the economy these past years - good to know of Detroit's direction toward green solutions.

      My husband's business provides green solutions - so we are quite aware of the need for education on green alternatives.

      Welcome to the hubs - your writing is very good and interesting!

      Voted up and useful


    • ithabise profile image

      Michael S. 5 years ago from Winston-Salem, NC

      It is good news. Sustainability is the right thing to do, and we need to be proactive about it before we allow ourselves to do irreparable harm to our ecosystem. Thanks for your comment, Teresa.

    • Teresa Coppens profile image

      Teresa Coppens 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Great hub ithabise. Good to know 'green' is becoming more fashionable.

    • ithabise profile image

      Michael S. 5 years ago from Winston-Salem, NC

      Hmm...let's think about that one :P Professional jobs may be tough, but basic green jobs (e.g., transportation) won't be that tough. Thanks for reading, Druid Dude.

    • Druid Dude profile image

      Druid Dude 5 years ago from West Coast

      Next question. How do you get a green job w/o a sheepskin? Entry level jobs in that sector invariably require one. Voting up. Need more hubs like this one!