Green Jobs and Economics

Warm-up: Discussion

1.Discuss the economic benefits of green jobs

a) What kinds of small changes can businesses and families make to increase energy efficiency and decrease their carbon footprints? (Energy efficient lights and appliances, reducing energy use, reducing water use, recycling, carpooling, biking to school and work, etc).

b) From a business standpoint, why does it make sense to go green? (Long term benefits: cut costs in the long run, save energy, improve efficiency, portray a positive image, etc).

c) Aside from reducing long-term costs, what other economic benefits can be seen through implementing green practices? (With an increasing concern about climate change and the economic downturn, thousands of jobs are being created in the green job sector. Job creation in this area will provide thousands with jobs, strengthen our economy, and keep the United States internationally competitive. Buying and using green products and alternative energy and supporting businesses with sustainable practices will contribute to the growth of this sector while improving the environment and combating climate change).


Activity One: Cost - Benefit Analysis

1. This activity will introduce students to the economic differences between regular and energy-efficient products and give them a clear picture of how effective energy-efficient products are in cutting costs.

2. To introduce students to important economics vocabulary, explain the difference between up-front costs, investments, pay-offs, and short-term and long-term benefits.

3. Explain to students that cost-benefit analysis is useful in determining if a project is worth implementing or a product is worth using. If the outcome of the analysis shows that the benefits outweigh the costs, the project/product is considered efficient and worth using. For example, “Americans, with the help of ENERGY STAR, saved enough energy in 2008 alone to avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 29 million cars — all while saving $19 billion on their utility bills.”[1]

4. Cost-benefit analysis is conducted by subtracting the total costs from the total benefits (TB-TC).

5. Use Reproducible One – Cost-Benefit Analysis worksheet for this activity. Have students research various appliances and the cost-savings of their energy-efficient counterparts.

a) Direct students to look online to find an example or average cost for each appliance.

b) Possible resources for finding pricing and savings information use:

a. Evo, for information on the economic benefits of CFLs

b. EnergyStar h for information on the savings of commercial dishwashers

c. A Best Kitchen, for prices of commercial dishwashers.

6. After completing this activity, discuss the students’ findings.

c) Were they surprised by any of the results?

d) Can students think of any other products that would likely have similar economic and environmental benefits?


Activity Two: Changing Business Practices

1. Split your class up into three groups. Tell them that they are the presidents of a company and are interested in adopting new sustainable business practices. Their company can only implement one energy efficient technology or renewable energy source at this point.

2. After setting up this scenario, give your students the following three sustainable business practice options: 1. Install solar panels; 2. Install energy efficient appliances wherever possible (kitchen/cafeteria, bathrooms, boiler room, lighting, heating/cooling, etc.); 3. Create a green roof and plant trees and plants where possible (courtyard, front and or back of building).

3. Provide your students with some basic information on the savings and overall benefits of the three options (Reproducible Two – Green Business Practices). Remind students that there are also indirect benefits such as: public image/advertising, meeting consumer demand, etc. These may have more or less impact depending on the type of business and the consumer audience involved.

4. In their small groups, have students decide what business they are in and discuss the three possible options. Which of these best fits with their industry and practices?

5. Have them write up a brief explanation (one to two paragraphs or bullet points) of why they made the decision they did, incorporating basic cost-benefit analysis.

6. Have the class come back together and share their decisions. Once all of the groups have presented their decisions, have groups which differed in their decisions briefly discuss and debate these options.


Wrap-Up: Changing Business Practices Discussion

1. Discuss the students’ decisions, explanations and understanding of the Changing Business Practices Activity:

a.) Do students understand the economic benefits associated with going green?

b.) Can students think of any other green business practices aside from the three used in the activity?

c.) How does “going green” (implementing cost-effective green products) allow a business relate to green jobs? (Supports green manufacturing, research and design sectors and provides jobs for people as production, installation, and maintenance of green products are required).

d.) Do students think that green jobs are only those that are directly related to helping the environment (i.e. solar panel manufacturers, recycling companies, bicycle builders, etc.) or can green jobs also include those who pledge to use green business practices and work in a green workplace?


Extension: Homework Assignment

1.Have your students research other sustainable options that businesses are implementing across the country. If possible, present articles highlighting some of these recent options, innovations and decisions for businesses. Look in business, environmental or other sources. Have students choose either a company or a sustainable business practice to highlight in a short research paper. (Could include LEED certification, bike to work compensation programs, organic cafeterias, etc).

2. Have your students think about green business practices as they apply at your school. Your school could be considered a business, and administrators have to think about many of the same issues that business owners do. Visit for a comprehensive list of ways to green your school and building. Have students review these options, research how they could be implemented at your school, and write up a report focused on the business sense of your school going green. Consider cost-benefit analysis, efficiency, staff/student health and safety, etc. If possible, present this research and greening plan to administrators at your school!


Although some people argue that the costs of energy efficient products and sustainable building is prohibitive to implementing change, in the long run, the savings of using environmentally-friendly products will pay off the initial costs and ultimately save money! The monetary, health, and environmental benefits seen from implementing sustainable business practices cannot be overlooked. Green jobs will continue to be the crucial sector in coming years, and just as green jobs support green business practices, so do green business practices support green jobs.