Green Jobs: What’s Next?

Warm-up: Innovations Discussion

1.Discuss current inventions and other possible innovations. (Note: your students should have a basic understanding of green jobs to participate in this lesson. Be sure they are familiar with the above definition, as well as concepts and characteristics of green jobs.)

a) Present your students with a few current innovations which are in-the-works (algae as a biofuel, biodegradable plastic, etc.)

b) Ask them to think of what other projects scientists and manufacturers may be working on, and what kinds of inventions they think would help curb climate change. Encourage students to be creative!

c) Ask students to think about how items we use everyday were once brand new innovations. What would it have been like to see the first light bulb, airplane, farmed field, computer, written language, refrigerator, fire, etc? Have students come up with a few interesting examples. Be sure they relate these inventions to current tools, ideas and innovations.

d) What are the benefits associated with progressive innovation and trying new things? (Economic development, climate change control, job creation, staying internationally competitive, etc).

e) What could be some drawbacks to this? (Failure, over-reliance on technology, losing jobs and profits in competing sectors, etc.)


Activity One: Group Research

1. Break the class into groups of 3-6 students. Have each group research one new or upcoming invention that they think is going to be widely used in the coming years. Have them choose an invention based on its economic and environmental benefits and its uniqueness. Many of these can be found in current news, science, design or technology publications and websites. (Cargo box homes, blue-green algae as a biofuel, etc.) Note: to save class research time, you may want to pre-assign an invention to each group. 

2. As they compile their research, have the groups fill out Reproducible One – Innovation Research, including what the product is, who it will benefit, who can use it, how it will help the environment, and why they think it is a good invention.


Activity Two: Presentations and Discussions

1.Come back together as a class and have each group briefly present their findings and answers on Reproducible One – Innovation Research.

2. After each innovation or invention has been described, use the following questions to ask each group for further information and/or lead an overall class discussion after all the presentations have been completed:

a. Does everyone agree that all of the innovations researched qualify as “green”? Why or why not? Which stand out as the greenest?

b. Which of the inventions researched seems most likely to gain widespread use? Which seems the most outlandish?

c. Which of these seems like it has the most potential and could have the greatest impact? Which stands out as the best and most realistic idea?

d. How does the production of such innovations relate to green jobs?

i. Are the products made in a green manner? Are the products themselves “green”?

ii. How might each of these innovations create jobs or boost the economy? Do they fall into existing sectors – energy, technology, transportation, agriculture, etc. - or do they create entirely new areas?

iii.What jobs exist or would need to be created to produce and spread the use of this product?

e. What people/businesses/governments would be most in favor of each of these innovations? (For example, states in windy plains areas are most in favor of wind power, etc…)

f. What kinds of people/businesses/governments might be resistant to each of these innovations? Think about competitors, outsourcing, resource depletion, profits, pollution, regional consequences, etc. (For example, states with coal or oil deposits may be resistant to increased wind power, etc…)

g. Jobs in building, agriculture, transit, waste, and health care can all be green.

i. Ask students how they think these sectors can be green.

ii. Which of these sectors do students think is the most important to be “greened” now? Which sector has the greatest potential to have a positive impact on the environment? Do any of the inventions they researched in class fit into this important sector?


Wrap-Up: Broader Discussion

  1. Green innovations are not the only up-and-coming area of the green jobs sector. Researching new systems of production, such as how to reuse and recycle products that have not yet been considered recyclable, is a new and important realm of the green jobs sector.
    1. Ask students if they can think of anything that can be recycled that was not being recycled a few years ago. (Briefly discuss e-cycling and the importance of recycling old electronics. Although we have had the capacity to recycle electronics for a while now, more and more people are making it a point to do so, and e-cycling facilities are becoming more common. Also, discuss how old tires and plastics are being used in non-conventional ways—used in playgrounds, shoes, etc.)
    2. Ask students if they can think of some products that they do not recycle but that they think should be recycled. Do they think that, in the near future with continued research, that we will have the capacity to recycle such products?
    3. How does broadening the reach of recycling fit into green jobs? (Provides work for people, opens up new sectors of production and resources, and reduces humans’ negative impacts on the environment).
  2. Are there any other areas besides inventions or production systems that would be combined to influence green jobs? (Policies and laws, ethics, economics and funding, steady supply of trainable workers, resources, globalization, etc.)
  3. Relate these concepts to the students’ understanding of green jobs. How do these areas function together to determine the future of green jobs? (It is inventions and innovations that create new areas for research, development and manpower. Attractive and marketable ideas get funded and lead to a new/expanded job market. Available resources, manpower and a well-trained workforce determine which sectors make the most progress. Business practices, policies and laws are interrelated – new policies require change in practice, and new ways of practice influence new policies. When these innovations have an environmental component, such as reducing waste and pollution, decreasing emissions, or using sustainable products, they are paving the way for green jobs.)


Extension: Homework Assignment

  1. Have your students each come up with his/her own idea for a new invention and write a one-page paper detailing how this would benefit the environment and/or help curb climate change. Have them answer the following questions in their papers:
    1. Why is their invention a good idea?
    2. Why is it important? How will it help the environment?
    3. What kind of jobs would this innovation create? What kind of training would be needed?
    4. Do they think it will ever enter the market? What would need to happen? What kind of challenges would be met?
    5. Encourage creativity! Remind students that most inventions sound crazy and unrealistic at first.


At the end of this lesson, students should have an increased interest in green innovations and how they relate to the future of green jobs and global solutions. It is clear, as climate change remains a growing concern, that our planet requires continued research and development of products in the building, agriculture, transit, waste, and health care sectors.