Top NavTop NavTop Nav

Sustainability certificate opens doors to growing field of green jobs

  • November 2, 2009

As part of its university-wide commitment to developing a greener future and reducing environmental impact locally and globally, Cal State East Bay has announced a Certificate in Sustainable Resource Management, available to upper-division students and for professional development. 

“It’s a response to the great increase in need for sustainability directors and coordinators,” said Professor Karina Garbesi of the Department of Geography & Environmental Studies. “There is a whole new professional role for environmental jobs in cities, agencies and universities.”

Throughout the state, cities and universities are now required by law to include climate action plans as part of general operating plans. Climate change is closely linked to energy usage, public services and city planning, so action plans typically cover a wide range of environmental topics. Developing and implementing those plans calls for a diverse background in sustainability.

“Managing climate challenges requires an integrated resource planning approach, which is emphasized by this certificate,” Garbesi explained. “It requires sound food, waste and water management and urban planning. And these are also important goals in their own right.”

The university recently joined the East Bay Green Corridor Partnership to stimulate green job development. By increasing the number of academic options for students interested in sustainability, Cal State East Bay can make an immediate contribution to the regional green workforce.

Open to upper-division students in any undergraduate major who meet the prerequisites, the certificate program requires four courses in geography, environmental studies and management, plus a choice of three electives from a list that includes energy, water, development and field studies.

The certificate will also be available to non-matriculated students through Open University. Garbesi said this would be a good option for people with college degrees who have an interest in sustainability but no environmental background. “Lots of professionals are trying to retrain themselves in this economy, and this is one area that’s growing,” she said.

The economics forecasting organization Global Insight indicates green jobs could account for 10 percent of new employment growth over the next three decades, creating up to 4.2 million jobs. Garbesi notes some of that is already happening with the creation of “sustainability officer” jobs in both public and private sectors.

“Even if legislation isn’t in place yet, (companies) understand they have to be able to change the way they do business,” she said. “This is the perfect training for that kind of work.”

Jobs are part of the attraction for student Laryn Hoggard, an environmental studies major who also plans to get a minor in anthropology. “Since you can do so many things with an environmental studies major, I want a career that allows me to travel. I would want to do research in different parts of the world, work on water projects... and be a green consultant in either the Bay Area or Southern California,” said Hoggard.

Because of the interdisciplinary approach, students from all majors with a variety of career objectives will benefit from the certificate, and Garbesi sees that as a natural extension of CSUEB’s mission to create graduates with broad skills. It also fits with the university’s new focus on science, technology, engineering and math education.

Depending on course availability, most students will be able to complete the certificate requirements during a single academic year. Those who have already taken some courses can apply them retroactively for credit.

The overall message, as Garbesi sees it, is that “the world is changing dramatically toward sustainability, by planetary necessity. We have to make these changes. But it’s also exciting. We can recreate the world.”

© California State University, East Bay. All Rights Reserved.