The growing green economy
Menlo Park woman turns her passion for the environment into a business that helps people find 'green' careers
We've seen the industrial economy, the global economy, the digital economy, and the perennial hidden economy. In the recent years the economic tides have begun to shift towards newer, greener waters.
The front page of the Stanford Graduate School of Business's Web site has links to multiple stories on environmental concerns and green business practices. Throughout the world, business schools are creating specialized programs focusing on sustainability, environmental responsibility and green practices. Demand has created a market, and that market is growing.
It was in this environment that Menlo Park resident Carol McClelland looked around and decided the time was right to start her new business, a Web site that helps people find green careers.
"The whole green economy is a new frontier where the paths are not particularly clear yet," she says. "Thomas Friedman, columnist for the New York Times, has called it a cultural business shift similar to the Industrial Revolution; it will touch everybody one way or another."
For over 15 years, Ms. McClelland worked as an independent consultant in Menlo Park, arriving after receiving a graduate degree in organizational psychology from Purdue University. She describes her career as helping people "tap into their own passion to find a job that suits them personally and professionally."
She wrote books on the subject, including "Your Dream Career for Dummies," and taught a career self-assessment course at San Jose State University.
"I used a system based on self-assessment and self-reflective exercises to discover what's true inside of clients," she says.
A long time nature enthusiast, Ms. McClelland, was encouraged by a friend to follow her own advice and find a way to incorporate her love of the environment into her job. Green Career Central was born. That was in February 2007, and the beta version of www.greencareercentral.com was on the Web in November with the official version debuting this month. Members pay either a $99 annual fee or $14 a month and receive access to some 150 articles, as well as personalized advice and recorded interviews with experts.
Ms. McClelland has continued to follow her own advice along the way. Her site is set up as a series of steps, the first of which is to find a green niche. "To succeed," the site says, "you must narrow your search for a green career by capitalizing on your passions, interests, and experience." Helping people find green careers was a natural melding of Ms. McClelland's own passions, interests and experience.
Steps 3 through 5 are research based: exploring possible careers, determining a path and building a network.
"A common pitfall is not doing enough research," Ms. McClelland says. "People need to immerse themselves in a field; there are no real shortcuts."
From February to June 2007, Ms. McClelland says she worked with a number of different specialists, doing research on marketing, finances, writing and other Internet sites to find how and where her site might fit into the vast world of online job sites.
"We saw that there aren't sites that combine personalized help and support for finding your niche," she explains. Based on this knowledge, she outlined a Web site that would include everything she found lacking on existing green career sites.
Step 6 on the path to a green career is "Take Action."
Ms. McClelland says the site outline was completed by August 2007, at which time the content creation began. She began writing many hours a day, seven days a week, as she worked to complete the articles that make up the site.
"I've done this sort of thing before," she explains. "You just have to shut out everything else and just do it."
By November 2007, the beta site was up and running, and Ms. McClelland says the feedback thus far has been very encouraging.
"People are very excited to find such a source," she says. "Most people know they want a green career but don't know how they're going to get there or what it looks like. We provide a lot of resources in one place."
Ms. McClelland continues to spend her days writing articles for the site or for an online newsletter she publishes. She has an Ebook called "What's Your Green Niche?" available online with membership or for a $55 fee. The site has audio interviews with green career professionals, and Ms. McClelland says she wants to add interviews with experts in various green fields to give site members "the inside track."
The green economy, she says, is constantly growing and changing. "We're always scanning the Web to see what's changing, so we can provide as much support as possible to as many as possible."
"The next couple of months will show how well we'll do," Ms. McClelland says. She seems confident though and speaks of plans for events and conferences that will complement current monthly teleconferences conducted over the Web.
Her confidence may be well-founded. The market for green jobs is continuing to grow. Both Democratic presidential candidates have declared their support for the creation of green jobs as part of their plans for economic growth.
"People want to make a difference," Ms. McClelland says. "They are worried about the state of the planet and the science that says we are walking down a dangerous road."
How to green your job
For those who are not in the position to change careers, Carol McClelland offers suggestions for how to green your job.
• Paper usage: Print only when necessary. Use recycled paper. Use soy-based ink or inks that let you recycle the ink cartridge. Recycle all paper in your office.
• Shipping: Look at how you pack shipments; reuse containers. Evaluate the practices of shipping companies. Reuse and recycle all packing and shipping material you receive.
• Travel: Eliminate commute when possible; telecommute. Consider carpooling or using public transport. Evaluate your need to attend meetings in person; consider teleconferencing. Offset your carbon usage.
• Energy: Turn off appliances at night; unplug them, the converters suck energy. Evaluate lighting options; use LED, CFL or natural light when possible.
• cTypeface:Bold>Food: Eliminate vending machines. Use real or compostable dishware and utensils. Bring your own lunch in reusable containers. Use fair trade coffee, local pastries and tap water in the office kitchen.