It’s Easy Being Green: The Top Five Cities for Green Jobs

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Green jobs continue to make inroads in the U.S. economy. Growth in these jobs was a robust 9.1 percent between 1998 and 2007 compared to 3.7 percent overall, and in January President Barack Obama promised $2.3 billion in Recovery Act Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credits for clean-energy manufacturing projects nationwide that will create tens of thousands of clean-energy jobs. Meanwhile, the stimulus bill is pumping $30 billion into the clean-energy sector, and aggressive smart grid deployment could create 270,000 U.S. jobs and a further 138,000 if our smart grid technologies are exported to a global market.

Some regions have become green jobs strongholds. Here are the top five U.S. cities that are seeing the most growth.

San Francisco

California leads the nation in clean-energy jobs with roughly 125,000—and San Francisco is a big source for these jobs. The Clean Edge report identifies the Bay Area as the number one metro area for clean technology job activity, and San Francisco recently passed $100 million in revenue bonds to support renewable energy projects. More than 50 percent of the city’s commuters travel on public transportation and 20 big construction projects have recently applied for LEED certification.


It’s no surprise that the Greater Boston area is a leader in green technology. After all, it has the highest concentration of colleges and universities of any metropolitan area in the world. Boston—including Worcester, Lawrence, Lowell, and Brockton—ranks fourth in the Clean Edge survey of 15 top U.S. metro areas for clean-tech job creation. And two big sources of green construction and engineering jobs in Boston are wind power—it’s the city’s third-largest fuel source—and the fact that new buildings have to be constructed to meet LEED certification standards.

Mayor Tom Menino appointed an Energy Management Board in 2003, which studied energy use in 362 municipal buildings and identified potential savings. For the second consecutive year, Menino’s Boston Green Awards included a separate category for bike-friendly businesses.


There’s good news for Detroit despite Michigan’s 15.3 percent unemployment rate. Department of Energy green technology grants to fund factories and create green jobs will tap into the Motor City’s skilled automotive workforce to bring hybrid and electric technology to the forefront of the American auto industry. Michigan had already created more than 22,000 clean-tech jobs by 2007, and the new federal grants will make those numbers grow. Automotive companies not based in Detroit have recently opened hubs in the city, and a mechanical engineer working on plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles in Detroit can expect to make $63,600 median pay with a bachelor’s degree, reports Clean Edge.


Oregon may struggle with unemployment like the rest of the United States, but with more than 20,000 clean-energy jobs created in 2007 alone—the most in the nation—it’s clear that sustainable Portland is the place to be. The city gets half of its power from renewable energy sources, 35 percent of its buildings have been certified by the U.S. Green Building Council, and a quarter of the workforce commutes to work by bike, carpool, or public transportation. The city’s $50 million “Grey to Green” initiative, which began in July 2008, aims to add 43 acres of ecoroofs, plant 33,000 yard trees and 50,000 street trees, and restore native vegetation while halting the spread of invasive plants to better manage stormwater—all of which will help create a green-collar workforce for Portland’s already green economy.

New York City

There are plenty of opportunities for green jobs in New York City. “Growing Green Collar Jobs,” a collaboration between 50 community, labor, and private sector groups in New York City, supports organizations such as Sustainable South Bronx, which has worked since 2001 to move South Bronx residents from welfare to green-collar jobs through education, outreach, and programs like “Greening the Ghetto.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched PlaNYC 2030 in 2007, a program with 127 greening initiatives, including $1 billion for retrofitting buildings to boost energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent, create homes for more than 1 million New Yorkers, and ensure that all residents live within a 10-minute walk to a park. Meeting these goals will create thousands of green-collar jobs in a variety of fields from urban forestry to renewable energy. In addition, 80 percent of Big Apple residents use public transportation, which is a boon for the city’s goal to have the cleanest air quality of any major U.S. city.

Read more articles from the "It’s Easy Being Green" series