What Is a Sawmill Without a Forest?

By Sally Gelardin

Environmental sustainability is interdependent with economic and social sustainability. A global focus on environmental, economic, and social sustainability challenges is growing in almost every field and addressed in almost every work environment - corporations, small businesses, non-profits, educational institutions, and government. 

A frequent question that career practitioners ask is "What is a green job?" According to Jim Cassio, author of the Green Careers Resource Guide and co-author of Green Careers: Choosing Work for a Sustainable Future, "A green job is a job that is 'good for the environment." Cassio's list of  green jobs includes the following:

  • Any job with an employer that's part of the green economy

  • Any job outside of the green economy with an employer that's committed to being environmentally responsible

  • Any job with a non-green employer when that specific job is ‘good for the environment'

  • Any non-green job in which someone has turned that job into a green job

"Of course," Cassio says, "Knowing what is and isn't good for the environment requires knowledge of sustainability. Anyone interested in pursuing a green job or career, or professionally supporting individuals with those goals, needs to have that sustainability knowledge, albeit at varying degrees." 

Aware that there will be no careers unless we live within the carrying capacities of supporting eco-systems, students are taking courses to prepare for entering environmental careers. "Those of us in the college classroom see a growing and encouraging trend," notes Eugene Muscat, University of San Francisco, School of Business and Professional Studies, " Many students are making college and career choices driven by their core personal values not profit (i.e., salary, status)." Higher educational institutions are actively improving environmental performance and literacy. Most environmental emphasis is apparent in the curriculum, management, and operations of most campuses.  Muscat notes the following social sustainability trends in business education (Muscat & Whitty, 2009):

  • emphasis on values in management courses at business schools 

  • movement to make social responsibility part of the undergraduate and graduate core curriculum

  • coursework that focuses on sustainable business (green economy, sustainability, business ethics)

  • student interest in social entrepreneurship careers (non-profit and green economy career fairs, non-profit internships)

  • growth of on-campus student groups (i.e., Net Impact, Rotaract)

  • service-learning activities at schools of business and management (i.e., Orbis Institute).

The rest of us are doing our bit - using cloth shopping bags instead of paper or plastic (when we can remember to bring the cloth bags to the market), recycling our trash, and cutting down on consumption of unnecessary products and services. Environmental sustainability is a hot topic and many of us are supporting this movement, including career development professionals. And why not?  If we don't, future sea level rise and other climate change impacts of global warming could affect our lifework. Carol McClelland, author of Green Careers for Dummies, says, "Parts of the globe will be under water, while other parts will be suffering from severe drought conditions." According to an Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change (Schneider, S.H., 2008),  "Those in the weakest economic position are often the most vulnerable to climate change and are frequently the most susceptible to climate-related damages" (http://www.pnas.org/content/106/11/4133.full).  In the opinion of the author of this Career Convergence article, in vulnerable environments, devastated by projected increase in hurricanes, heat waves, floods, earthquakes, and other extreme climate events, there may not be any jobs or people to advise in their career development process. 


Participants at NCDA's Professional Development Institute, What is a Sawmill without a Forest, will join with panelists to discuss the following topics:

(a) paving the way for future generations by caring for our environment,  

(b) emerging sustainable careers,

(c) applying the principles of "sustainability" to your work and life,

(d)  "green" careers and industries,  and

(e) the relationship between work and the environment. 


Sustainability is dependent upon the alignment of our exterior environment with our internal environment (i.e., strengths and values). At the PDI, participants will also explore their role in the sustainability movement, identify their strengths that can be used in the green economy, and discuss what a sustainable lifestyle means to them. They will learn about specific sustainable organizations and businesses as well as the educator's role and perspective.


What is a Sawmill Without a Forest? Improving Human Life by Cultivating a Sustainable Environment,

PDI B, Tuesday, June 29, 2010, 7:30 am - 6 pm

(Sally Gelardin, Careerwell.org, Sue Aiken, Career Development Alliance, Mike Marriner, Roadtripnation.com, Jim Cassio, Cassio.com, Carol McClelland, GreenCareerCentral.com, John Krumboltz, Stanford University, Eugene J. Muscat, University of San Francisco, Shawn Rosenmoss, San Francisco Environment Department, Mayor's Office, Mark Guterman, MeaningfulCareers.com, Mary Robins, Menlo College).



Muscat, E.J. & Whitty, M. Social Entrepreneurship: Values-Based Leadership to Transform Business Education and Society. The Business Renaissance Quarterly, Volume 4, No. 1, ISSN 1930-7462, Spring 2009.



Sally Gelardin

 Sally Gelardin, Ed.D. (International and Multicultural Education), NCC, DCC,  CDF e-Learning Instructor, Women's Studies Evaluator, University of San Francisco, provides continuing education for career practitioners and interviews career experts through Careerwell Tele-Interviews. She can be reached at info@careerwell.org.