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As we move further into the 21st century, issues surrounding global warming, resource consumption and overpopulation are surfacing more frequently. Concern over rising oil prices and electricity use has sparked interest in alternative fuels such as hydrogen, solar energy and wind power. Some responsible and forward-thinking corporations, businesses and individuals are taking steps to improve their ability to self-sustain, or run independently of depletable resources. These companies turn to sustainability experts -- consultants who analyze the way an organization runs, the energy it consumes, and the waste it produces, and find ways to bring the organization closer to sustainability.

What is sustainability?

forest upward viewAccording to sustainability expert Dr. Richard T. Wright, a sustainable system is one that maintains its capacity to operate without depleting the resources its operation relies on. The best examples can be found in nature – for example, a forest gets its nutrients from:

  • The soil, which is replenished by fallen trees and leaves
  • The sun, a non-depletable resource
  • The rain, a self-sustaining system

These characteristics make a forest able to carry on for eons without depleting its resources.

Though it’s not possible in the foreseeable future for modern society as a whole to continue without the need for outside resources, it is possible for cities, businesses and individuals to adopt characteristics of sustainable systems, thereby reducing the amount of resources needed to sustain them. For example, if the area of land needed to sustain the agricultural and resource needs of a city (also known as the city’s ecological “footprint”) were sustainable, then the city itself would be sustainable. Though no city has yet reached that point, cities and businesses are taking steps to move in that direction through the use of non-depletable energy sources such as solar and wind energy, and through the conservation of depletable resources such as fossil fuels and electricity (more on that later). They make these transitions through the advice of sustainability experts.

What does a sustainability expert do?

man with blueprints facing rightSustainability experts and sustainability firms act as consultants to their clients, which may be governments, cities, corporations, small businesses, organizations or individuals seeking to reduce their ecological footprint. Some sustainability consulting firms, such as, assist in an organization’s planning in order to solve or prevent problems relating to energy, transportation or agriculture. A sustainability consulting firm may consider a business’s energy use and create a plan for the use of renewable energy, or assist in a city’s planning to allow more effective use of alternate transportation. They may also assist in architectural and building design to allow for more efficient use of energy.

Sustainability consultants can also address ecological and environmental problems that may affect a company’s reputation. WSP Environmental, for example, considers factors such as a client’s land use, water management, emissions management, and noise and vibration control in order to mitigate and prevent any environmental, social and reputational risks the client could potentially face.

These companies employ agents from a diverse array of industry backgrounds to assist organizations in their efforts to become more “green.” As environmental issues continue to create public awareness around the notion of resource depletion, these consultants and experts will see a productive future in creating sustainable, green businesses.

How do I become a sustainability expert?

Sustainability experts come from a variety of backgrounds, and sustainability is a new and vibrant avenue of business. Firms like to hire people with a background or interest in civil, structural, electrical or mechanical engineering, as well as biology, ecology and other water or earth sciences.

Because sustainability is a new industry without well-worn career paths, specific majors and degrees are not as important as the focus you take in your area of study. Self-motivation and a clear direction toward environmental preservation and conservation are some of the most important qualities a sustainability expert can have. Specific details pertaining to education requirements and salary tend to depend on the hiring firm and its particular specialty.

What can my business do to be more sustainable?

Every business can benefit from the advice of sustainability experts in some way, starting with small but cost-saving energy conservation efforts. Many energy-efficient businesses already follow these and other tips:

  • Use compact fluorescent lighting, as it uses 1/4 the energy and lasts 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs
  • Turn off or minimize lighting when the office is closed
  • Use lighter paint schemes in the office, as lighter colors brighten a room with less required lighting
  • Use natural lighting when you can -- it's proven to brighten workers' moods anyway
  • Use computers and office equipment marked with an Energy Star label -- their efficiency standards are expected to save businesses over $2 billion in the next 5 years
  • Set monitors to sleep mode when they're not in use, and turn computers off if no one is using them
  • Recycle toner cartridges, paper, and office food waste such as aluminum cans and plastic bottles
  • Use motion-activated faucets in bathrooms, as they turn themselves completely off

Related articles

Prepare disaster information kit

Be proactive: Take responsibility for your own success

Bad business: Changing your truth

Using a gas scooter to save money on transportation

Up and coming careers in the next 10 years

Household environmental toxins: Dangers and rumors

References - Dr Richard T. Wright interview

WSP Group

University of Technology Sydney – Expert Warns Sustainability the Only Way Forward for Business

Contractor Headlines – Sustainability-Expert Guide

AllBusiness: Creating a More Energy-Efficient Business

Related Careers

  1. Accountant
  2. Automotive Service Technician
  3. Acupuncturist
  4. Brand Development Representative
  5. Forensic Computing
  6. Health Information Technician
  7. Employee Relations Manager
  8. Logistics Distribution Manager
  9. Occupational Therapy Assistants
  10. Social Service Worker
  11. Software Tester
  12. Nutrition Specialist
  13. Corporate Travel Consultant
  14. Management Analysts
  15. Physical Therapist Assistant
  16. Resort Manager
  17. Business Administration Manager
  18. Executive Assistant
  19. Operations Manager
  20. Forensic Computing Technologist
  21. Brand Development Marketer
  22. Human Resource Manager
  23. Marketing Manager
  24. Network Security Analyst
  25. Exhibit Designer
  26. Home Health Aide Care Giver
  27. Health Educator
  28. Visitors Bureau Manager
  29. Agricultural Engineer
  30. Architectural Drafters
  31. Audio Engineering
  32. Benefits Administrator
  33. Real Estate Broker
  34. Electric Line Installer
  35. Computer Control Programmer
  36. Clinical Laboratory Technologist
  37. Database Administrator
  38. Pressure Vessel Safety Engineer
  39. Environmental Engineer
  40. Robot Programmer
  41. Information Engineer
  42. Environment Designer
  43. Loan Manager
  44. Technical Writer
  45. Film And Video Sound Engineer
  46. Special Event Coordinator
  47. Film & Video Sound Engineers
  48. Usability Consultant
  49. Systems Administrator
  50. Civil Drafter
  51. Travel Agent Consultant
  52. Commercial Environment Designer
  53. Security Systems Engineer
  54. Urban Planner
  55. Naturopathic doctor
  56. Public Relation Representative
  57. Adventure Travel Guide
  58. Technology Event Manager
  59. Quality Assurance Engineer
  60. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
  61. Health Administration/Management
  62. Asset Management
  63. Management Accountant
  64. Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)


  1. This is a good post. Thank you. I will link to this on the Plant Your Dream Blog.
    I have been writing about Anthony Zolezzi, sustainability expert here:

    Anthony is helping to launch GreenOps, a recycling program that will
    help remove the idea tha plastic is waste.

    Here is a great brief video where he explains the GreenOps Launch.

    This is going to mean a lot of new sources of income as well
    as people realize there is money to be made, and bennies that come
    from returning their plastic to the stores where they purchased them.

    Beyond Choking on our waste:

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