From education to employment

Beyond emissions – every job is a green job

Raquel Noboa

In this article, Raquel Noboa outlines the massive shift underway in education, as organisations rush to understand green skills and embed them into programmes and qualifications alike, and how green skills need to go beyond emissions and renewable industries.

The UK government has pledged £4.5 billion over the next five years until 2030, in an effort to attract investments in strategic manufacturing sectors. This includes £2 billion for zero-emission automotive projects, £975 million for aerospace, and £520 million for life sciences, with an additional £960 million allocated for the Green Industries Growth Accelerator focusing on offshore wind, electricity networks, nuclear, CCUS, and hydrogen.

But are renewable industry investments the most critical part to the Climate Change Crisis?

When we think of green jobs, often people’s minds will leap immediately to solar panels for example, or electric cars, windmills etc.

However, are we forgetting about the thousands of roles that don’t fall under areas such as the renewables industry sector?

Should they continue with, “business as usual”? With no thought process or framework created to include sustainability within their own operations?

Let me give you an example – A commercial kitchen oven can use 38 kWh of electricity to operate. The decision of when that oven is turned on or off is made by a chef who may or may not be aware of the co-relation between using that piece of equipment, the cost to the organisation and the cost to the environment. Keeping this oven off for just 1 extra hour per day, every day over the space of a year, will reduce the kitchen’s electricity usage by 13,870 Kw, reducing CO2 emissions by 4.5 tonnes and generating potential cost savings of £3,700.

It is a win for the planet and a win for the organisation that uses that oven for its daily operations.  

Why are green skills not being viewed a priority?

Knowing what we know about the climate crisis and remembering the chef’s behaviour in my above example, the question that comes to my mind is: “Why are sustainability and resource efficiency not a priority in our education curriculums?”

“The 1.5-degree limit is only possible if we ultimately stop burning all fossil fuels.
Not reduce.
Not abate.  
Phaseout – with a clear timeframe aligned with 1.5 degrees.”
– António Guterres, Secretary-general, United Nations, opening speech

The abandonment of fossil fuels really means the relinquishing of our global economy as we know it, which will require a change in the way we live and the way we work, transforming into a circular fossil fuel free society.

Change is difficult, particularly when it is required on such an enormous scale. Education and training is the only tool we have to make this change occur in a harmonious way.

As per an article written by City & Guilds in October:

In November 2020 the UK Government announced the Green Jobs Taskforce which was then followed by the 2021 Net Zero strategy. 

These were both introduced with the goal of helping to prepare businesses and individuals for the changes they would need to make to meet decarbonisation targets.

However, a couple of years on there are still many organisations whose employees are not ready to do the “greener jobs” they will need to do to meet environmental targets.

In 2021, UNESCO released a report stating that “Education is not giving students sufficient knowledge to adapt, act and respond to climate change.” They urged for our education curriculums to include environmental education worldwide by 2025.

The study analysed educational plans and curricula frameworks in close to 50 countries across all regions. More than half made no reference to climate change, while only 19% spoke about biodiversity. The study noted a lack of attention to socio-emotional skills and action-oriented competences that are central to environmental and climate action.

In an on-line survey of 1,600 teachers and education leaders conducted for the study, one third of respondents indicated that environment-related issues were not part of teacher training.

Every Job is a Green Job

At Fifty Shades Greener, we believe that every job is a green job, a brick layer should learn how to maximise the materials they are using and be able to apply the circular economy principles to daily activities, just as a procurement manager should learn about the cradle to gate emissions of the products, they order.

There is a massive shift underway in education, as organisations rush to understand green skills and embed them into programmes and qualification, sometimes quite successfully, sometimes not so much.

We need to be clear as we move forward though, that sustainability goes beyond GHG emission, beyond NetZero commitments and renewable energies.

People. Planet. Profit.

The 3 Ps need to be addressed in that exact order, we need to look after people, leaving NO ONE BEHIND, so they can look after the planet and in turn, our financial sustainability.

The further education sector plays a key role in nurturing green skills across all industries, because true sustainable development will not be achieved purely through academia, it will not be achieved by people understand the why, or rehearsing leaning outcomes, it will be achieved when every individual in society understands their role in the green transition and are equipped with the skills to effect change in their everyday lives.

Change Starts within

In my role as the founder & CEO of Fifty Shades Greener, I meet educational organisations every day. The questions they have is always the same:

How do we integrate green skills into our curriculum?

For me, change starts within.

We need to look inwards before we can look outwards, we need to ensure educational institutions have applied sustainability strategies to their own organisations, forming green teams with students, employees, teachers and their wider communities, who will learn by actually taking action within their learning environment.  

 I recently returned from delivering a seminar at the Green Education pavilion of COP28.

This was my first, and last, visit to COP.

I will not go into the juxtapositions of the chosen host and presidency for a climate change conference, we all know what exactly what those glaring issues are.

However it is much larger than this.

After 28 years of organising the same event over and over again, I was totally shocked to realise that there was no thought process put into the sustainability surrounding  the event itself.

  • I had to drink my coffee from a single use cup, just as the other 83,000 people in attendance did. If we all had 3 drinks on average at this event alone, there would be over 240,000 single use cups a day thrown away.
  • When I was hungry, I found just one vegan food truck, how strange I thought! My food was individually wrapped and I was handed one of my pet hates in life: individually wrapped sauces!

While these two things may seem insignificant within the context of the large crisis that is climate change, they are extremely important when it comes to demonstrating real leadership and essentially – practising what you preach!

Large scale events can be “green” and even “zero waste”, all that is required is critical thinking and…of course, to care enough about the cause we are fighting for.

When will the UN start within and green COP?

What will you yourself do? Will you start within, and change your daily decisions ensuring that you are only affecting people and planet in a positive way?

By Raquel Noboa, founder and CEO of Fifty Shades Greener

Watch Raquel Noboa story here.

Everyone’s green journey has to start somewhere and it was no different for Fifty Shades Greener founder & CEO. From the age of 17, Raquel worked in the hospitality industry following her move from her native Spain to Ireland, until 2017 when she decided to take the plunge & start her own business.

“The idea for my business began to form in my head during my time as green manager in Doolin. If I could bring Hotel Doolin to be the first carbon neutral Hotel in Ireland, then surely I could teach others how to begin their green journey, just like I did? That’s how Fifty Shades Greener was born.”

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