It's graduation time, and students from colleges and universities around the world are pledging to make a living while making a difference in helping our world be green and sustainable. Nearly 150 colleges and universities around the world are participating in the Graduation Pledge Alliance (GPA), which is a pledge of social and environmental responsibility that originated at Humboldt State University in California.

The Monroe County Solid Waste Management District (District) is talking with Indiana University (IU) to see if IU will adopt the pledge. The challenge for graduates is to not just get a job but to get one that makes a difference. Today, there are jobs that fit the Pledge that our parents never heard of. One can be a carbon trader, an urban forester, or a sustainability director. New industries and occupations are emerging because of new opportunities, tools, needs, scope and markets/populations.

The following are job tips for a green world so that people of all ages can affirm the Pledge.

"The challenge for graduates is to not just get a job but to get one that makes a difference."

Current GPA participants in Indiana are University of Notre Dame, Goshen College, Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne and Manchester College. When graduating, students affirm the following pledge: "I pledge to explore and take into account the social and environmental consequences of any job I consider and will try to improve these aspects of any organizations for which I work."

The pledge is signed by students at small liberal arts colleges, as well as at larger public and private universities, including universities like Northwestern, Florida and Michigan.

Both industry giants and fledgling companies are finding their identities and market niches through sustainable practices. Of all of the environmental technologies, "Green Building" is one of the hottest. As Melissa Everett notes in her book Making A Living while Making A Difference, a good book for graduates or those about to graduate, the healthfulness and economics of shelter are parts of sustainability that touches everyone's life. Building design influences the natural environment, our physical and mental health in the workplace.

As Business Week reported in 2007, U.S. consumers use more resources than any others, including an estimated 20,000 pounds per year per person of virgin forest products, fuel, steel, glass, cement and plastics.

"Every field can have a green offshoot, from the fashion industry using organic materials to cooking."

Green Building includes minimizing impacts on land through careful building location and natural landscaping; adopting the healthiest possible materials, including reused and recycled ones wherever possible; and minimizing water and energy use. It helps answer the question of what healthy development might look like. This trend goes together with building deconstruction to recover reusable resources.

However, every field can have a green offshoot, from the fashion industry using organic materials to cooking. Whether you are a journalist, an educator, an artist or a businessperson, you can make a difference. So regardless of the field a graduate pursues, the following are helpful questions graduates and those long since graduated can research about a potential employer:

1. What does the business aim to do in the world?
2. Who is affected by the success of the enterprise?
3. What specific programs does the organization have to contribute to the well-being of the surrounding community, financially or with service? What kinds of reviews do they get in the communities affected?
4. Are endangered species or resources affected by the company's practices?
5. What is the organization's record on resource use and waste handling? Does it practice pollution prevention or control?
6. How are products packaged? What efforts have been made to minimize waste, use recycled packaging materials, etc.? Is there an office recycling program in effect, and is it taken seriously?
7. How are environmental policies different in the organization's U.S. and foreign operations?
8. Are products or processes tested on animals or have alternatives been developed?
9. What efforts has the organization made to improve its environmental performance?
10. (My favorite) Would you give the product or service of this organization to someone you love as a gift?

As Everett states, "Don't assume that the organizations, sectors and fields you have ruled out in the past will continue to be off limits, and don't assume that the outward appearance of a job are a major indicator of security or satisfaction."

"Graduates today can find a number of ways they can contribute to a sustainable present."

In other words, graduates today can find a number of ways they can contribute to a sustainable present. GPA co-founder Matt Nicodemus states, "We started the Pledge to help create an environment on campuses in which students could think and act about how their personal life choices could help bring about the world they wanted to be living in."

The Pledge is a formal commitment for people of all ages to pause and assess whether a job is not just good for that person or that person's resume, but good for the world. All individuals have the potential to create a green world. Go graduates and those long since graduated! Make a difference and create a sustainable world.

Maybe Monroe County high schools can be the next to adopt the Pledge! High Schools, please call District Media & Education Director Elisa Pokral for more information.

Elisa Pokral can be reached at

For more information
Graduation Pledge Alliance