Environmental Sustainability Planners

Sustainability Planners are urban and regional planners who are focused on economic and environmental sustainability in city planning, urban design and policy projects. Sustainability is accomplished through assessing an area’s climate, economic outlook and analyzing planning techniques. This job combines the best of two worlds: urban planning and environmental science.

The job of a Sustainability Planner is to create and maintain project in an area that foster environmental sustainability and community cohesion. Sustainability Planners may work within city planning departments, for planning and development companies, within regional planning commissions and/or departments of planning, in research institutions and in a wide variety of other areas.

Other names that Sustainability Planners might be given include Environmental Planner, Sustainability Specialist, Sustainability Consultant and Sustainability Manager. Here, we will describe the career of a Sustainability Manager.

Job Duties of a Sustainability Planner

Job duties of a Sustainability Manager can vary depending upon the setting in which you work. Usually, however, a job description for a Sustainability Planner includes the following:

  • Program and project development
  • Development, coordination, implementation and monitoring of climate change policies and initiatives
  • Coordinating with other professionals and/or government officials on policies and projects
  • Providing technical knowledge, guidance, data, support and advice in the area of environmental sustainability, energy efficiency, waste, recycling, climate change policies and initiatives, and public health
  • Preparing and providing annual reports and studies on the benefits and outcomes of sustainability programs
  • Developing marketing strategies to promote sustainability
  • Advancing programs and policies to address environmental sustainability
  • Participating in meetings, as necessary, with other professionals and the public
  • Acting as a public liaison on energy and resilience projects
  • Developing operating budget for climate—related projects
  • Applying for and managing grant applications and funding

Skills a Sustainability Planner Should Possess

  • Thorough knowledge and understanding of the city/community/company in which you work and how the different departments/governmental organizations work together
  • Good public speaking skills and ability to present presentations to a wide variety of audiences
  • Comfort with representing the city/community/region/company at community events and meetings
  • Work well as a member of a team
  • Flexibility to work evenings and weekends as required

Work Hours for Sustainability Planners

Sustainability Planners usually work typical daytime business hours, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. However, they often must attend meetings, workshops and special events in the evenings and on weekends.

Education for Sustainability Planners

A bachelor’s degree is typically sufficient in order to obtain a job as a Sustainability Planner, although some employers prefer a master’s degree. Fields in which to major to become a Sustainability Planner include urban planning, urban design, environmental planning, environmental science, and environmental engineering.

Certification for Sustainability Planners

Sustainability Planners may wish to seek certification through the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) of the American Planning Association once they have a graduate degree and two years of professional planning experience, or a bachelor’s degree and three years of experience. Some specialty environmental planning certifications are also available, such as theInternational Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP).

Settings in Which Sustainability Planners Work

As mentioned above, Sustainability Planners may work in a variety of settings. Recent job postings for Sustainability Planners indicate that these settings include, but are not limited to:

  • City planning departments
  • Regional planning departments
  • Planning commissions at local, regional or city levels
  • Engineering, construction, environmental services companies
  • Universities and colleges
  • Community development departments of cities, regions
  • Scientific corporations
  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Waste management companies
  • Design and consulting services

Salaries for Sustainability Planners

Salaries for Sustainability Planners seem to vary greatly depending upon where they work. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that as of May 2019, urban and regional planners (the occupational classification in which Sustainability Planners are include) averaged an annual salary of $77,750, Payscale.com notes that specific salaries for Sustainability Planners are as follows:

  • Average Sustainability Planner salary is quoted at $72,852
  • Range of Sustainability Planner salaries is from $49,000 to $113,000
  • Average entry-level salaries for Sustainability Planners are $56,000; while Senior Sustainability Managers with 20 years of experience make about $95,000 annually
  • Examples of salaries for Sustainability Managers at specific employers include:
    • Eastern Kentucky University: $47,457
    • SBM Site Services, LLC: $49,000
    • The Field Museum $61,496
  • Locations in which Sustainability Managers earn higher than average salaries include:
    • San Francisco, CA
    • New York, NY
    • Los Angeles, CA
    • Atlanta, GA

Job Outlook for Sustainability Planners

According to the BLS, jobs for Sustainability Planners are expected to rise by 11 percent from 2018 to 2028. This represents a much faster than average increase for all other occupations, and makes sense, as sustainability and preserving our environment is becoming increasingly more important in planning and building.