The outlook is bright for local green jobs, according to a new study, “Foundations for Hawaii’s Green Economy,” by Kimberly Burnett, Ph.D., and Christopher Wada, Ph.D., of the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization (UHERO).

One key finding based on original research is that the number of jobs in natural resource management–currently measured at 3,278–is projected to grow by 1.5 percent in the next 3-5 years. The number of jobs in this sector, which includes scientists and field technicians, represents a minimum estimate, as it’s based only on returned surveys sent to private and public entities involved in conservation work, Burnett told the Weekly.

At least $465 million was spent on natural resource management jobs in 2010.

Renewable energy jobs grew at an annual rate of 23 percent, compared with 1.7 percent for conventional energy jobs. And while the agricultural economy and jobs shrank by 2 percent, the number of farms increased from 3,000 in 1974 to 7,500 in 2007. This “reflects our transition from a plantation economy to small diversified farms growing produce like organic lettuce, due to demand for locally grown food on the part of residents and visitors,” Burnett said.

Crucial to a green economy is that “natural capital” be accounted for and assigned its real value, said Mark Fox of The Nature Conservancy (TNC), a co-funder of the study. Planning and investment should take into account the “importance to Hawaii’s economy of our natural resources–food from coral reefs, fresh water from forests–the strong connection between the health of the economy and the health of the environment,” Fox explained.

The authors recommend increased investment in local training and education programs to meet demand as green jobs grow. Serendipitously, this is a mission of Hauoli Mau Loa Foundation, the study’s other funder.