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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Alumni Corner: David Bainbridge

Editor’s note:

To give you a taste of life after the university, The California Aggie will profile UC Davis alums in various career fields. First up is David Bainbridge who has worked in the economic sustainability field and is currently an associate professor at the Marshall Goldsmith School of Management.


Energy costs are rising, oil prices were recently at record highs and hybrid vehicle sales are skyrocketing. The world is changing, and America is starting to embrace environmental sustainability.

David Bainbridge, a UC Davis graduate who currently resides in San Diego, has made an impact in this growing industry.

Since graduating from Davis with an M.A. in ecology in 1973, Bainbridge has made strides in the economic sustainability field and is now an associate professor teaching sustainability at the Marshall Goldsmith School of Management.

Bainbridge has worked in a variety of sustainability fields, beginning with a career in environmental planning at Davis that soon turned into solar design and development. He then switched to environmental restoration where he focused on returning damaged deserts to their previous condition. Bainbridge then developed an interest in straw bale construction, a new type of construction utilizing straw to build structures to save money and energy. His work with straw bale earned him a spot in the World’s Top 40 Socially Conscious Designers according to International Design Magazine.

He also recently won the Marshall Goldsmith School of Management Outstanding Scholar-Practitioner Faculty award for his work in increasing the MBA program’s focus on the Green Business and sustainability.

Bainbridge credits UC Davis to sparking his interest in environmental sustainability.

“I got the bug while at Davis,” he said. “Teachers and classmates were interested in these issues even back in the ’70s, and now we’re seeing change in educational systems across the world. [People are] starting to think about sustainability.”

UC Davis has been a leader in environmental sustainability for decades. Bainbridge said that the mix of people in different disciplines, the professors, the research opportunities and the interesting and smart students are what give UC Davis strength in the field.

“Some of the advantages were the classes that introduced the broader view of the world, not just the environment because you have to think about [things such as] people and money as well,” Bainbridge said. “This wasn’t thought about so much back then.”

The environmental sustainability industry has been rapidly growing since the 1970s when Bainbridge entered it and he says there will be many opportunities for graduates in the next decade.

The new presidential administration expects to create up to 5 million new green collar jobs in the next decade as a part of a plan to invest in clean energy and technology according to BarackObama.com.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) website also says that it expects this industry to grow up to 25 percent in the next decade and expects green collar jobs to grow “much faster than average for all occupations.”

Paul Hannam, who has worked with Bainbridge on sustainability issues, has experienced the opportunities of the rapid growth of this industry.

Nine years ago, after reading a book about the damage humans are doing to the earth, Hannam made the decision to switch from a career in technology in England to the green business in San Diego.

“I realized the extraordinary damage business is doing and [that] we have limited time,” Hannam said. “It seemed insane that we were destroying our planet just because of fossil fuels and the craziness of the lifestyle we’ve built.”

Since making the career change Hannam has started two green businesses and is developing an MBA program with Bainbridge.

Hannam attributes his success to the incredible expansion of the field. “This is one of the fastest growing areas despite the recession,” he said.

So what is Bainbridge’s and Hannam’s advice for students and new grads looking to break into the field?

“There are two ways to go. One is to look for a green job. Most jobs are for specialists and that’s going to be no different than any other job, you have to prove yourself,” Hannam said.

Another piece of advice is to try to make an already existing job green, such as human resources or public relations, he said.

“Think, ‘How can I turn this into a green job, how can we reduce energy?’ Many job opportunities are out there, you just have to be creative,” Hannam said.

Bainbridge had similar advice, but suggested that students look into getting their foot in the door at NGO’s.

“Anyone can contribute, even when you are in school. You might not get paid but you can get a lot of experience,” he said. “It’s going to be a big job market and there is a shortage of people. The ticket to a good job is a sustainability career.”


KELLY KRAG-ARNOLD can be reached at features@theaggie.org.








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