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Posts Tagged ‘green jobs’

To date, I’ve posted about cool things that can save you money and protect your health; but The Green Light is also about telling the stories of people who are making a difference.  Last week, I traveled to Detroit for a regional Good Jobs Green Jobs Conference sponsored by the Blue Green Alliance.  Most people said “I’m sorry you have to go to Detroit”, and/or “don’t go out past sundown.”  I try to focus on good things when I see them, and I saw and heard plenty of good things in Detroit.  I stayed at the GM Center (every GM model was on display) which is the largest structure in downtown Detroit.  You can see Canada from your room (no I didn’t say Russia from my house, but I thought about it).  The weather was beautiful when I arrived and I had an hour to spare so I went for a run along the riverfront.

Trails on the waterfront park

Is that the Natchez and the bridge to the West Bank (nola reference)?! No, it’s the Princess and a bridge to Canada.

I sat in on several sessions over the next two days related to public health, toxic exposures, community job training, safe jobs, and environmental justice.  There are inspirational people in Detroit who are committed to developing a local workforce and building a sustainable economy.  Donele Wilkins, President of The Green Door initiative (GDI), has worked in the environmental justice movement for over two decades.  The Green Door Initiative provides 12-hour training programs to local residents on specific job types, life skills, and environmental literature; GDI also has a “Youth Green” program, along with several other types of programs, that trains inner-city youths on environmental justice and how they can be leaders in their community.  The take home message  – residents who are trained locally, work locally, and thereby invest more in their community.  Leon Petty, of Go Green Contracting, Inc., is a demolition contractor specializing in proper removal of lead, mold, and asbestos; I have never heard a private business owner so passionate about protecting people’s health and performing proper construction even if a personal sacrifice is required.  It was a pleasure to listen to you, Donele and Leon.

Lastly, I enjoyed learning of the work of the Delta Institute, a group based out of Chicago that takes on a variety of environmental projects around the Great Lakes region  – seriously, they do everything, they are the Super Target of environmental specialists.  Kindy Kruller of the Delta Institute spoke about the community development branch and how deconstruction (that’s breaking down the home in pieces rather than smoking it with a crane) of homes has led to new business opportunities!  The branch and other partners salvage wood and other materials and then sell new indoor and outdoor furniture to schools and businesses in the community – way to reuse!  During the opening session, a men’s choir group, called Vision, and a women’s choir group, called the Lady Achievers (this was not a GSA conference) from the Detroit School of Arts performed and a class member spoke about how attending a green school has maximized learning and student’s health.  Both of the groups gave wonderful performances – luckily I found The Lady Achievers’ performance for you to enjoy (I could not find Vision’s video – they deserve a complement on their bow tie cummerbund set)!

So, don’t count Detroit out (remember the Clint Eastwood Superbowl commercial?).  Find out what good work is being done in your neighborhood and remember to thank them for their efforts; and/or even better, offer a helping hand to those good people!  Cheers.

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A quick but notable note from last week: According to the Department of Labor, green jobs accounted for 2.4 percent of total employment in 2010, or 3.1 million jobs.  Not too shabby.  This statistic, contained in a larger report, represents the first attempt of the Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics to quantify environmentally friendly jobs.

Most of these jobs, as it turns out, come from the private sector; only 860,000 come from the public side.  Furthermore, private-sector manufacturing accounted of the largest share of green jobs, a good sign for growth and investment in the green arena.  Of course, most of these jobs were located in the state that’s leading the way in green efforts: California.   Proudly, D.C. was near the top of the list when considering the proportion of green jobs relative to total employment, with green jobs constituting 3.9 percent of overall employment (Vermont led here with 4.4 percent of its total employment relating to green jobs).

You may be asking yourself at this point, “What exactly constitutes a green job?” Good question.  As it turns out that that definition isn’t straightforward as we might hope.  For this report, BLS developed a two-part definition for sorting out which jobs qualified as green.  Part one counted what they named “output based-jobs.”  This encompassed jobs that produced goods and services to either benefit the environment or conserve natural resources.  This means something such as producing solar panels.  Part two counted “process-based jobs” that make an enterprise more environmentally friendly or use fewer resources.  So bringing someone on board to compost your leftover food stuffs (call them Captain Compost) is an idea of what BLS means with this.  For purposes of this report, BLS used only the first definition; a part two report based on the second definition is due out later this year.

Who wouldn't want to be the captain of composting?

Businessweek made an interesting notation worth repeating here: By using these definitions, energy like nuclear is considered environmentally beneficial because it does not emit greenhouse gases.  But, producing a bike on the other hand is not deemed beneficial because the ways in which the bike is produced are generally not environmentally friendly, even if it is used by someone in lieu of using a car.

It’s also important to note, as the Washington Post did, that it is hard to use any of this data to reflect on the President’s green/clean job initiatives.  This is a very true point—these jobs may have very well been in the pipeline before President Obama came into office.  It’s also hard to go around surveying companies/governments, etc. and say, “By the way, did the Section 1603 Treasury grant program help you out?  Or was it your region’s SREC program?” It’s also hard to quantify what goes into making an organic tomato or even a solar panel (do you count the person who produced the parts that were then purchased to be used by the solar company to then make the panel?).  Being ever so optimistic, I am tempted to point out that this 3.1 million, with more to come this summer, could mean that the President’s goal of 5 million jobs may…actually…be…met.  How often does a politician actually make good on a goal?

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