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Green Jobs – The View from 2 Years Ago

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I published this in The Daily Green early in the Obama Administration’s first term – interesting to see the similarities and differences.  ME

http://www.thedailygreen.com/environmental-news/latest/green-jobs-obama-2011

In the jobs program President Obama is promoting, green jobs were not a highlight. But for job seekers and communities alike, there’s more potential than we may realize. It comes into view when we look at the two specific areas of investment that the President called for: fixing up schools and infrastructure.

Teasing out the potential for environmentally friendly projects from Obama’s jobs program is also key for job seekers.

Green schools are growing in popularity because they are high-performance schools. They are resource-efficient, with healthy indoor environments. They attract good teachers and enhance student performance. Global Green USA estimates that in Los Angeles alone, building 34 new green schools will reduce 94,000 tons of carbon dioxide. That’s the equivalent of eliminating more than 15,000 cars from the road every year or planting more than 280,000 trees!

Suppose all 35,000 schools targeted by the President are upgraded. That’s an average of 700 per state receiving repairs big and small. That won’t fund an army but it will fund quite a few battalions of contractors and suppliers. How likely is it that many of them will be green? McGraw-Hill Construction estimates that such projects totaled $16 billion in 2010, up from $9 billion in 2008. That’s more than a third of school construction activity, according to the reports of Jonathan Hiskes, who outlines the benefits from healthier air to better lighting for learning in Sustainable Industries.

America’s schools need every imaginable kind of repair, opening the door to job opportunities using green products and methods for roofing, lighting, flooring, painting, windows, cabinetry, cafeterias, paving, playground landscaping, appliances, educational software and smart classrooms, heating and cooling, power generation and more. Across this spectrum of work, there will be a need for contractors, architects, engineers, landscape architects, contract administrators and other professionals.

If a school system’s leaders are well educated about the benefits of green practices in improving test scores and retaining teachers, there are a series of relatively easy steps that make natural sense as part of any renovation, according to architect Bob Berkebile. “Many older schools were designed for daylighting. It’s relatively easy to take advantage of this, and to control for moisture, reduce toxics, and landscape with local plants that are hardy, beautiful and contribute to water management and air quality. Do these things, and the school facility becomes part of the teaching. This can be a very smart, highly leveraged, catalytic civic investment,” Berkebile says.

These opportunities will not emerge neatly or predictably. Newbies in these fields will be competing with laid-off workers hoping to get re-hired. Remember that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was passed in 2009, and funds flowed from the Feds to the states to local projects at a glacial pace over the course of two years! Some jobs may be newly created; at least as many others will be stabilized or expanded. Firms may not completely re-hire their laid-off work forces based on school upgrades alone; but they will be strengthened enough by these contracts, to bid on additional work.

The same logic applies to finding the green opportunities in infrastructure upgrades. The need is huge, for road and bridge improvements, wastewater and stormwater management, and mass transit, for starters. These diverse fields each have areas of green advantage, from pervious pavement to decentralized stormwater management systems that help thirsty land to retain water. A national survey of barriers and opportunities to green infrastructure, released September 14, identified 4 kinds of challenges needing to be addressed to make green infrastructure approaches mainstream:

  • Technical and physical (including professionals’ lack of familiarity);
  • Legal and regulatory (when laws or agencies act asbarriers to unfamiliar approaches);
  • Financial (upfront costs are often higher, even if projects produce substantial long-term savings);
  • Community and Institutional (primarily inadequate information and lack of passionate advocacy).

Much of the work to be done is part of capital projects that have already been planned, budgeted and sometimes designed, by local and state authorities that have been looking for funding forever. In these domains, it won’t always be possible to make the case for greener alternatives — but sometimes it will. In cities like Philadelphia, where climate preparedness has been mainstreamed, the opportunities could be quite significant. Engineers, landscape architects, planners, attorneys and contractors will all be needed. So will suppliers of materials and products.

If you’re looking to take any of those skills into a greener mode of practice, the slow economy is a great time for career development through self-teaching or formal programs like the National Sustainable Building Advisor 8-month certificate program. These trainings can be found at many community colleges and bring together a diverse range of professionals for cross-fertilization.

How do you identify the places where school and infrastructure upgrades are likely to create jobs in some shade of green?

  • Look for states with climate and energy action plans.
  • Look for municipalities that have taken the lead, such as members of ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability.
  • Look for schools that are partnering with leading programs like Collaborative High-Performance Schools (CHPS)
  • Look for major transit initiatives already proposed and planned in your region.

When you find a potential match, the trick is to sell the benefits of green approaches while marketing yourself as a problem-solver who can make innovation practical. Opportunities will go to those who can sell their skillsets as implementers first, with the added value of green expertise.

Melissa Everett is the executive director of Sustainable Hudson Valley and the author of Making a Living While Making a Difference: Conscious Careers for an Era of Interdependence (3rd edition, New Society Publishers, 2007). She supports career changers through tele-seminars, personalized counseling, and a Facebook group. Read more and contact her at melissaeverett.wordpress.com.

Read more: http://www.thedailygreen.com/environmental-news/latest/green-jobs-obama-2011#ixzz2J6tvbmeH
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Written by melissaeverett

January 26, 2013 at 7:07 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

From Sandy to Sandy Hook: Addressing the Roots of Two Crises

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As we turn the corner into 2013, the nation is still reeling from two moments of unfathomable violence, the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Connecticut,  and Hurricane Sandy’s assault.

In late October, as the storm filled the New York City subway system with rainwater and swept away entire neighborhoods in New York and New Jersey, a majority in the nation (more than 70%) again showed understanding and alarm about climate change as the systemic cause, and took it seriously as a real and deadly threat.

Just after the storm, President Barack Obama made the first pointed reference to climate change during his re-election campaign and promised to take strong action.  Advocates for a national summit had received encouraging response from the White House.  A carbon tax had even been mentioned by a few legislators as a budget reform tool.

Then a more immediate horror captured national attention, as twenty seven innocent people were gunned down in a morning at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.  National priorities urgently shifted to violence prevention and the capture of a teachable moment on gun control.

It is hard enough to fight one war.  Yet both threats are real and demand action now. How can this combination of challenges be addressed together, as they have come into our lives, in a politically and strategically coherent way?   How can climate change be dealt with as an overarching threat to public safety, while we take a stand against human-to-human violence as the watershed issue for our communities right now?

Politically, these are separate issues.  They require the leadership of different constituencies, different legislation, different social policies.  They call forth different public conversations.

Still, there are similarities in the responses they call forth, socially and culturally.   In both domains, we need to face a painful reality,  understand the risk it poses,  make action a priority even it if involves a fight, and accept that the patterns of our lives may have to change to deal with it. In both domains, we need a concerted grassroots movement in which people help each other to stay involved. In both domains, an obsessed minority has blocked majority action, and a tolerant majority has failed to take the upper hand.    On both issues, we need a whole lot of people to reach deep within themselves and access the core values that drive them to action.

Looking at the root causes of the two threats, more similarities emerge.

Climate action requires new approaches to energy, transportation and the built environment – providing drive and opportunity to design the places where we live, and therefore to take a fresh look at the lives we are living.  One of the largest sources of carbon pollution is transportation and travel, as people ricochet from home to work to civic and social activities across geographic expanses that our grandparents would never have imagined.  People are living their lives in constant movement. As people commute more, they have less time to interact with their neighbors and less need to. In the social isolation that can result, many of us are too fragmented to focus much on a macro-issue like climate change.   A major strategy for reducing climate impacts is reconnecting people and commerce in comfortable, small-scale places designed for quality of life, not designed for people to commute out of.

Social isolation also has something to do with violence.  Newtown, Aurora, Virginia Tech and other massacres were all committed by young male loners who lived in constructed worlds of violent social media.  All those perpetrators were part of in communities where they were seen but not known, where later their stories would be reconstructed by neighbors who said, “I was concerned but I wasn’t sure, and I didn’t see other people showing concern, so I didn’t say anything.”

The same thing has been happening with climate change — at times in the extreme.  A social taboo on talking about the subject has even been observed in Arctic fishing villages where sea ice is visibly melting and stable wildlife migration patterns are changing for the first time in living memory.  Where the effects of climate change are most visible, people don’t want to talk about it.   And in mainstream American politics, the swing vote that could support or inhibit action is nearly 1/3 of the adult population that self-describes as disengaged and confused. In order to mount an effective political response, we need to think about the social

Across the issues,  we need to understand the tricks that the human mind plays to hold difficult information at bay.  One of these is “confirmation bias” – the tendency not to believe something we see directly, if authorities or our peers contradict it, or even act as though it isn’t important.   Our ability to respond to big issues is not just a product of our individual analysis, but our social experience as well.  This is why the public so often mobilizes as a mass – and falls back into apathy as a mass as well.

Preventing more Newtowns will take a concerted policy campaign, hard work and public stands by many.  It will also take cultural change.  It’s about controlling guns and ammunition, and also about  reweaving the safety net for traumatized people so that they do not traumatize others.  Beyond tactical responses, reducing gun violence is about finding a more compelling form of self-expression, even for very troubled people.  Preventing more Newtowns will require countless citizens to help each other stay true to purpose and overcome opposition – opposition that may employ tactics of intimidation or distortion or even violence.

Confronting runaway climate change — and dealing with its impacts — will take a concerted campaign as well. That campaign is gathering force.  Policies must shift to remove all subsidies from carbon-polluting fossil fuels and support the uptake of clean renewable power sources and transportation systems — an agenda most Americans easily support.  As with the gun issue, we don’t just need a rational majority registering its views, but a passionate, resolute majority that is unwilling to back down.  But the work to be done is far more than policy.  We need a reinvention of our built environment, of a quality and quantity that has never been seen – solar neighborhoods and downtowns need to pop up everywhere, along with bikeways, trolley systems, and urban farms so that people can live and move around without dependence on fossil fuels.  A World War II style mobilization has been suggested by concerned scientists – and roundly rejected by even the concerned public.

Whether the focus is climate change or shootings, it is clear that violence cannot be matched only with violence without worsening the downward spiral.  Law, policy and legitimate authority are part of the necessary response, but another part is creativity.  In climate action, that has begun.  Cities from Copenhagen and Oberlin Ohio are rolling out concrete action plans to become carbon neutral in the next decade.  Wind farms are cheaper to construct now than coal plants.  New policy tools like property assessed clean energy – in which householders repay energy loans on their tax bills through savings – have been invented by local officials in search of solutions.  Truly the metaphor for climate response is not a military mobilization, but a Renaissance – decentralized, experimental, tolerant, drawing equally on art, science and spirit.  And such a Renaissance, as it emerges, might well provide the most powerful antidote to social violence – hope.

The Northeast really did not need Hurricane Sandy or the Sandy Hook school massacre, and certainly not in the same season. But in dealing with both tragedies,  the region will be invited to tap an unprecented resource, the sense of deep connection among its people and urgency to create a very different reality.

 

 

 

Written by melissaeverett

January 24, 2013 at 1:10 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper Community Revitalization

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The Project for Public Spaces is a constant inspiration to me for many reasons – not the least, their focus on lighter, quicker, cheaper ways to change the face of a community for the better.  As my friends in Connecticut and New York explore these ideas, I was inspired to think up some exemplary actions that can be carried out for little or no money:

  1. 1. bike lending station
  2. 2. community garden plot
  3. 3. community media like Kingston’s “Dreamers and Doers” newsletter and local talk radio
  4. 4. portable marketplace kiosk to test new eco-products, from scooters to personal mess-kits for takeout food
  5. 5. block party
  6. 6. community toolshed
  7. 7. Paint It!   Day
  8. 8. rain garden workshop and hands-on installation event
  9. 9. bike map  (paths, racks, etc.)
  10. 10. Walking tours highlighting cool neighborhoods, buildings, issues, with local experts
  11. 11. communitywide yard sale
  12. 12. eat local week
  13. 13. local artists and authors event
  14. 14. sporting amenities – movable basketball hoop, volleyball net + balls – at public centers like the library, for instant setup
  15. 15. pedicab service
  16. 16. Seed and plant sale/ swap
  17. 17. publish a local food/ chefs cookbook and host community dinners to showcase the highlights
  18.  Historical performance:  John Burroughs or Sojourner Truth, your local historic figures profiled by local actors
  19.  Asset mapping event:  what’s cool in our community and how could it contribute more to quality of life
  20.  Theme party – e.g. outrageous hat party, Rooftop Night
  21. Beam in the Metropolitan Opera (available to local theatres)
  22.  Movable feast
  23.  Imagine our future:  world cafe gathering
  24.  Butterfly garden/ backyard habitat workshop
  25.  Stargazing nights
  26.  Set up a “creative complex” of shipping containers big enough to make office/ studio spaces for a design team that can work with neighborhood groups on making their parts of town more beautiful, multi-purpose and people-friendly; include maker space and tool lending library and materials exchange
  27.  A local investment workshop with community activists and entrepreneurs, and bankers/ investors/ philanthropists
  28.  Simple hospitality center with a no-fee ATM, healthy food vending machine, bike racks and public seating near transit, sponsored by local banks
  29.  A mapping kiosk with easy mapping software, where people can lay out their visions for the community choosing specific parameters for change, then annotate, bookmark, save and share their maps.
  30. 30.  Clothing swaps

Written by melissaeverett

January 24, 2013 at 1:06 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Earned Media

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For the first time in my career, I’m getting press without sending out press releases.  This is exciting. Not in huge quantity, but from good sources.   Having taken a huge risk to orchestrate the 10% Challenge for energy conservation and civic participation – and gotten resolutions passed by 14 municipalities representing around 100,000 people – I was not surprised that this got some attention.  And so did I, apparently as the instigator.  Some good writing and dialogues at these links, anyway.

Ulster Magazine March 2012, “A Drink With Melissa Everett”

http://ulstermagazine.com/archive/032012/index.html 

Hudson Valley Magazine January 2012, Nine People to Watch in 2012

http://www.hvmag.com/Hudson-Valley-Magazine/January-2012/People-to-Watch-2012-Melissa-Everett-Ulster-County-Executive-Director-at-Sustainable-Hudson-Valley-Kingston-and-Rosendale-NY/

Poughkeepsie Journal’s Valley Voices coverage of the 10% Challenge, March 2012:

http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/article/20120226/NEWS04/302260028/10-percent-challenge-helps-start-green-habits-early?nclick_check=1

Written by melissaeverett

March 16, 2012 at 2:56 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Keynote Message: Building Sustainability Conference

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I have developed a sneaky way of choosing keynote speech topics:  I put off sending the organizers a title, so that they make one up and I can see what they really have in mind.  Making a Living While Making a Difference is a book I’ve written 3 times over 15 years, a guide for folks who want to leave the world a little bit better than they found it.  The life lesson that gave rise to that book was my opportunity to compare two jobs I had in a short sequence.  First, I tried to be computer programmer because it was a no-fail, growth industry. I couldn’t drag myself to work.  Then, I tried to be a freelance journalist with $50 in my pocket and a mattress on the apartment floor in Boston in 1980.  I succeeded.  The difference between those two gigs was not my intrinsic talent, not the capitalization of the job or the market, but the juice I brought to the game.

The 10% Challenge is our flagship campaign at Sustainable Hudson Valley, an invitation to communities to cut energy use 10% and get 10% of their people involved.  That goal has been embraced now by 14 municipalities representing a little over 100,000 people.  The participation has been the exciting dimension.  Communities have got kill-a-watt meters for loan at the libraries, school teachers dedicated to outreach, and all sorts of other creative tactics.

The common theme in those two pieces of work is human potential and the value of setting stretch goals.

What is this chick talking about stretch goals for, when it is a stretch to be here and not cleaning up wreckage from the recent storms?   We have all been slammed one way or another by the weather, the economy, and life.  And yet the current environment of instability is kind of an equalizer – whether you are well off or struggling financially right now, you are part of a community that’s increasingly aware of our shared vulnerability.   If you have survived in the building trades, or in green building business development, or in conservation, I don’t need to tell you about stretching yourself and being a renaissance person. It’s a condition for survival.   When we wake up to the fact that the world isn’t fair and that much worth doing is nearly impossible – and we make a decision to surrender to the possibilities – something happens in us as human beings that makes all the risk and uncertainty worth it.

Let me illustrate this with a story from Making a Living While Making a Difference.  David Griswold was a business major with a low-key curiosity about environmental issues and social justice.  He put in a stint as a researcher for a Washington DC foundation and found that pretty interesting.  Then he reached a crossroads when his wife decided to spend a year in rural Mexico working for a nonprofit, and he had to keep busy and look useful as her spouse.  He found a fair trade organic coffee plantation that would let him help pick beans — for a few days, until they saw how bad he was at it.  They said, “We have a lot of tough people who can pick the coffee beans all day.  What we don’t have is help in marketing our product.”

Next thing he knew, he was flying on airplanes as their marketing representative — and being turned down by over 100 prospects.  Finally, he did the deal that brought these beans to Ben & Jerry’s for their coffee ice cream.  In the process, he quit the job regularly.  He said later, “It was more than I bargained for. I thought I would pick beans for a few months and then bag it and go to graduate school.  But at the hardest point, a Mexican peasant named Arturo Zavaleta grabbed me by the lapels and said, “Look, gringo, down here we have a saying.  In the rainy season, when the rivers flood, you can be in the middle trying to cross, and lose your bearings. But if you turn back, you won’t make it.  You have to keep going and get across.”

Griswold ended up a business partner in an organic fair-trade coffee company.  I am guessing you can relate to those risk and struggle factors whatever your business.  Risk is certainly real for anybody building anything right now, nevermind building high-performance, long-lived, or innovative buildings.  Think about the exciting structures that have come into being in this region and Metro NYC – 4 Times Square and 1 Bryant Park and the Omega Center for Sustainable Living and the Common Fire Foundation’s greenest home in the northeast in Tivoli.  Every one of them  took deep faith and over-the-top effort.  And I don’t think any of the builders or owners regrets taking those risks.

This morning we are going to hear some very concrete presentations about building techniques that save energy and create building investments for the long haul.  That is inspiring.  Whether you are an environmental preservationist or a community developer, it’s apple pie to support buildings that work and endure.   All the more when you consider the supply chain for green building and the jobs that are created as it scales up:  in landscaping and framing materials, windows and appliances, insulation and lighting.  One of my favorite things to watch for is the annual press release from Environmental Building News on their top 10 green products – for quality, innovativeness and solutions to pressing problems.  This year’s selections include a packaged graywater system facilitating landscaping water efficiency, a pioneering solar thermal system using water as its heat-transfer medium instead of glycol for increased efficiency, an air-to-air heat pump system with integrated tenant submetering—key for multifamily applications— and a durable, PVC-free resilient flooring.  It’s a reminder of how sophisticated with green building movement has become.

If you are in the biz, or approaching it, how can you find your next opportunity?  My thoughts:

Be a bolder builder.  give those who want to live greener, save money and invest in a home or business site of durable quality, a lot of options for doing so. This includes options for justifying any higher first costs, if there are any. It also includes making decisions about safety – such as not to use toxic insulation – as a matter of professionalism, not leaving obsolete practices on the table for consumer choice.   Consider energy paybacks, health paybacks, quality of life, real estate value.

Get really good at a few green things.  Timber framing…..  zero-waste homebuilding…  the Passive House…  siting for solar gain…  indoor air quality…  interior design to maximize functional space… water-efficiency…  Be a go-to person for best practices you care about.

Identify a “community of practice,” of people in your area of specialization, or maybe your geography, who want to push each other forward in building for the future with greener methods, and to build support among other builders in their networks.

These factors – excellence, passion and a support system — are necessary, but in a hostile economic and policy they are not sufficient. And so I prescribe a 4th strand in the web.

Accept citizenship as a necessity.   Choosing your battles, of course, advocate for building codes, zoning and other aspects of the regulatory playing field that make it easier to do the right thing.   And understand the connection between local opportunities and the state and national policy arena.

Whatever your politics, please realize that public investment in public infrastructure has been with us since the dawn of the interstate highway system, and public policy is not neutral in its favoring of technology. Building codes set a high or a low bar for energy and health performance in our buildings.  Zoning makes it easy to create livable efficient affordable neighborhoods, or more difficult.  Part of the peak performance we need is to get really inventive about incentivizing and financing energy efficiency and other green practices in ways that are also efficient with public dollars, as we will see illustrated later in the program.

Certainly the Obama jobs proposal will do its part to create green building jobs, in both school and infrastructure upgrades.   If you are not a fan of direct federal investment in any of these arenas, consider how state or local money can be used for leverage to support energy efficient building, such as loan funds and interest buydowns from our local banks.   The American Institute of Architects catalogues a number of good proposals in its Architecture 2030 framework, which is all about using a little public money to leverage a lot of private investment.

If we want to get ourselves and our neighbors fully employed, make our communities livable and vibrant, and build resilience in the face of the next storms to come, we need to create a culture of high performance building, high performance people and high performance workplaces.

I think, for example, of South Mountain Company, an employee-owned design, building, and renewable energy company on Cape Cod that’s committed to responsible business practice. Started by the seat of the pants in 1975, today South Mountain has annual revenues of $9 million and 17 owners among its 33 employees. In 2005 Business Ethics Magazine awarded South Mountain its National Award for Workplace Democracy.  In his book, The Company We Keep, co-founder John Abrams says, “We think about our work as the cathedral builders thought about theirs. We try to think for generations, as we try to design and build for generations.”

We’re here today to be inspired and build community toward just that vision.

 

Keynote speech: Building Sustainability conference, Oblong Land Conservancy, Dover Furnace, NY Nov. 5, 2011

Written by melissaeverett

November 5, 2011 at 1:02 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Recommendations to the Hudson Valley Regional Economic Development Council

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Recommendations to the Hudson Valley Regional Economic Development Council
Prepared for submission by Sustainable Hudson Valley, October 13, 2011

As the Regional Economic Development Council prepares its five-year strategic plan,   Sustainable Hudson Valley’s board offers seven recommendations for  low-carbon, innovative, equitable and durable development strategy that will grow economic opportunity while shrinking carbon footprint.

1. No credible strategy for sustainable development can ignore the base of resources that sustain it – energy, water, and food systems.  These forms of natural capital are the source of the region’s quality of life and attractiveness; they should be a cornerstone of the plan.  The Hudson Valley already has an agricultural economic development strategy and a cluster of entrepreneurs working to create a “food corridor.”   Energy efficiency represents over $300 billion in annual investment as well as the principal pathway for carbon reduction, and it draws on the expertise of major corporations in the region such as IBM and GE. Energy dollars saved by businesses are directly available for payroll, making energy-efficiency an important engine of job creation.  The sustainable management of water through technologies from smart irrigation to rain gardens has also become an innovation flashpoint for a number of regions, and should be for ours.  Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s office estimates that investment in water infrastructure statewide could create 26,000 jobs.  Advanced policies that incentivize energy and water efficiency – including an expanded Renewable Portfolio Standard and innovative tools like Community Choice Aggregation – should be seriously considered.

2. A full-spectrum green economy is the foundation of sustainable development.  Research by McKinsey and Company, on carbon-reducing technologies, identified hundreds of existing specialty technologies that are part of the picture.  In particular, recycling based industries are high-leverage carbon-reducers that cut the fossil fuel demand of waste hauling, reduce land-fill methane and preserve virgin materials.  Research by the Sullivan County Partnership for Economic Development in 2008 revealed that, of the many green building materials and products that satisfy LEED requirements if they are produced within 500 miles of their use, only about a dozen were produced in the Hudson Valley.  While embracing these clusters of opportunity, to capitalize fully on the promise of environmentally advanced development, we must also “think beyond the clusters” and set a high bar for environmental performance and innovation in every industry.  Arguably the strongest way to do this is to embrace “biomimicry” in design of all products, as NYSERDA is already doing with a consortium of energy storage producers.  This strategy allows for areas of specialization without restricting additional new ideas during the 5 years of the plan.

3. Sustainable development is local-first development, with a serious focus on providing for basic goods and services within or near the region to avoid the substantial energy costs of shipping.  This does not mean isolationism, but does set a priority on developing local assets.   Locally-owned businesses tend to support their local economies via investment, purchasing and charitable giving for a desirable economic multiplier effect.  While a disinvested region like the Hudson Valley understandably seeks to attract some of its enterprises from outside, support for local entrepreneurs should be strong.

4. A sustainable economy will only be possible when Hudson Valley companies, investors and consumers have confidence in the soundness of the underlying financial institutions.  A detailed proposal for redesign of the banking and finance system to restore transparent, decentralized, and soundly managed institutions was recently published by the New Economics Working Group.  We hope that the Regional Council will seriously review this document (see References).

5. A sustainable economy will measure prosperity in ways that are meaningful to citizens, workers and voters, as well as factoring in the protection of natural resources and the aggressive reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.  The Hudson Valley’s Regional Well-Being Index, an initiative of the Center for Regional Research, Education and Outreach, created a set of metrics with thoughtful stakeholder inputs. CRREO’s index could provide an intelligent guiding framework for measuring progress achieved by the plan.

6. As Wayne Fawbush, founder of the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund and a program officer at the Ford Foundation, observes, “Clusters are nurtured, not engineered.”  The strategic advantage of cluster-based economic development is the ability of businesses to collaborate and advance shared interests, reducing reliance on economic development professionals and stretching resources generally.    The Valley’s strategic economic development plan should be written in a spirit of adaptiveness, continuous learning and humility.   An innovation economy is fast-moving by its nature. One of the best ways to design this approach into the plan might be to select education itself as a cornerstone industry cluster, recognizing the enormous contribution of the over 50 institutions that are part of the Environmental Consortium of Hudson Valley Colleges and Universities.

7. When vibrant economies are compared to similar but less vibrant ones,  a subtle human dimension sets them apart.  “Social capital” takes the form of rich networks, high trust, relationships of mutual support and exchange,  and shared norms of doing business.  Successful corporations know how to nurture this.  The business and economics literature on social capital generally explains that it matters because it reduces transaction costs and speeds up the spread of innovations.   Our regional strategists should give this “soft” idea its due in setting a high bar for integrity and leadership in the funding of projects.  Putting people to work requires practical projects and financing; but to produce high value and retain top talent, vision and leadership are equally important.

References:

American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy and Alliance for Water Efficiency (2011), “Addressing the Energy-Water Nexus: A Blueprint for Action.”

Benyus, Janine (2002) Biomimicry:  Innovation Inspired by Nature.  NY: HarperCollins.

Cassidy, Robert (ed.) (2006), “Green Buildings and the Bottom Line,” White Paper from Building Design+Construction Magazine.
Cuppett, Scott and Russell Urban-Meade (2010), “Hudson Valley Water: Challenges and Opportunities”.  New Paltz: Center for Regional Research, Education and Outreach Discussion Brief.

Forester, Deborah (2006), “Green Landscaping Audiences, Outreach and Training Needs,”  Report for the Estuary Training Program.

Gareffi, Gary, Kristin Dubay and Marcy Lowe (2008), “Manufacturing Climate Solutions” report, Center on Globalization, Governance and Competitiveness at Duke University, December 2008.

Geiser, Kenneth (2001), Materials Matter: Toward a Sustainable Materials Policy. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Institute for Local Self-Reliance (2008), “Stop Trashing the Climate,” Washington, ILSR.

Laitner, John A. “Skip” and Vanessa McKinney, “Positive Return: State Energy Efficiency Analysis Can Inform U.S. Energy Policy Assessments,” American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy Report # E084, June 2008.

McKinsey Global Institute (2008), “The Carbon Productivity Challenge:  Curbing Climate Change and Sustaining Economic Growth.”

New Economy Working Group (2011), “How to Liberate America from Wall Street Rule.” Downloaded at:
http://www.yesmagazine.org/blogs/david-korten/liberate-america

Perry, Don;  Shoshanna Abeles, Simon Gruber and Melissa Everett (2008). Green Building Materials and Products Directory for the Hudson Valley.  Liberty, NY: Sullivan County Partnership for Economic Development.

Prusak, Laurence and Don Cohen (2001) In Good Company: How Social Capital Makes Organizations Work.  Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

River Network (2009), “The Carbon Footprint of Water.”

Shuman, Michael H (2007).  Small Mart Revolution:  How Mom and Pop are Beating the   Global Competition.  San Francisco:  Barrett-Kohler.

Written by melissaeverett

October 13, 2011 at 10:46 pm

Finding the Green in Obama’s Plan

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In President Obama’s presentation of his jobs program, green opportunities were not a highlight. But for job seekers and communities alike, there’s more potential than we may realize. It comes into view when we look at the two specific areas of investment that the President called for: fixing up schools and infrastructure.

Green schools are growing in popularity because they are high-performance schools. They are resource-efficient, with healthy indoor environments, attracting good teachers and enhancing student performance. Global Green USA estimates that in Los Angeles alone, building 34 new green schools will reduce 94,000 tons of CO2 or the equivalent of eliminating more than 15,000 cars from the road every year or planting more than 280,000 trees!

Suppose all 35,000 schools targeted by the President are upgraded. That’s an average of 700 per state receiving repairs big and small. That won’t fund an army but it will fund quite a few battalions of contractors and suppliers. How likely is it that many of them will be green? McGraw-Hill Construction estimates that such projects totaled $16 billion in 2010, up from $9 billion in 2008. That’s more than a third of school construction activity, according to Jonathan Hiskes, who outlines the benefits from healthier air to better lighting for learning in Sustainable Industries.

America’s schools need every imaginable kind of repair, opening the door to job opportunities using green products and methods for roofing, lighting, flooring, painting, windows, cabinetry, cafeterias, paving, playground landscaping, appliances, educational software and smart classrooms, heating and cooling, power generation and more. Across this spectrum of work, there will be a need for contractors, architects, engineers, landscape architects, contract administrators and other professionals.

If a school system’s leaders are well educated about the benefits of green practices in improving test scores and retaining teachers, there are a series of relatively easy steps that make natural sense as part of any renovation, according to prominent architect Bob Berkebile who notes that “Many older schools were designed for daylighting. It’s relatively easy to take advantage of this, and to control for moisture, reduce toxics, and landscape with local plants that are hardy, beautiful and contribute to water management and air quality. Do these things, and the school facility becomes part of the teaching. This can be a very smart, highly leveraged, catalytic civic investment.”

These opportunities will not emerge neatly or predictably. Newbies in these fields will be competing with laid-off workers hoping to get re-hired. Remember that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was passed in 2009, and funds flowed from the Feds to the states to local projects at a glacial pace over the next two years! Some jobs may be newly created; at least as many others will be stabilized or expanded. Firms may not completely re-hire their laid-off work forces based on school upgrades alone; but they will be strengthened enough by these contracts, to bid on additional work.

The same logic applies to finding the green opportunities in infrastructure upgrades. The need is huge, for road and bridge improvements, wastewater and stormwater management, and mass transit, for starters. These diverse fields each have areas of green advantage, from pervious pavement to decentralized stormwater management systems that help thirsty land to retain water. A national survey of barriers and opportunities to green infrastructure, released September 14, identified 4 kinds of challenges needing to be addressed to make green infrastructure approaches mainstream:
• Technical and physical, including professionals’ lack of familiarity;
• Legal and regulatory barriers to unfamiliar approaches;
• Financial – first costs (sometimes) even when savings are huge;
• Community and Institutional – primarily inadequate information and lack of passionate advocacy!

Much of the work to be done is part of capital projects that have already been planned, budgeted and sometimes designed, by local and state authorities that have been looking for funding forever. In these domains, it won’t always be possible to make the case for greener alternatives — but sometimes it will. In cities like Philadelphia, where climate preparedness has been mainstreamed, the opportunities could be quite significant. Engineers, landscape architects, planners, attorneys and contractors will all be needed. So will suppliers of materials and products.

If you’re looking to take any of those skills into a greener mode of practice, the slow economy is a great time for career development through self-teaching or formal programs like the National Sustainable Building Advisor 8 month certificate program. These trainings can be found at many community colleges and bring together a diverse range of professionals for cross-fertilization.

How do you identify the places where school and infrastructure upgrades are likely to create jobs in some shade of green?
• Look for states with climate and energy action plans.
• Look for municipalities that have taken the lead, such as members of ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability.
• Look for schools that are partnering with leading programs like Collaborative High-Performance Schools (CHPS)
• Look for major transit initiatives already proposed and planned in your region.

When you find a potential match, the trick is to sell the benefits of green approaches while marketing yourself as a problem-solver who can make innovation practical. Opportunities will go to those who can sell their skillsets as implementers first, with the added value of green expertise.

Written by melissaeverett

September 19, 2011 at 12:42 pm