Monday, December 01, 2008

GreenBuild 08, Boston MA: Highlights – part 3

By Sonja Persram, BSc., MBA, LEED® AP
Sustainable Alternatives Consulting Inc.

GREEN JOBS were one major focus of the conference.

Green For All President and Founder Van Jones gave a rousing presentation, sponsored by Dadanco:
"You are the people who the country is going to turn to… You have a president (elect) who
wants 5 million green jobs… (you’re going to be the people … who have to find a way of doing that) … and a president elect who wants to put $150 billion into clean and renewable energy. This used to be a lot of money. Now it sounds like a rounding error … There are some investments in this country that we can no longer put off…

It’s not that we have a President
(-elect) who’s black, it’s that for the first time we have a president who’s green." Continue reading Van Jones’ Master Speaker presentation

Among other excellent presenters on this topic[1] was the
Greener Good panel on USGBC Chapters’ local green job and social equity initiatives. The panel was convened by Jerome Ringo, President of the Apollo Alliance – a coalition, Ringo noted, that impacts 17 million people and is a collaboration of conservation organizations, business, industry, labour and politicians with a common, green focus. Ringo described how the Apollo Alliance’s new 10 year extensive investment Apollo program is a $500 billion strategy which they believe can create over 5 million green jobs, to “put people to work from all walks of life.” Said Ringo: “We believe we have our own moon shot mission today – we can now declare energy independence, we can now stimulate the American economy, and we can clean up the environment.” What a feat this will be, and how badly the US – and Canada – both need such an initiative.

A marvellous example of the triple-bottom-line in action was the panel presentation on her company’s initiative by
Martha Jane Murray, an architect and co-owner with her husband of Neil M Footwear - a shoe factory in Arkansas. Murray is Policy Associate with the Clinton Climate Initiative and Founding Chair, USGBC Arkansas.

In rural America, retaining both companies and employees is difficult. Murray noted the following stats:
· 7.6 million families are living under the poverty level in the US
· 400,000 household units qualify in Arkansas for federal assistance

She described how their corporate concern about profitability led to a focus on compensation to enhance employee retention. In seeking different ways to compensate employees in addition to salary and benefits, they simultaneously found means to stimulate their local (rural) economy. Unusual for a corporation that addresses their own energy efficiency, they also worked with their local utility to develop an energy benefit program for employees. In this program they work with employees to make energy efficiency upgrades to homes, while generating local jobs.

Murray and her husband finance the retrofits up front using an energy fund with payments over time arranged via payroll deductions. Employees get cash coupon incentives from their utility for the recommended measures, and then receive benefits from lower utility bills in the amount of $200-$1,500/year per homeowner. As one employee observed, “Normally people don’t go out and do this on their own. They don’t know how extensive or how little (the retrofits will be)."

These are small measures on an individual basis that make enormous differences in people's quality of life, and benefit the environment and local economies.

This post is instalment #3 of 5. Stay tuned!

[1] See also Majora Carter:

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