Overview: Green Economy

The term “green economy” describes a sustainable economy that provides a better quality of life for all people within the ecological limits of the planet. Integral to such an economy is the creation and expansion of green collar jobs, which are an important sub-set of green jobs—i.e., all the jobs created by firms and organizations working in environmentally-focused industries. Green collar jobs are green jobs that provide a career ladder to move low-income workers into such employment, similar to the role traditional manufacturing had in creating a “blue collar”, workforce that (backed by industrial unions) earned family-supporting wages and benefits.

History

Popularized by environmental and civic rights activist Van Jones, “green collar jobs” is a relatively new concept that has been catalyzed by activism against environmental racism, rising demand for eco-friendly goods and services, increased costs for non-recyclable “fossil fuel” sources of energy, heightened concerns over climate change, and limited federal dollars support for green jobs training.

The green economy also provides new opportunities to promote community ownership and build local wealth. Community groups across the country are demonstrating this by forming cooperatives to buy and/or produce renewable energy; organizing employee-owned green businesses; creating nonprofit social enterprise “deconstruction” businesses to salvage materials from existing structures; developing “urban agriculture” programs to sell locally grown, organic produce; creating energy-efficient affordable housing; and engaging in a range of other innovative, eco-focused activities.

The Green Economy plays a critical role in building community wealth for several key reasons:

  • As a growing sector of our economy, the green economy provides more market space for innovative ownership structures that build community-based wealth and promote meaningful employee participation to take hold.
  • As many green collar jobs are place-based (e.g., green building, solar panel installation, wind power generation, recycling, etc.), they can provide stable, quality employment opportunities for community members.
  • Green collar industries are critical to nurturing sustainable, healthy neighborhoods where people want to live and work into the future.

Community-wealth.org houses an extensive collection of resources focused on the Green Economy and this model’s role in community wealth building. Below is a glimpse of the rich array of materials you will find as you explore our site:

Our Support Organizations section features major organizations working to promote a green economy such as Green for All. Aiming to alleviate poverty and pollution through an inclusive green economy, Green for All works in collaboration with business, government, labor, and grassroots communities to increase quality jobs and opportunities in green industries.

Key Facts & Figures

Green jobs in the U.S. (BLS, 2011)

3.4 million

Average annual wage at businesses receiving all revenue from green goods and services (BLS, 2011)

$48,210

Jobs in the “clean” economy vs. the fossil fuel industry (Brookings, 2010)

2.7 million vs. 2.4 million

New jobs that will be created by the recycling industry through 2030 (Tellus Institute report)

1.5 million

Our Best Practices section showcases exemplary organizations from across the country that are creating quality jobs or training opportunities in the green economy. One such group is Chicago’s Growing Home, a social enterprise that grows and sells organic food. Since 2002, the nonprofit has provided job training and transitional employment to over 250 Chicagoans with histories of incarceration, homelessness, or substance dependence.

Our Research Resources section highlights web-based resources focused on the green economy such as GreenBiz. With a mission to help businesses align environmental responsibility with business success, GreenBiz’s website posts links to current news stories, events, reports, papers, and similar resources focused on the green economy. It also has a section devoted to Green Career Resources, which features a range of information and tools for those seeking green collar jobs.

Our Articles and Publications section includes links to a diverse selection of articles, reports, papers, and books focused on the green economy such as Robert Constanza, Gar Alperovitz and Herman Daly, et. al’s Building a Sustainable and Desirable Economy-in-Society-in-Nature (2012). This report highlights why our current economic system is flawed, outlines the components of a desirable, sustainable economy, and describes key policies necessary to achieve sustainability, which include training for jobs in green industries.

Lastly, our Toolbox features resources designed to help on-the-ground practitioners working to create and promote a green economy. For instance, The Partnership for Working Families’ The Construction Careers Handbook: How to Build Coalitions and Win Arguments That Create Career Pathways for Low Income People and Lift Up Construction Industry Jobs is a manual to guide those working to ensure that jobs in construction are high quality opportunities accessible to all individuals. One chapter is focused exclusively on “Green Construction Careers” and includes several examples of success stories from communities across the country.