Green Jobs Represent a Good Investment

(view more articles in SOS Tompkins Weekly)

By Bethany Schroeder and Elan Shapiro

According to the recently released guide to green jobs, “Green-Collar Jobs in America’s Cities,” as well as the associated study and action plan for leaders called “Greener Pathways,” a green-collar job by definition provides wages and benefits to support a family, career opportunities and mechanisms to reduce waste, pollution and other environmental risks.

Some of the green-collar jobs listed in the green or environmental sector include machinists, technicians, installation specialists and construction workers, small-scale farmers, landscape workers and arborists, among others. Business owners specializing in alternative transportation, green building and retrofitting and renewable energy are all in the market for skilled workers who understand the principles and practices related to efficient energy use, respect for the environment and natural resources and new ways of developing housing and transportation within the context of a coherent and mindful community infrastructure.

Widely considered to be evidence of a national if not global movement, the green-collar economy of new jobs and products focuses on “livable” communities, primarily in urban settings, and emphasizes training and jobs for people who live near, at or below the poverty line. Those responsible for this new approach to employment understand that workers with the most to lose from an endangered planet are all too often left out of municipal and social planning sessions. Touted by researchers, politicians and members of well-known organizations like the Apollo Alliance as innovative and creative, this green emphasis has attracted evangelists and entrepreneurs who want to help create jobs while modeling a simpler, lighter and less wasteful approach to life. The end result should be a cleaner world in which resources are more equitably and justly shared, even to the point that we can live well and plan on leaving behind resources for future generations.

Many green economy efforts exist in Tompkins County. Training programs offered by local schools and businesses prepare workers for solar and wind turbine installations, green building projects and support positions in the green-collar sector. Efforts so far have yielded an impressive collection of green-related opportunities: the Southern Tier Advocacy & Mitigation Project (STAMP), which engages at-risk urban youth in creating video documentaries on the emerging green economy; the Race Liberation Alliance (RLA), which, among other things, has created and supported conversations aimed at reversing racism in our community; the Tompkins County Workers’ Center and the Alternatives Federal Credit Union, two organizations that have established a strong link between fairness to low-income workers and building a strong and sustainable local economy through their widely acclaimed living wage campaign; the local building re-use center, Significant Elements, which together with Tompkins County Solid Waste, is planning on creating a Deconstruction Team, complete with new green jobs, to facilitate building re-use as well as an ambitious and conveniently located Reuse Center; the Green Resource Hub, begun by Sustainable Tompkins, with a mission centered on consumer education, workforce training and professional development for green building, energy efficiency, renewable energy and green purchasing; Energy Efficiency Community Outreach (EECO), whose “learning circles” provide hands-on demonstrations of do-it-yourself energy efficiency improvements in the homes and apartments of low-income residents and a joint effort through Cooperative Extension, the Resource Hub and Sustainable Tompkins to build a network for green-collar workforce development — just to name a few.

To learn more about the intersection of local development projects and the green economy, join other community members at the monthly Sustainable Tompkins gathering on Tuesday, May 6, from 6-8 p.m. at the Unitarian Annex, 208 E. Buffalo St. in Ithaca, for a presentation and discussion entitled “Green Jobs for the Finger Lakes: Employing Local People in a Sustainable Economy.”

Bethany Schroeder is the president of the board of the Ithaca Health Alliance, a member of the board of Sustainable Tompkins, and a founding member of TCLocal. She can be reached at nidus (at) Elan Shapiro is a local educator and activist and a founding member of Sustainable Tompkins. He can be reached at elansla (at)

If you liked this article, you may want to check out our complete archives of SOS Tompkins Weekly articles

Tags: , ,