There are Many Shades of Green... and Many Kinds of Jobs
This follow item was submitted by Daniel Villao, California Construction Academy, A Project of the UCLA Labor Center. "Beyond Green Jobs: Building Lasting Opportunities in Energy Efficiency" was released at Good Jobs, Green Jobs West.
The nation’s energy efficiency market is currently at a crossroads. Public funds are winding down and many basic weatherization initiatives have produced short-term, temporary jobs without making significant long-term environmental and economic impacts. In this tough economic climate, many have begun to ask, what are innovative ways to bring energy efficiency to scale?
The California Construction Academy, a project of the UCLA Labor Center, recently released a book to explore this question called Beyond Green Jobs: Building Lasting Opportunities in Energy Efficiency. It is now available for order and for free download at: http://constructionacademy.org/book/
There are many shades of green. By looking at energy efficiency through the eyes of a construction worker, it’s possible to understand how different approaches to energy efficiency generate different types of jobs-- and therefore different impacts on our economy, environment and community. A construction worker knows that the industry often has two faces. Construction can exploit workers in dangerous and temporary dead-end jobs, but it can also provide entry to stable, middle-class careers. Rather than focus on just “green jobs,” which can be temporary or even dangerous, it is critical to build good green careers.
Many past initiatives have focused on basic weatherization, which includes sealing windows and air leaks and replacing appliances. However, these efforts tend to generate short-term, temporary jobs and do not significant long-term environmental gains. Beyond Green Jobs argues that going “deep green” will generate the highest benefits for the environment and the economy.
Deep green energy efficiency describes a whole-building and whole-neighborhood approach to retrofitting buildings. Beginning with a certified, comprehensive audit, deep green retrofits mix and match simple and more complex building upgrades to maximize energy savings over the life of a building. Deep green also refers to a philosophy of comprehensively designing energy efficiency programs with the full construction supply chain in mind. A deep green energy efficiency program is place-based, focusing on the full range of possibilities to reap the most energy savings in one geographic area.
Going deep green has a huge impact on jobs. Rather than learning to just replace lightbulbs, a worker can train to become an electrician and have a career far into the future. Deep green means lifelong opportunities for plumbers, HVAC mechanics, and other skilled construction craft workers.
Many innovative programs have begun to take on different aspects of a deep green approach. These programs are creating good green jobs despite a tough economy. Beyond Green Jobs highlights a number of these programs across the country.
The Los Angeles Green Retrofit and Workforce Program stands out among municipal projects. It successfully combines energy efficiency with a focus on creating quality jobs that diverse communities can access. To do this it had to build trust among people who do not often collaborate-- stakeholders from environment, community, policy and labor.
Groundswell, a nonprofit in Washington, DC, partners with community groups to expand the energy efficiency market. Using grassroots strategies like knocking on doors and holding community meetings, they have high success recruiting property owners to sign up to improve the energy usage of their buildings.
Long Island Green Homes was able to make the argument to consider wasted energy as solid waste because of its carbon content. Up front costs are often a major financing challenge, and this allows property owners are able to pay back the cost of retrofits over time through the solid waste bill.
These programs and others that the book highlights are forging diverse partnerships, creating high quality jobs, employing creative financing strategies, and generating demand for energy efficiency. Their innovative practices serve as puzzle pieces to build a future for energy efficiency.
A clean energy economy is within reach. If we move beyond simply focusing on “green jobs” and toward a comprehensive vision for sustainable careers, it is possible to attain the scale necessary for energy efficiency to lead the U.S. economy back to prosperity. It is time to build the road by walking it, and to commit to go deep green.
Order your copy of Beyond Green Jobs or download it for free at: http://constructionacademy.org/book/
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