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  • Getting to Green

    An administrator pushes, on a shoestring budget, to move his university and the world toward a more sustainable equilibrium.

Grassroots green growth
April 27, 2010 - 5:37pm

Good jobs, tied to sustainable enterprises in existing communities. That's the objective of the Apollo Alliance, and one which they seem to be achieving.

The jobs are good in that they pay relatively well, while serving community needs in sustainable ways. They pay well because the organizations doing the hiring are cooperatives, so employees are also owners. The co-ops are practical, in part, because the services they provide are labor-, rather than capital-, intensive. The Alliance focuses on meeting start-up requirements, including training, planning and marketing.

The impact of programs similar to these goes way beyond bringing paychecks in to a handful (later, a hundred handfuls) of households. This kind of program, by its very existence, changes the dynamics of the sustainability debate. As local "green collar" jobs become more common, the discussion stops being about cost and starts being about employment. Co-ops can start small but grow rapidly, given an inherently stable management and motivational structure. (The co-op model is far from magic, but it's a thoroughly-proven design.) Nothing succeeds like success, and nothing will take the air out of "sustainability is economic suicide" gas-bags like a pattern of business success.

Many community colleges and ag/tech schools across the country already have training programs in place for sustainable energy system installers and the like. Solar PV and wind generation aren't financially attractive in much of the Northeast, but even here solar hot water is a no-brainer for many households. And laundries. And commercial clients. It's the kind of business which can grow from the ground up. Or even the roof.


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