Two ideas converge in the term “green economy:” To increase efforts toward conservation and sustainability, a diverse, skilled, blue- and white-collar workforce is needed.
Many small business owners understand that the directive to go green translates into a business opportunity, but they often lack the ability to capitalize on it (See “The Business of Green,” June 2010). This is where advocacy organizations such as Oakland, California-based Green For All (www.greenforall.org) come in. The national nonprofit identifies job, business, and investment opportunities and works to build inclusion within the green economy. Here, Green For All’s CEO Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, who’s named as one of BE’s 40 Next (“Emerging Leader for Our Future,” August 2010) discusses three industries that are sprouting areas of green business.
Sector: Energy Efficiency
Creative financing models and major public investment are fueling an explosion in the energy-efficiency market. What’s more, some of that capital and social investment is funding the training of entrepreneurs and workers. Many local programs are also paying special attention to opening these opportunities to historically disadvantaged businesses. Portland, Oregon-based Clean Energy Works Portland is one example. “The results have been impressive,” says Ellis-Lamkins. “Preliminary data shows that [more than] 20% of total program dollars [as of September] have gone to minority- or women-owned contractors [including sub-contractors].”
Sector: Urban Agriculture
With minimal investment, education, and training, urban farmers who cultivate, process, and distribute food within city limits can create wealth and jobs while helping cities increase the supply, security, and quality of their food. Hundreds of urban farms have sprouted up across the country employing a wide range of business models and practices—a growing number of which are making a profit.
Excluding the cost of land, an entrepreneur can get the basic equipment needed to start for $10,000, according to Ellis-Lamkins. Many cities, including Detroit, Cleveland, and Brooklyn, New York, are adapting policies to make it easier and advantageous for urban farmers to find land they can use.
Sector: Green Urban Manufacturing
With ample offerings for entrepreneurs and investors in this sector, green technologies are opening the space for businesses to gain a foot hold. Formerly vibrant industrial cities such as Detroit are considering green manufacturing as a way to revitalize their cities and address persistent unemployment. Developing the manufacturing parts for harnessing wind and solar energy in the U.S. is among the business possibilities. “By taking advantage of emerging policity and market opportunities in America’s industrial cities,” notes Ellis-Lamkins, “entrepreneurs and investors can turn a profit, help the environment, and create high-quality jobs for American workers.”