Taking The Temperature Of The Green Economy

We’ve all been watching the statistics proclaimed regularly on the news in regards to economic indicators, measurements and forecasts related to unemployment rates, loss of jobs and outsourcing. But not all of these numbers are declining, particularly in California. According to “Many Shades of Green,” a report created by Next 10 (a nonprofit organization founded by Noel Perry which examines the intersection of economy, quality of life and the environment) and the research team at Collaborative Economics, green jobs have been increasing significantly (36%, more than the 13% overall growth) between 1995 and 2008. And, even more significantly, as the Noel Perry and Collaborative Economics’ Doug Henton point out, between 2007 and 2008, when the overall California economy declined by one percent, green jobs actually increased by five percent.

Going to work green

These jobs are found throughout California, distributed in all the major urban areas with some regional specialization noted. For example, there’s a high concentration of solar-related industry in Silicon Valley, wind technologies in the Inland Empire and the desert, green transportation in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, geothermal in the Imperial Valley and wind in the San Joaquin Valley.

People who live in the Golden State have a long legacy of support both popular and legislative for initiatives particularly in industries related to clean air, clean water and proliferation of non-petroleum based energy sources as well as reducing, recycling and reusing. California is famously the state that birthed the concept of Earth Day, which seems to perpetuate itself with greater fanfare annually. Doug Henton from Collaborative Economics cites the state’s positive environmental policies that encourage the growth of green jobs, which include but are not limited to the initiation of the Energy Star program to increase energy efficiency in appliances, incentives for solar and high emissions standards for cars. The relationship between policy and growth, according to Perry, raises the bar for entrepreneurs who are striving to achieve solutions. They’re succeeding, as the green sector in California is growing, attracting investments and collecting patents.

These examples have the potential to silence naysayers who try to maintain that the economy suffers when we devote attention to environmental factors, including clean air or water. The work of Next 10, according to Perry, promotes the concept that business and environmental ethics go together and can even spur on greater innovation and prosperity.

Green jobs range from research and development projects related to developing alternatives to carbon-based energy sources such as fuels from algae or power from wind, finding ways to repurpose waste, installing solar panels or producing nontoxic cleaning materials. An example is the family-owned Earth Friendly Products, headquartered in Orange County, who certainly meets these criteria. Their facility mixes preparations of pH-balanced, botanically-based household and industrial cleaning supplies that don’t need a warning label. They do so within their solar-powered facility, which represents multiple facets of the green economy at work. Judging by the demand from consumers who don’t want to worry about what could happen when the family cat Pipsqueak licks water off the shower floor after it’s been cleaned, this company is one example of the growth of the green economy in action.

In order to fully realize the prosperity that can be part of thinking green, we all need to do our part to support this segment of the economy. Thinking beyond recycling is crucial for supporting a green economy. As individuals we can champion green products, services and companies when we use our purchasing dollar to support what is in alignment with our values. We can also continue to promote legislation and legislatures in line with maintaining our green commitment. In conclusion, it is heartening to know that not all the economic news is filled with doom and gloom. The potential exists for us to unite our beliefs, our buying power and our entrepreneurial fortitude for a positive – and green – future.

For more information about “Many Shades of Green,” visit: next10.org.

By Felicia M. Tomasko, RN