April 17, 2008 | General

Editorial: Good Green Jobs

BioCycle April 2008, Vol. 49, No. 4, p. 4

THE Pennsylvania primary is a couple weeks away, and the airwaves and mailboxes have been filled with ads and literature from the three candidates vying for their party’s presidential nomination. The Clinton and Obama campaigns, in particular, continually highlight the role of “green jobs” in the country’s economic revival and environmental vitality.
Employment sectors mentioned include energy and climate change. A mailing from the Obama campaign is a case in point. Under the heading, Economy & Jobs, it states: “Create new ‘Green Jobs’ through comprehensive energy independence and climate change plan.”
A recent New York Times article on the Business of Green discussed how the numbers of green jobs are growing as homeowners, business and industry shift to conservation and renewable energy. “A green collar job is in essence a blue collar job that has been upgraded to address the environmental challenges of our country,” says Lucy Blake, chief executive of the Apollo Alliance, a coalition that seeks to transform the economy into one that is based on renewable energy. The Apollo Alliance predicts the nation could generate three million to five million more green jobs over the next ten years. And they should be good for the workers as well as the environment. “These green technologies are making products that the world wants,” Blake told the New York Times reporter. With scientists voicing concerns about climate change, highly talented people have left other fields to help build the green economy.
The recycling, composting and renewable energy (from organics recycling) industries’ capability to create and sustain green collar jobs has been proven many times over. Recovering materials in the waste stream and converting them into high value products requires labor, and always has – especially when contrasted with landfilling and waste combustion. This is one reason that state governments regularly cite job creation as a significant accomplishment resulting from support of local recycling and composting programs. For example, a 2007 press release from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection notes that “the Commonwealth’s recycling and reuse industry includes more than 3,200 establishments with total annual sales of $18.4 billion. The industry employs more than 81,000 people and has an annual payroll of $2.9 billion.”
And what about climate change and energy benefits? Continues the press release: “Recycling in 2005 eliminated more than 2.5 million metric tons of carbon equivalent – a savings of about 3 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the commonwealth … and almost 98 trillion BTUs of energy, enough to power more than 940,000 homes for one year in the state, or the equivalent of conserving 786 million gallons of gasoline.”
The lead Regional Roundup item on page 14 provides another illustration of green collar jobs in the industries covered by BioCycle. The item discusses how the lease on the Greater Detroit (Michigan) Resource Recovery Facility expires in 2009. With the debt service paid off, the City of Detroit has an opportunity to explore other MSW management options. A coalition advocating for increased recycling and waste diversion was quoted in a local newspaper saying, “Detroit can save millions of dollars and bring in more millions in new businesses and jobs.”
Every year, the April issue of BioCycle features our Equipment & Systems Directory (starting on page 53). The companies listed in the directory are selling their technologies and services to public sector and private sector buyers who in turn are building the infrastructure to sustain composting, organics recycling and renewable energy programs. In turn, these programs and projects are creating and sustaining Green Collar Jobs. Now that is a campaign platform we can all support. – J.G.

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