The Green Collar Economy — Book Review

The Green Collar Economy Book CoverThe words green and economy drew me to Van Jones book, The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems.

The book addresses two monumental issues facing our country global warming and unemployment. Jones suggests that green-collar jobs can go a long way towards solving both problems.

It is a compelling and thought-provoking book.

Book Review

The first chapter begins with a story of Hurricane Katrina as an illustration of how the poor and people of color are often the ones living on the front lines of the environmental and economic crisis. Other stories throughout the book drive this point home.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. The Green Collar Economy outlines a strategy for tackling environmental and social justice issues together. A few ideas and solutions from the book are recapped below:

Jobs

Jones defines a green-collar job as, “a family-supporting, career-track job that directly contributes to preserving or enhancing environmental quality.”

  • Weatherizing homes and buildings reduces energy use and saves money.
  • The building, maintaining, and managing of solar, wind and wave farms grows the renewable energy industry, reduces demand for fossil fuels, and provides jobs.
  • Manufacturing green products that are good for the environment help people too.
Equipment and Tools

The book states that “space-age” equipment and tools are not needed for many green-collar jobs. For instance, ladders, wrenches, hammers, tool belts, and work boots are used by solar-panel installers every day. Caulk guns for weatherizing and clipboards for energy audits are important and easy to use tools.

Business, Non-Profits, and Government

Business, non-profits, and the government all have roles to play in creating a green-collar economy.

  • Providing access to education and training.
  • Encouraging diversity and a broader range of ideas by including more working-class people, people of color, religious groups, and nontraditional constituencies.
  • Implementing policies and funding to drive renewable energy and other green industries and stimulate job creation.

The Bottom Line

The Green Collar Economy looks at the environment and economy from a different perspective than many “green” business/economy books I’ve read. The book makes it real. Along with people laid off from their jobs, are veterans returning to civilian life, people returning home from prison, and underemployed people looking for a chance to learn useful skills and make a living.

Jones is passionate about the subject and actively works towards achieving his vision. The following excerpt sums it up.

 “Let us all say together: We want to build a green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty and into great careers for America’s children. We want this ‘green wave’ to lift all boats. This country can save the polar bears and poor kids too.”

I recommend this book to anyone interested in environmental and social justice.

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Natural Capitalism — Book Review

Natural Capitalism Book CoverReaders are offered a view of the sustainability movement during the late 1990’s in Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution, by Paul Hawken, Amory B. Lovins, and L. Hunter Lovins.

It was first published in 1999. A 10th Anniversary Edition was published in 2010 with a new introduction by Amory B. Lovins and Paul Hawken that updates the story to include successes of the last decade.

Book Review

The book defines natural capital as water, minerals, oil, trees, fish, soil, etc. It discusses the impact of our current system of industrial capitalism on people and the environment and provides a compelling alternative.

Natural capitalism is introduced as a viable and necessary economic model for the future. According to the authors, “Natural capitalism recognizes the critical interdependency between the production and use of human-made capital and the maintenance and supply of natural capital.”

  • Radical Resource Productivity – increase resource productivity, eliminate waste, rethink business, integrate design (look at the whole system, not just its parts).
  • Biomimicry – nature does not waste anything, one systems waste is another systems’ input (we need to learn from this concept).
  • Service and Flow Economy – a shift from buying stuff to leasing or renting the service the stuff it provides. E.g. buying the service of cooling instead of an air-conditioner.
  • Investing in Natural Capitalism – humankind inherited a 3.8-billion-year store of natural capital which is being rapidly degraded and depleted, we need to use it wisely, sustain and restore it.

Instead of telling businesses they must change because it’s the right thing to do, the authors provide evidence that business and industry will have to change to stay in business. Implementing natural capitalism can be a competitive advantage for companies, it can save and make money, all while sustaining and restoring natural capital for the future.

The Bottom Line

Reading about sustainability from a distance of over a decade gave me a new perspective on where we have come from, some successes, and how much further we still need to go.

The authors are well-respected experts in their fields and delivered information in an interesting and readable way. Showing companies how to change from a businessperson’s perspective makes sense to me. Companies need to stay in business while they change.

I recommend Natural Capitalism to people interested in a sustainable economic and business future.

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Getting Green Done — Book Review

Getting Green Done Book CoverThe cover of Getting Green Done: Hard Truths from the Front Lines of the Sustainability Revolution by Auden Schendler got me with its work glove and tagline.

You can’t imagine my amazement when I opened it and learned the author was from the Aspen Skiing Company. I thought, “You’ve got to be kidding me, a skiing company, what could possibly be green about a skiing company?”

I decided to read it anyway and I am glad I did.

Book Review

The book shares actual stories about green projects at Aspen Skiing Company. Some worked and some didn’t. Key points include:

  • Climate change is happening. As Schendler says,”Business is both the cause and victim of environmental decline.” We need to change now.
  • It’s smart to engage the people in the trenches who are experts at what they do, like Snowcat mechanics and resort managers.
  • Essential to accomplishing green projects is understanding business owners have a business to run and must meet customer needs and make a profit.
  • Energy efficiency and green building techniques have major environmental benefits and save/make money.
  • Green projects require creativity, commitment, flexibility.
  • Use whatever you can to promote your message and organization.

Aspen is known around the world. This is good for the sustainability movement. Schendler and others have access to media and influential people that most small towns would never have. This enables them to promote sustainability and green projects on a worldwide basis.

Aha…now the Aspen Skiing Company connection makes sense.

The Bottom Line

It was refreshing to read actual stories from the trenches and about what worked and didn’t work. Getting Green Done is a well-balanced book about an extremely complex and often emotional issue.

The writing style was easy to read and sometimes had me laughing out loud—this is the first time I’ve ever laughed while reading a book on sustainability.

I disagree with Schendler’s view that individual actions don’t make an impact and what we really need are businesses and governments to step to the plate. I believe we need everyone to take action.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in sustainability and the “real world.”

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