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:


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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2012 London Olympics — Lasting Legacy

The Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) is the public body responsible for developing and building the venues and infrastructure for the 2012 London Olympic Games. The ODA’s priority themes included:

  1. Design and Accessibility
  2. Employment and Skills
  3. Equality and Inclusion
  4. Health, Safety and Security
  5. Sustainability
  6. Legacy

As I read the ODA’s priority themes, they all seemed worthy and important goals. The word legacy struck a chord and I wondered, “what does happen to the buildings and infrastructure after all the medals have been awarded, athletes and visitors have gone home, and life goes back to normal?” I decided to find out.

Investment in Tomorrow

75 pence of every £1 (100 pence per pound) that was spent went towards the long-term transformation of East London and the Lea River Valley. This includes world-class sports venues, open space, energy networks, waterways, roads and bridges, transportation links, thousands of homes, and education and healthcare facilities.

Environment and Sustainability

Ever since the 1994 Olympics held in Lillehammer, Norway, sustainability has played an increasingly important role in planning and staging the Olympic Games.

Prior to morphing into Olympic Park, the site in East London was derelict and polluted. Development of Olympic Park represented a huge opportunity to mitigate negative environmental impacts often caused by demolition and construction, and to rehabilitate the natural environment. A few highlights include:

  • Olympic Park Site - Before Photo1.4 million cubic meters of soil were cleaned using a green clean-up process involving 5 soil-washing machines.
  • 70,000 cubic meters of industrial and domestic waste were separated into piles of glass, metals, concrete and soil, and later reused on site or recycled off site.
  • 98% of materials generated from demolition were reused or recycled.
  • 100+ hectares of open space with parkland and wetlands were created or rehabilitated and will reduce the risk of flooding in the Lea River Valley and enrich the biodiversity of the area.

Learning Legacy

The ODA’s Learning Legacy project was created to capture and share knowledge learned from the construction of the Olympic Park. Anyone with an Internet connection can benefit from lessons learned, innovations, best practices, research, and case studies.

Sustainable Event Management

A legacy of London 2012 is a global standard for sustainable event management ISO 20121. The standard addresses sustainability before, during, and after an event. Social and economic interests are linked with environmental and sustainability aspects.

Lasting Legacy

The lasting legacy of the 2012 London Olympic Games is the transformation of a large section of East London and its potential for long-term growth and development for both community and business.

  • Velodrome and WetlandsThe Velodrome used green building materials and methods such as using natural light and ventilation to reduce energy use. Temperature and environmental conditions inside are set to create the world’s fastest cycling track making this a world-class venue that will continue to draw cycling competitors and enthusiasts.
  • Olympic Village will provide 2,818 new homes, for sale or rent, of which half will be affordable housing, along with new education and healthcare facilities.
  • New infrastructure including bridges, roads, transportation links, and pedestrian byways will facilitate getting around in the emerging community and connect it to the greater London area.
  • The Energy Center’s modular design facilitates adding capacity and new technology as the area grows and develops.
  • The flexibility and state of the art technology of the International Broadcast Center will be a draw for new businesses and jobs

London Legacy Development Corporation

The London Legacy Development Corporation is a public sector, not-for-profit organization that will be responsible for the long-term planning, development, management and maintenance of the Olympic Park and its facilities after the London 2012 Games.

There is a counter on their website counting down the days until Olympic Park will be handed over for its next phase of development. The first order of business — Olympic Park will be renamed Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Olympic Stadium with Meadow Flowers

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