Following the lead of an organization called the East Bay Green Tours, the city of Richmond, CA, long considered a crime-ridden afterthought of the more well-heeled East Bay cities of Oakland and Berkeley, is making strides to help a small but fluorishing green business community take off. Tomorrow, I will attend their first green tour (on hydrogen bus) and “Green is Gold Expo,” put on by the Richmond Chamber of Commerce.
None of this is particularly new for the East Bay, long considered a hub of sustainable enterprise, but it is new for Richmond. In fact, if you google “Richmond California,” you’ll understand why this event, and the effort that brought it here, is terrific news.
What it could mean for the city is good, green jobs as advocated by Van Jones, cleaner communities, less crime, and a much better tax base that should help provide better public services. And after speaking with several Richmond-ites, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that they were not surprised at all. The level of sustainability IQ in Richmond far surpassed my San Francisco-elitist green snobbery preconception. (And I am happily eating a nice fat slice of humble pie). But it leads to the inevitable question: if Richmond is turning into such a hub of green business, who isn’t? And if they’re not, is it just because no one has organized a green tour to help mobilize the community and bring awareness to the issue?
Mary Catherine O’Connor wrote about the revitalization of an industrial relic in Richmond, a converted Ford plant that now houses several sustainable manufacturers, Sunpower and Vetrazzo. Tomorrow’s tour starts with a walk-through of the Ford Building and Vetrazzo’s cool recycled countertop operation, goes to a recycling facility for scrap metal, then heads to Solar Richmond and Richmond Build, two non-profits that are behind some of the push for Richmond’s conversion to a green collar economy. The tour hits one or two other green businesses that we get a sneak peak into, stops in a few places where the Richmond Chamber of Commerce believes there are good opportunities for aspiring eco-entrepreneurs, then goes to the solar-powered wastewater treatment plant, and finally drops off back at the Ford Plant, where, conveniently, a green expo will be happening.
The free-to-the-public Green is Gold Expo will be held in the Craneway Pavilion of the building. It goes from 4-7:30 tomorrow night (Thursday May 14). There will be green exhibitors on display, as well as food, a bar, networking in the green community, and door prizes to draw people in.
There’s something so incredibly effective when someone who is dubious of the power of green business gets a chance to do a tour and expo like these, that there are few, if any, more efficient catalysts for positive change. Could something like this be done in your community? Go talk to the local Chamber of Commerce and a few of the green businesses in town…I’d bet you’ll find very receptive audiences, and might just help catalyze a green business revolution in your town.
Scott Cooney is the author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and hopes that someday, the green economy will simply be referred to as…the economy.