Michigan’s Windspire Inspires New Green Jobs

3p Contributor | Monday September 7th, 2009 | 0 Comments

windspire-capitolBy Amy Berry

Last April, amid a freezing cold rain and intermittent snow showers, more than 600 people stood in and around a tent to hear Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm celebrate the opening of the Windspire wind turbine factory in Manistee, MI. The crowd cheered as Granholm and Windspire parent company Mariah Power’s CEO Mike Hess spoke of the transformation of the facility: from manufacturer of automation equipment for the automotive industry to near closure and then finally now to the manufacturing of small wind turbines. The hero of the day was the factory’s general manager John Holcomb, who received the loudest cheers from the Michigan crowd when he challenged businesses across the state and country to think bigger about what is possible.

A veteran of the automotive industry, Holcomb’s business was devastated by the automotive industry’s crisis. His clients, all of the major car makers, stopped ordering equipment. He was forced to lay off almost his entire staff. Working with local community entities, Holcomb convinced Mariah Power that his team could make the Windspire wind turbines for a cost that was competitive with overseas manufacturers and with far better quality. The facility was retrofit with new machinery and the laid off workers were rehired to start building the Windspire turbines.

In honor of Labor Day, John Holcomb answered some of our questions about his new green job:

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Green Jobs Movement: Make it Real

3p Contributor | Monday September 7th, 2009 | 1 Comment

green-jobs-225x188By Cathy Calfo, Executive Director of The Apollo Alliance

The green jobs movement has come a long way, baby. Just five years ago, the notion that we could end U.S. dependence on foreign oil, reduce dangerous carbon emissions that are destabilizing our climate, and create “green” jobs here at home was considered by many to be a pipedream. Now, as we seek to revive our economy, the phrase ³”green jobs²” is on the lips of policy makers,
business leaders and labor union officials across the nation, and green jobs measures are being proposed and enacted in cities from Gainesville, Fla., to Kansas City, Mo.

“Fighting global warming and transforming the United States into a green economy is a massive and defining challenge for our time,” argue Robert Pollin and Jeanette Wicks-Lim of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. “It is the work of a generation, and specifically, the work of millions of people, performing the jobs needed to build the green economy.”

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Sustainable Labor and the Farmer’s Market

3p Contributor | Monday September 7th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Rosie the FarmerEssay by Steve Pierson

Labor Day came into being in the late 1880’s and early 1890’s, during a wave of popular sentiment toward organized labor. Industry was on a steep upswing at that time, powered by leading-edge fossil fuel energy technology. Furnaces became the driving force of what is now the developed world. Big furnaces cooked metals out of ore. Smaller furnaces drove pistons and performed mechanical work. Furnaces were everywhere, behind every mechanical thing and every manufactured product. Mines fueled steel mills that built railroads that distributed goods. Manpower was in short supply, and a mass migration occurred from rural farm jobs to industrial jobs.

Eventually, cities like Detroit, and companies like General Motors, became central to the very definition of America. Fossil fuel was behind it all, and the furnaces were still behind and inside everything. Seemingly unlimited quantities of fantastically concentrated photosynthesis energy, sequestered over hundreds of millions of years of life on Earth, were extravagantly consumed in little more than a human lifetime. As more people relocated to urban areas, as population grew, and as machines became more sophisticated, the shortage of manpower gradually eased and became a surplus. Labor, especially organized labor with its ability to extract concessions from management, became an expensive liability.

The factories followed the periphery of the developed world, and are now far away from where they first emerged. Today, the industrial portion of the American heartland is known as the Rust Belt. Detroit is rapidly depopulating, and vacant lots are replacing thousands of houses. Large numbers of capable human beings are unemployed or underemployed. Where Labor was once a powerhouse, it’s now increasingly idle.

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Bill Clinton, T. Boone Pickens, and Al Gore on Cleantech Jobs and the New Economy (VIDEO)

| Monday September 7th, 2009 | 0 Comments

clean energy summit The National Clean Energy Summit 2.0, sponsored by Senate Major Leader Harry Reid, UNLV, and the Center for American Progress took place last month in Las Vegas, and boasted an impressive roster of participants like President Bill Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, General Wesley Clark, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, and several others.

The event was an attempt to bring together some of the most respected leaders from industry, science, government, and advocacy organizations to discuss a policy agenda for creating good jobs in the new economy by accelerating the deployment of clean energy and energy efficiency, advancing energy independence, and ensuring long-term prosperity for Nevada, the nation, and the world.

Below are several videos of the event, including special remarks by Mr. Clinton, Mr. Gore, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, and T. Boone Pickens.

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Labor Day Reflections On U.S. Healthcare

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Monday September 7th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Labor Day is more than just a mere day off, but a day to honor the men and women past and present who fought for labor reform. Part of the fight to obtain better working conditions and pay included the advent of Labor Day. In 1882, New York City workers took an unpaid holiday, calling it Labor Day. A year later, the Central Labor Union held a second Labor Day holiday. By 1885 Labor Day was “celebrated in many industrial centers of the country,” according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

In 1898, four years after President Grover Cleveland signed legislation making the first Monday of September a holiday, Samuel Gompers called it “the day for which the toilers in past centuries looked forward, when their rights and their wrongs would be discussed.”

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“Solar Energy Initiatives” Capitalizes on Fed Stimulus

| Monday September 7th, 2009 | 0 Comments

solarenergy_Powered_By_(Green)_copy_webready Concerns about employment have become even more prominent in the US in the wake of the bursting of the latest, and arguably the deepest, financial and real estate bubble since the Great Depression.

By way of overcoming the current economic downturn and setting the foundation for healthier, more sustainable development and growth in the 21st century, “Going Green” has become the mantra for those who would like to see the US wean itself off its dependence on fossil fuels. The idea: Stimulate the development and adoption of clean technology and renewable energy.

The message is a powerful one, and companies such as Solar Energy Initiatives are aiming to capitalize on it. Based in Ponte Vedra, Florida, the solar energy systems dealer and integrator’s overarching strategy is defined in its “Renew the Nation” campaign and mission statement—”to help redeploy a portion of the US workforce and focus on reducing the world’s dependence on fossil fuels by selling solar thermal and photovoltaic (PV) technologies.”

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Blu Skye Sustainability Consulting – Proving the Triple Bottom Line to Big Businesses

| Monday September 7th, 2009 | 1 Comment

blu-skye-sf-skylineIf more people perceived the word “sustainability” to be synonymous with “wealth creation,” I imagine many of the barriers to forming a green infrastructure simply wouldn’t exist. Blue Skye, a San Francisco-based sustainability consulting firm, is seeking to establish that synonymy, helping business leaders use sustainability to craft new, inventive wealth generating strategies. The message that environmental and social issues are part of the core of any green business – a message Blu Skye consultants convey to businesses big and small – has achieved significant results. If efforts like Blu Skye’s are successful, more companies – and job seekers – stand to benefit from the business possibilities inherent in sustainability.

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Van Jones Forced to Resign

| Sunday September 6th, 2009 | 7 Comments

van-jones-smileAmid growing “controversy” Van Jones announced late Saturday his resignation as special advisor for green jobs at the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

“On the eve of historic fights for health care and clean energy, opponents of reform have mounted a vicious smear campaign against me,” Jones said in a statement released to the press.  “They are using lies and distortions to distract and divide. I have been inundated with calls — from across the political spectrum — urging me to ‘stay and fight.’ But I came here to fight for others, not for myself. I cannot in good conscience ask my colleagues to expend precious time and energy defending or explaining my past. We need all hands on deck, fighting for the future.”

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Green Jobs Training: Emerging Opportunities To Leverage Stimulus Dollars

| Sunday September 6th, 2009 | 2 Comments


A centerpiece of the stimulus package is an effort to put 3 and 4 million people back to work over the next two years.

The site Recovery.gov includes a map of the U.S. with the estimated jobs expected under the Recovery Act superimposed over each state. California leads with 396,000 anticipated jobs, while North Dakota and Vermont expect the least job growth with 8,000 each.

I’v been curious to better understand who is leading the charge on training the workforce for the wave of new green jobs we are expecting.  Are companies taking the lead?  Federal agencies or state governments?  It seems to be a bit of a chicken and egg scenario.  If you deploy training programs without partnering with business, you will have a trained workforce, but no jobs.  And if you create the jobs, but neglect workforce development, critical shortage of specialists in growing professions could occur.

According to the National Renewable Energy Lab, the major barriers to a more rapid adoption of renewable energy and energy efficiency in America are insufficient skills and training.

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Japan’s New Carbon Target – Good News or Bad News?

| Saturday September 5th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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This just in from the is-this-good-news-or-bad-news file: Japan’s incoming Democratic Party-led government has promised a more aggressive emissions-trimming policy than the outgoing government. However, the plan will hinge on the inclusion of China and India in an international climate change agreement. This could be bad news for the UN Climate Change Conference to take place in Copenhagen in December.

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Beyond Organic – Looptworks Upcycles Textile Waste into Treasures

| Friday September 4th, 2009 | 1 Comment

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looptworks textile waste

Look at the shirt you’re wearing now.

What do you think happened with the material cut to make that shirt? Despite likely making every effort to be efficient in how much material is used, there is always extra. In some cases, one factory can produce 60,000 pounds of textile waste a week. Currently, nearly all of that goes to landfill. Or it goes overseas, dumped into communities of “need” that then devalues the market for domestic, locally made clothing there. In both cases, there’s an additional carbon cost, with transportation to their destination.

What’s a way to address this? Yes, buying organic is a solid step forward, reducing chemical inputs. And yet, did you know that one pair of jeans takes about 1800 gallons of water to manufacture?

What can you do? Aside from going naked, there’s Looptworks.

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Biofuel and Black Earth: Dynamotive Pioneers Updated Pre-Columbian Technology

| Friday September 4th, 2009 | 1 Comment

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Terra_Preta Improving on an age-old method used in Pre-Columbian societies, Canada’s Dynamotive Energy Systems has developed a means of turning waste biomass into fuel and fertilizer. Significantly, “fast pyrolysis” of the waste feedstock Dynamotive is using also provides a long-term means of capturing and storing carbon.

Small groups of biochar proponents have been gathering together and discussing biochar’s potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve agriculture and benefit agricultural communities for years. They’ve been garnering a larger audience of late.

Language recognizing biochar as a qualified climate change mitigation and adaptation technology has been included in the working draft of a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. Similar proposals are being considered in US and Australian climate change pacts. Here in the US for the first time, the North American Biochar Conference was held at the University of Colorado’s Center for Energy and the Environmental Security in Boulder August 9-12, drawing 325 participants and 80 speakers.

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Looking For a Green Job? Grab Your Rain Boots

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Friday September 4th, 2009 | 3 Comments

green_jobs_waterIt’s been 200 days since President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and the Environmental Protection Agency says it has allocated 92 percent of the $7.22 billion Recovery Act dollars it is charge of allocating. And much of that money will be used for projects to improve water quality, wastewater infrastructure and drinking water infrastructure.

Specifically, $4 billion is going for assistance to help communities with water quality and wastewater infrastructure needs and $2 billion for drinking water infrastructure needs. A portion of the funding will be targeted toward green infrastructure, water and energy efficiency, and environmentally innovative projects.

On Thursday, EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson ticked off a short lift of water-related projects that promise to create jobs, including a harbor cleanup in New Bedford, Mass. (270 jobs) and a Superfund cleanup project (more than 200 jobs) in at the Iron Mountain Mine in Redding, Calif., which used to discharge one ton of toxic materials into the Sacramento River every day. Once completed, the local hydroelectric power plant will use the restored waters to produce energy.

President Obama is requesting $475 million in next year’s budget for cleaning up the Great Lakes—and this would be just a small part of the funding if he makes good on his campaign promise of devoting $5 billion for Great Lakes restoration.

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CSR at Jack Daniel’s Is a Mixed Cocktail

Bill DiBenedetto | Friday September 4th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Jack DanielsBrown-Forman – parent of Jack Daniel’s and many other alcohol beverage brands – says in its second corporate responsibility report that after implementing a greenhouse gas reduction strategy last year, it reduced total energy use by 2.3 percent from its 2007 use.

That’s a start, but over the same 2007-2008 period the company reported that its GHG emissions jumped 9.3 percent to 189,233 metric tons. Water consumption meanwhile increased by 4.5 percent. The total GHG increase includes increases in both direct and indirect emissions and a slight decline in “optional” emissions.

It’s not until page 25 of the 28-page report, On Being Responsible, Our Thinking about Drinking, that environmental issues and results are addressed in some detail.

The company gets its energy from coal, waste wood, natural gas, fuel and electricity. Last year’s reduction in energy use came about from reduced production at some facilities and energy-efficiency moves such as lighting, heating and cooling optimization and the installation of a waste-to-energy process that will fuel a boiler at its tequila plant in Mexico with bio-gas generated as an energy byproduct at a new wastewater treatment facility there.

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Cisco Pays Employees Not to Work at Cisco

| Friday September 4th, 2009 | 4 Comments

How the Computer Networking Giant Encourages Non-Profit Service

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CiscoA few years back, the Financial Times told the story of Peter Santis, a regional sales manager for computer networking giant, Cisco Systems. When he was let go, according to the article (links to articles dating before 2004 aren’t available on FT.com), Santis was presented with a unique proposition. Instead of walking away with a pink slip and a severance package, he was given the opportunity to remain a part of the Cisco family working for a non-profit.

Peter Tavernise, now a senior manager at Cisco’s Corporate Affairs Group, found himself in a similar position in 2001. When he was laid off, Tavernise was offered one-third of his former salary with full benefits to become a Cisco Fellow and spend the next year as planner and fundraiser for a North Carolina-based public affairs group. Since returning to the company, Tavernise has used what he did for that non-profit to help shape what he is doing now.

These days the program is called Cisco Leadership Fellows, and it is more focused on employees with potential as a way to, as the company asserts, bring people and technology together to make a difference and help a community prosper.

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