Microfinance in the US: Will There Be a Green Focus?

Scott Cooney | Tuesday September 8th, 2009 | 6 Comments

logoLeafy3Kiva.org, the world’s largest microfinance site, is so successful in part because Kiva itself is so fun, interactive, and imaginative in its presentation. They work with a host of field partners that fund small loans. People give small donations that finance these loans, and can see pictures of the businessperson, read about their idea, and decide to chip in to help that person rise above poverty. It truly is an amazing ‘feel-good’ story. What may be loose change to many citizens in developed countries is truly life-blood for many in the developing world. Kiva’s giving out $1 million in loans weekly in this way, and are the #1 most trafficked microfinance site. Despite the bad economy, Kiva’s had a record year.

Kiva has recently brought this model home to the U.S. by partnering with microfinance lenders (MFL’s) such as Opportunity Fund. The loans are bigger than some of the ones we’re used to hearing stories about (i.e., a $250 loan to a vendor in Uganda looking to sun-dry mangoes so that they have goods to sell in the offseason), but otherwise, it’s still microfinance. In the first week of doing so, someone in Cambodia lent money to someone in the U.S. It was a real moment of inspiration for everyone at Kiva, according to Giovanna Masci, Microfinance Partnerships Manager for the Americas at Kiva.

But let’s talk frankly about this “feel-good” story for a moment. Do I really feel good about Joe the Plumber getting a microloan? Well, yes, sure…but what would really make this a feel-good story is if Kiva decided to focus loans to green business startups.

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Disney Spotlights Everyday Superheroes of Change

| Tuesday September 8th, 2009 | 0 Comments

hollywood & green
friends-for-changeThe blogosphere’s been a-buzz the past few days about Disney’s multi-billion dollar acquisition of Marvel, but there hasn’t been much press about the million dollars in donations they’re planning as part of their “Friends for Change” initiative. In fact, though I hesitate to admit this publicly, if I hadn’t gotten sucked into The Jonas Brothers marathon on the Disney channel over the long weekend, I wouldn’t even have known about it. Granted, I’m not their target audience, but after digging deeper, it’s actually a worthwhile program that makes effective use of popular icons like Miley Cyrus and The Jonas Brothers in making kids and teens aware of the important issues facing our planet in a memorable way.

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Goodwill: A People Recovery Enterprise

3p Contributor | Tuesday September 8th, 2009 | 1 Comment

banner-green-labor-dayGoodwillBy James David, Communications Manager, Goodwill Industries of San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin Counties

While people around the world generally think about Goodwill in terms of our retail stores, we think of Goodwill as a value recovery enterprise, or in other words, one huge recycling center. As our retails stores demonstrate, we offer up people’s unwanted or discarded goods, and recover their value. Similarly, we take society’s unwanted or discarded people, and help them recover, and for many of them, discover, their value through training and work.

The people portion of the triple bottom line, which we too have embraced as our mission, is at the heart of every retail transaction, every material or financial donation, and every pound of goods we divert from landfill. Goodwill’s participants have been discarded by society due to substance abuse or addiction, incarceration, and seemingly insurmountable barriers to employment. These are people who are desperately in need of training and education, which we work hard to provide for them through the programs we offer.

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Maps Are Worth Ten Thousand Words: Where Cleantech Jobs Are in the US

3p Contributor | Tuesday September 8th, 2009 | 1 Comment

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By Carol McClelland, PhD and author of Green Careers For Dummies


View 101 Cleantech Startups in a larger map

Thanks to the power of Google Maps, organizations that are researching the viability of green jobs and the green economy have a powerful tool at their fingertips. With a bit of data, these organizations are creating maps that show where green companies are located, which provides job searches and green career seekers with a powerful tool.

In this map, you see a map of 101 Cleantech start ups with distinctive icons that indicate which 12 clean tech industries they represent. Hover over the icon and some summary information about the company including what the business focus is, who the key players are, where their funding is coming from and links to blog posts about the company. (If you want to see more details, click on the link below the map and check out the left side of the page to see the companies that fit under each of the following categories.)

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Clean Tech Training for All

Frank Marquardt | Tuesday September 8th, 2009 | 1 Comment


Just five years ago, there were a mere handful of educational and training programs available for those interested in clean tech, primarily in advanced-degree university programs. Today, there are hundreds, if not thousands, with new ones popping up every day as a result of stimulus funds flowing to colleges and universities to fund green jobs training.

These programs are targeted to candidates at every level of experience, from those with a GED to engineering and chemistry graduates looking to develop next generation solar technologies. And while a clean tech training program won’t guarantee you a job in the industry, it will help you stand out—and deliver marketable skills as stimulus money gets spent.

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Dow Corning CEO’s Take On Green Jobs

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

The following is a guest post by Dr. Stephanie Burns, Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President of Dow Corning Corporation:

This month’s second annual National Clean Energy Summit was an amazing opportunity for me to discuss the transformation of United States’ energy policies with some of this country’s influential names in innovation, sustainability and energy efficiency. The energy, commitment and concern expressed by former President Bill Clinton, former Vice-President Al Gore, President Obama’s cabinet secretaries Steven Chu and Hilda Solis, T. Boone Pickens, and organizer Sen. Harry Reid was contagious and I, as well as the thousands of others who attended, left with optimism that we are on the forefront of a clean-energy revolution that will create millions of jobs nationwide and place us firmly on a path toward energy independence.

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The Dangers of Haphazard Hiring in Building the Clean Economy

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

banner-green-labor-dayHiring PracticesBy Nick Ellis, Managing Partner of Bright Green Talent

If you’ve applied for a job—green or otherwise—in the past year, you’ve probably found that it’s often a messy, slow, unsatisfying process.

According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, “current hiring practices are haphazard at best and ineffective at worst. And even when companies find the right people, they have difficulty retaining them.”

I run an environmentally-focused recruiting firm called Bright Green Talent in San Francisco, and have been working for the past few years to help environmentally-minded companies grow out their teams. I’ve seen first hand how something is hugely amiss in the hiring practices of most organizations—and yes, this includes green companies.

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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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andresr090200015

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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