All Youth Required – Leading the Green Economy of Tomorrow

This post is part of a year-end series by MBA students at California College of the Arts’ Design MBA Program. Read more about our annual partnership here.

Green Youth Arts & Media Center in Oakland, CA

By Sandra Negron

Green consumerism is an essential building block in the development of a green economy. Green consumers aren’t easily defined by their age, income or ethnicity. However, on average, green consumers tend to be older, have a higher income, are more educated, and are more willing to spend on green products. But, transitioning to a true green economy will require a larger market for green goods. It seems clear that the U.S. market is not quite there yet.

Given the current state of the economy, it should not be surprising that a recent survey by Image Green Brands found that 79% of Americans are more concerned about the economy than the environment. In general, 82% of Americans believe that green products cost more; so good value is emphasized along with their continued desire to go green. In order to expand the market for green goods and services and create the sort of economy-wide demand needed to drive the transition towards a sustainable economy, green businesses will need to find a way to offer their consumers a better value without compromising the green economy and falling into the trap of green “washing“. Thus, green consumerism is essential for reaching a green economy of scale, but a wider net must be cast for it to succeed in the long-term.

Today’s disadvantaged youth, a group that consists of just over 9 million people, can drive tomorrow’s green market. There are a number of nonprofit organizations leading the effort to build an inclusive green economy. A challenging goal, indeed, and in order to implement this change, the involvement of government, business, NGO’s, and grassroots communities is needed.  Targeting this segment will require measures beyond increasing the affordability of green goods and services. Creative thinking, education, and increased opportunities are additional necessary factors.

According to a 2005 report by the Rand Corporation about the visual arts, intrinsic pleasures and stimulation of the art experience do more than sweeten an individual’s life. They “can connect people more deeply to the world and open them to new ways of seeing,” which in turn create the foundation to forge social bonds and community cohesion.

NGO’s such as Green For All are collaborating with business, government, labor, and grassroots communities in an effort to create and implement programs that increase the availability of quality jobs and opportunities in green industry. They are working with grassroots nonprofits such as the Green Youth Arts & Media Center. As one of the first arts and multimedia centers dedicated to ecological awareness, as well as artistic and professional development for underserved youth in the nation; it serves as a replicable model for community rejuvenation and economic empowerment. In my experience, when these resources are available and utilized, youth prosper. It led me to believe that I was not barred by my economic status. This creative empowerment is essential. Today many school programs in the arts have been cut due to the economic downturn so organizations such as this are filling in the gap and playing a key role in guiding the youth to think creatively and collaboratively.

An investment in low-income adolescents will yield enormous returns, both social and economic. The key to developing this market segment is to empower and engage youth to think creatively beyond themselves and for the greater good – towards sustainability. This creativity will spawn demand for sustainable goods thus transitioning the low-income youth into a driving force that will grow the green economy of tomorrow.

These articles were created as part of the course work for “Live Exchange” the foundational course on communication for The MBA Design Strategy Program at California College of the Arts. Read more about the project here.

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