Hopefully, everyone was aware that this past Friday was Earth Day. Much of the annual event’s focus was to increase public awareness of ways to reduce pollution. There were also a number of community clean-ups, including one in Perry Hall, as well as public gatherings to promote more sustainable policy decisions with regard to environmental protection.

I would like to offer, however, some thoughts on what could really turn the tide in support of saving our planet. As is widely known, skyrocketing fossil fuel costs have increased the necessity for all sectors of the economy, leading industry leaders to consider ways to control their energy costs. One area with a great deal of promise is the comprehensive integration of energy efficient and environmentally-friendly practices into the maintenance and development of various structures, from business facilities to residential communities.

In 2007, as part of the New Direction for Energy Independence, National Security and Consumer Protection Act, federal government officials expressed their desire to advance this process. It involved the construction of new, energy-efficient buildings and the targeted retrofitting of energy efficient devices into existing facilities.

All levels of government have since begun to promote environmentally sustainable practices. These efforts will certainly promote energy efficiency and also stimulate the growth of a broad green jobs industry. Baltimore County, for example, has devised a sustainability strategy for government operations and is now working to create a community-wide sustainability plan. As a result of this and related state initiatives, there will be a substantial need for a green labor pool capable of meeting the workforce needs of this emerging industry.

But what exactly are green jobs? Green collar jobs are ones that focus on the conservation of natural resources, the restoration of the environment or the mitigation of pollution. Thus, green collar jobs include the installation of green roofs, the auditing of energy use for an office building, brownfields restoration, installing energy efficient retrofits in existing industrial facilities or dismantling and recycling computers. Jobs that help to promote the more efficient use of commodities (such as fuel and lumber), or help to clean up previously unusable industrial sites, certainly help to benefit both our economy and our natural surroundings.

The promotion of green jobs can simultaneously help our environment and economic viability and also create new job opportunities for unemployed or underemployed Baltimore County residents. The emerging cadre of green or environmentally-driven employment opportunities could offer many area job seekers the chance to be productively engaged in the workforce, helping them support themselves and their families financially. Additionally, as more employers integrate new energy efficient practices into their businesses, many existing jobs will become more “green” and incumbent workers will need to upgrade their skills in order to stay qualified for their jobs and retain their employment.

Policymakers and citizens at-large have made it a priority to promote a sustainable, environmentally-responsible future. Not surprisingly, there has been heightened interest on what impact these efforts may have on the job market. A 2007 study conducted by the Cleantech Network, an organization which tracks green investment, indicated that for every $100 million in venture capital targeted to green industries, approximately 250,000 new jobs could be created.  Thus, if our nation accelerated the emerging transition to a cleaner economy, millions of jobs associated with the construction of green buildings and alternative energy could be created.

As exciting as these projections may be, they will only become a reality if individual consumers change their lifestyles to include sustainable practices. New jobs—green collar, blue collar or some other color—don’t just grow on trees. Our willingness to reduce, reuse and recycle will help create the demand, which is the only sure-fire way to guarantee the creation of green jobs. These jobs could offer many area residents the chance to support themselves and their families, all while helping us to preserve our planet.

Source: PerryHallPatch.com

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