green jobs

Energy Independence Day

By Steve Donohue

Seventeen years ago when my wife and I went house shopping, we looked for a home with large kitchen windows that would let the sun stream in because I knew this would help heat the house and save energy.

As an environmental scientist in EPA’s Office of Environmental Innovation in Philadelphia, I try to practice what I preach by doing everything I can to save energy at home. Many of my efforts are simple like switching to LED light bulbs and hanging my clothes to dry on the clothes line instead of wasting energy with a power-hogging dryer. Other efforts were a bit more complicated like crawling around in my attic to seal up drafts and add insulation. There were even some unexpected jobs too, like fixing the hole my son made by stepping through the ceiling while he was helping me. I knew these improvements would pay for themselves in no time and they did – reducing our power use by almost 50 percent.

In 2010, we decided to tackle the supply side of the equation by installing photovoltaic solar panels. This was not an easy decision. I wasn’t worried about the technology because I have a solar calculator from 1980 that still works fine, but the return on our investment was supposed to take five years, and by then I knew I would need some cash to replace my aging truck. On the plus side, our roof was new and the slope was just right for installing solar panels. After considering all factors, we decided to take the plunge and get full benefit of tax breaks, financing and rebates offered by Pennsylvania and the federal government. Also, it was nice to know in our own small way we were creating “green jobs” for a local contractor and a factory in Kentucky where the solar panels were manufactured.

A few days after the 4th of July in 2010 we had our own “energy” Independence Day. It has been great! We have had zero maintenance and we get credited for any electricity we don’t use that is sent out to the grid. In 2011, we generated 84 percent of our own electricity, spending less than $260 for power that year. Our goal is to have a net zero energy house in 2012 by swapping out our 17-year old refrigerator.

Sounds good right? Well almost. The market for clean power tanked and our payback is now more like 10 years. So, it looks like I’ll be keeping my old truck a little longer. In the mean time, I tell everyone my new truck is on the roof!

About the author: Steve Donohue has been an environmental scientist at EPA for over 20 years. Currently, he works in the Office of Environmental Innovation in Philadelphia where he is focused on greening EPA and other government facilities.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Share Your Sustainability Stories for Rio+20

by Administrator Lisa P. Jackson

This week I join colleagues from across the US and around the world at the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development. On the 20th anniversary of the 1992 UN Earth Summit that set an early course for sustainability across the globe, we are working to shape the next 20 years of sustainable development with the help of governments, businesses, students, non-profits and global citizens.

Our work will be focused on new strategies to reinvest in the health and prosperity of urban communities. Today, more people around the world live in cities than in rural areas. As that trend continues in the coming years, we will stretch the limits of our transportation systems and energy infrastructure, and be challenged to meet crucial needs like supplying food and clean water, and safely disposing of waste. We’re taking this opportunity at Rio+20 to develop strategies for both improving existing infrastructure and building new, efficient, cutting-edge systems. Innovations in water protection, waste disposal, energy production, construction and transportation present significant opportunities for new technologies, green jobs and savings for families, businesses and communities.

During my time in Rio, I plan to talk about the great work happening in communities across our nation. I will be sharing the stories of individuals and organizations that are implementing new environmental education programs and creating the green jobs of the future, and we’re preparing to unveil videos submitted through the Youth Sustainability Challenge. We want to hear from you as well. Please send us your stories of sustainability this week on Facebook and Twitter, using the hashtag #EPArio so that we can share them with the world.

Even if you can’t be there in person, I hope you will join Rio+20 online. Go to http://conx.state.gov/event/rio20/ to see and participate in all of the events being hosted by the US government, and be a part of our efforts to build a better, more sustainable and more prosperous future.

About the author: Lisa Jackson is the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Summer in the City: Green Opportunity for Students

By Teresa Ippolito

How does this sound: spend a week learning about the environment  taking field trips to Gateway National Park on Staten Island, Jamaica Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Fire Island National Seashore on Long Island and Fort Totten Park in Queens and then maybe work for the National Forest Service this summer?

Well, that opportunity is out there.  The National Hispanic Environmental Council is working with the National Forest Service to find talented, motivated students, especially youth of color, aged 16 – 18, interested in a green career. If you are a talented and motivated student, from the New York area, love the environment, AND want a job in this field, this program is for you.

Step one is to find out about and register for The National Hispanic Environmental Council‘s (NHEC) NYC Minority Youth Environmental Training Institute which runs from  June 27 through July3.  The Institute is an intensive, science-based, residential, and highly educational seven day environmental education and environmental career program.

Spend a week this summer learning about the environment and the job opportunities it can provide.  Participating students will be housed at the Navy Lodge, a hotel in Gateway National Park during the Institute.  The Institute is designed to help build the environmental leaders and professionals of tomorrowby educating, engaging, and inspiring youth, especially Latinos/other minorities, on a range of environmental and natural resource issues. The Institute also provides information on the many different college and career opportunities in the environment.

And about working for the National Forest Service?  They will recruit youth from the Institute to work in national forests this summer.

There is not much time left. The due date?  NHEC accepts applicants to its upcoming NYC Institute on a rolling basis and up to the limits of available funding. So, there is no “due date”.  However students are strongly urged to send in their applications as soon as possible.  Selections have already been made and will continue to be.   While Institute slots do remain, at this point students need to apply promptly.

Get started at:

http://nheec1.org/uploads/2012–NYC_Institute–Fact_Sheet.pdf

About the Author: Terry Ippolito serves as the region’s Environmental Education Coordinator out of EPA’s Manhattan office.  A former science teacher and school administrator, she brings real world insights into the challenges and delights of teaching about the environment.  Terry holds a B.S in Biology and a Masters in Environmental Health Science.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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A New PATH to Local, Green Jobs

Job candidate Evonna being interviewed by WNYC reporter on the first day of candidate training. (EPA photo)

By David Kluesner

After about 15 minutes on a PATH train from the city to Newark, you can’t help but notice remnants of New York and North Jersey’s industrial past. Abandoned factories and scarred tracts of land amid the marshlands and mounds of earth resembling old landfills. After crossing the Hackensack River, off to the left, you see the old Diamond Alkali Superfund site in Newark’s Ironbound neighborhood.  Perched along the Passaic River, the site is a mere patch of gravel covered property with potted Christmas trees. It’s innocent looking enough, but it’s considered to be one of the worst dioxin sites in the country. After passing the site, on the approach to Newark Penn Station, you can’t help but notice the New York Red Bulls new “futbol” stadium. It’s the new, emerging in the shadows of the old. On February 13 this PATH took me to the offices of the Ironbound Community Corporation in Newark to visit the 15 candidates that are going through the Passaic River Superfund Jobs training program, a national EPA jobs training initiative that is new to our Region.  Fifteen candidates were selected from more than 500 applicants.  Twelve of them who graduate on March 1 will get jobs working on the cleanup of river sediment contaminated by the site decades ago.

Job candidates were tested on physical fitness on tryouts day. (EPA photo)

These 15 bright, eager unemployed or under employed residents had to endure multiple tests, orientation sessions and a day of tryouts to be selected.  Some have pasts filled with challenges and bad choices.  All of them need a job and most really need a second chance. One 58-year- old candidate told the class that when he got the call that he was selected to go through the training he sat down on his sofa and cried,  “Who would hire me, a 58- year- old, unemployed man with a past. There are guys here far younger than me?” Later that day, on Day One of training, a 22- year- old Newark resident told his classmates “You know what I like about this class? I get to be around older people. Not the 20-somethings I always hang with. You older guys have so much wisdom that we younger guys could benefit from.”  One of the 50-somethings replied, “Do you know when the last time someone told me that I had value?  A long, long time ago.” Bringing these local jobs to Newark residents is not only giving them a second chance, its bringing together the new with the old.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Fourteen Years of Green Jobs

By Joe Bruss

Working in the Brownfields program, that brings contaminated property back to life, I keep hearing green jobs are only in clean energy such as solar or wind installation. But there’s much more. One of the things people may not know about are the environmental workforce development and job training grants that EPA awards to organizations for green job training in a wide array of cleanup activities.

Organizations who receive these grants train and place people in sustainable green jobs focusing on local activities to reverse environmental damage in their own communities! So what do these grants do? They give organizations money to train people with skills to market themselves for green jobs. What are these green jobs you ask? They can include support for hazardous and solid waste management, mold remediation and deconstruction, underground storage tank removal, and critical training in environmental health and safety. But that’s not all, there is much more and the benefits are even greater.

Graduates from these training programs were employed as first-responders at the World Trade Center, assisted in cleanup efforts after Hurricane Katrina, and helped to contain the BP oil spill in the Gulf.

As of January 2012, these grants paid to train more than 10,000 people and 7,155 were employed in the environmental field. And, the average starting pay is about $14.00 an hour. That’s putting people to work and improving the environment in our neighborhoods and communities around the country.

So, as you can see, there are many green job opportunities! Do you want to be part of it? Here’s more information on how your organization can get involved. You’ll be helping the economy and improving the environment for years and generations to come.

About the author: Joe Bruss has been with the EPA Brownfields Program for over seven years where he acts as the Job Training Grant Program and Environmental Justice Coordinator. In 2009, Joe received a Fulbright Grant, and took a year’s absence from the EPA, to conduct research in the Netherlands on Dutch equitable development policies in revitalization.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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How Does Healthy Sound to You?

By Maryann Helferty

When one visits a place, often one hears a language unique to that location. On a warm day last May, I listened to a team of interpreters in a Philadelphia park. We were not learning a spoken language but rather the language of healthy streams, diverse forest and plant communities, even the complex signals of birds.

Here in the mid-Atlantic, many families live in cities and suburbs. Land use patterns distance people from the natural world, making it too easy for youth to adopt sedentary lives, missing out on unstructured outdoor play. Among the many benefits of being outdoors is physical exercise. According to the White House “Let’s Move” Initiative, doctors, teachers, and other professionals agree that outdoor activity is one of the easiest and most fun ways to get–and stay– fit.

Federal agencies in the mid-Atlantic region are promoting new ways to connect youth with healthier lifestyles and with the environment. Environmental education can serve two purposes: training the next generation of environmental stewards and creating active learning opportunities. For example, the Pennsylvania Master Naturalist program trains people with a passion for the natural world. They participate in an intensive training program and use their knowledge to give back to the community through volunteer service. Click on the link below to JUMP into the stream with them!

Since 2010, high school students from Philadelphia, Pa. and Camden NJ have joined an apprentice program to prepare for green jobs in museum education. Trainings for Master Naturalists are held in the field where students experience the value of teamwork and the commitment of learning – in all kinds of weather. The program builds ties between generations as members of the Senior Environment Corps also get involved in service learning. In partnership with a number of federal and state agencies, the Master Naturalist program is coordinated by the Pennsylvania Institute for Conservation Education.  Note the 2012 application deadline is February 17th for the 2012 Philadelphia County sessions. Help spread the word!

When you think of your special place in the Mid-Atlantic, who taught you what made it special? How do you pass on your sense of place to others?

About the author: Maryann Helferty is an Environmental Scientist with the Office of Environmental Innovation for EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region. In her work on drinking water protection and sustainability, she blends science and education tools to promote the Environment, Social Equity and a Sustainable Economy.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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EPA Administrator Talks Jobs in NYC

EPA Administrator Lisa P Jackson has a candid conversation with New York City stakeholders at the green jobs roundtable held last Monday.

By Elizabeth Myer 

EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson dropped by our New York City offices on Monday, where she spoke to and inspired employees and held a roundtable with local stakeholders. During her visit, the Administrator addressed many of the priorities laid out in President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech last week, namely focusing on the intersection of environmental protection, public health, green jobs and a strong economy in 2012 and beyond. 

(Left) EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck answers questions alongside Administrator Jackson

At the Roundtable that followed, Lisa Jackson posed a question to NYC leaders in order solicit their thoughts on job creation through environmental protection. Specifically, the Administrator wanted to know how to amplify the success stories many small businesses have had creating green jobs in the backdrop of large industry cuts. Participants were asked to enlighten others by sharing past work which highlighted the nexus between environmental protection and a strong economy. The overall response was encouraging and inspiring. One stakeholder suggested that green jobs should be expanded to all sectors (instead of just energy) as a means to change the national narrative. Another participant emphasized the importance of professional development for individuals seeking work in the green jobs sector. Furthermore, the roundtable attendees each made suggestions for specific steps to promote job creation in the field of environmental protection. Jackson listened intently throughout the meeting and in her concluding remarks, challenged the roundtable participants to “be the legislation” that drives these issues. 

Here is my question to you, our valuable readers and environmental stakeholders: How can we broaden communication between diverse groups on the subject of green job creation?

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Green Jobs for Our Health and Our Economy

This post is cross posted from the  “Huffington Post”

By Administrator Lisa P. Jackson

With the economy on the minds of millions of Americans, President Obama continues to make job creation this administration’s top priority. Today the U.S Environmental Protection Agency is following through on that priority by supporting the creation of good, green jobs for Americans across the country.

The EPA is awarding more than $6.2 million in workforce development and job training grants to 21 communities nationwide. Organizations receiving grant support — ranging from a state environmental agency to community-based groups — will use it to train job-seekers, giving them the tools they need to manage, assess and clean up contaminated properties known as brownfields. In addition to providing marketable skills, part of the grant funding will help place those newly trained workers into available employment — creating a straight line between our investment and new jobs.

The environmental, health and economic benefits of brownfields cleanups are extensive and long-lasting. Brownfields sites are places like old gas stations, closed smelters and other industrial and commercial properties that have been left too contaminated to be safely redeveloped. The training programs supported by today’s grants will help graduates revitalize these sites with skills like solid waste management, underground storage tank removal, green construction and clean energy installation.

But this is about more than just creating jobs for one or two cleanup projects. The workers trained under these grants will be strengthening the conditions needed for healthy, sustainable job growth in their own communities. Rather than sitting idle and posing threats to the health of local residents, the revitalized sites can be safely transformed into parks or new economic developments. Since its inception, the brownfields program has sparked the transformation of once-abandoned and contaminated lands into business centers, recreational areas and other developments. That renewal sparks job creation, economic growth and healthier, stronger communities to raise a family and start a business.

The public and private partnerships fostered through the brownfields program have helped create more than 70,000 new jobs. And, as of June 1, 2011, the brownfields job training program alone has trained and placed almost 5,400 people in full-time, sustainable jobs.

Under President Obama’s leadership, we will continue to push for good, green jobs in communities across the nation. It makes perfect sense to seize the abundant opportunities to put people to work protecting the air we breathe, the water we drink and the lands where we build our communities. We can get the important economic benefits of new jobs, while we help make our communities better places to raise a family free from health risks, or to start a business knowing that problems in the environment aren’t going to turn away customers or make workers call in sick.

In other words, we can show that we don’t have to choose between breathing clean air and drinking clean water or creating good jobs. We can do them all at the same time.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Science Wednesday: EPA’s P3: Looking to the Future

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Aaron Ferster

“Green Jobs. Green Economy. Innovation.”

That’s how EPA’s Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe summed up his overall feeling of optimism and appreciation for the students behind the sustainable designs displayed this past weekend at the National Sustainable Design Expo featuring the 8th Annual P3 Competition.

The P3—People, Prosperity and the Planet—competition is an annual event for college and graduate school teams. The competition taps the creative energy of students from across the country to spark innovation and engage them to design, build, and test prototype technologies that offer sustainable, real-world solutions to human health and environmental challenges.

Teams display their work to compete for the P3 Award and funding—up to $75,000—to advance their winning ideas from the design phase to the marketplace or community. Previous winning P3 teams have turned their ideas into successful small businesses and nonprofit organizations.

“Whether your team heads back to school with a P3 Award or not” Perciasepe noted, “everyone here has a great future to look forward to.”

He shared how his sense of optimism stemmed from a look both backward and forward. Looking at recent history, he recalled his own student days: a time when there was still lead in our gasoline, cities were all too often shrouded in smog, and river’s smelled of sewage.

But these challenges have now largely been met. And while today’s environmental and related human health challenges seem even more daunting, the P3 teams show us that there is a new generation of scientists, engineers, architects, and others ready to tackle them.

After an initial peer review process, this year winners were selected from 55 competing teams following two days of judging by a panel of national experts convened by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Want to develop your own sense of optimism? Check out this year’s P3 Award Winners:

  • University of Massachusetts-Lowell for novel greener routes to halogen-free flame retardant material
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for solar powered water collection, containment and self regulating distribution system
  • Purdue University for development of community power from sustainable small hydro power systems
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Oglala Lakota College for use of bone char for the removal of arsenic and uranium from groundwater at the Pine Ridge Reservation
  • Drexel University for lightweight green roof systems
  • Stanford University for innovative university-school partnerships for renewable energy projects and education

About the author: EPA science writer Aaron Ferster is a frequent Greenversations contributor.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Grow a Green School

By Megan Gavin

GreenRecently I attended the first Green Schools National Conference held in Minneapolis. One of the many cool things about the conference was the variety of people who came together with the common goal of how to make schools ‘greener’ and more sustainable. When you think about it, there are a lot of environmental issues surrounding schools – you have lighting, food, garbage, ventilation, schools with and without access to nearby nature and teachers who need to teach standards but want to integrate sustainability concepts into the curriculum – just to name a few. Sounds a bit overwhelming! Where do you even get started?

As part of the conference, the Will Steger Foundation sponsored a youth summit for 100 high school kids from across the country. While the adults were trying to choose between sessions about green jobs, using renewable energy, energy & water conservation, waste reduction, recycling, green purchasing and cleaning, creating a school-wide green culture, school garden programs, school lunch programs and more, students were learning about how to be leaders themselves.

The highlight came at the end of conference for me, when students who attended the youth summit reported out about what they learned. One of the student presenters was a Region 10 President’s Environmental Youth Awards (PEYA) winner form last year. Students spoke about learning tips and tools to get grants to fund their projects, how to be advocates and get media attention for their issues and more. I learned that active, interested high school students have a voice and they will not stop until they are heard. Adults and students alike had come together to support the concept of green schools!

In addition to learning from students, I learned from other organizations too. For example, I learned the U.S. Green Building Council has a center for green schools which helps to engage educators in creating sustainable learning environments for their students and apply solid research to inform leadership about the benefits of healthy, high-performing schools. I learned about other cool resources such as ‘Green my Parents’ which is a movement and a book that teaches kids that through fun, simple activities, keeping score and grading their parents, young people reduce energy consumption, water usage and waste at home to save over $100 for their family and take charge of creating a more sustainable future today.

All in all, I was reminded that green schools aren’t only about the building but the people inside the building. The opportunities to get involved in this movement are endless. My goal is to find kids doing ‘green’ projects in my area and help them get the recognition they deserve through EPA’s President’s Environmental Youth Award program.

About the author: Megan Gavin currently works as the environmental education coordinator in the Chicago office of EPA.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.