Building a local movement toward a green economy


More than 150 people, ranging from elected officials to neighborhood activists, business leaders and union members, filled the Carpenters hall recently for a breakfast roundtable on “blue-green” issues.

Convened by the Minnesota Blue-Green Alliance, it was one of a series of events building a coalition for a new economy – one based on sound environmental principles and good-paying jobs.

Linking jobs and the environment is “an enormously important and motivating concept for people all over the country,” said Dave Foster, former district director of the United Steelworkers who leads the national Blue-Green Alliance.

Van Jones, director of the organization, Green for All, outlined the changes taking place and the challenges they present.

The United States is moving from “a pollution-based economy” that has left many people behind to an “inclusive, green economy,” he said. While technology is driving many of the changes, people need to act to make sure the new economy provides good-paying jobs accessible to all.

Already, local communities are moving ahead to create green job opportunities, in cities ranging from Chicago to Oakland to Richmond, Va., Jones said. Some of the best organizing is happening in low-income communities, where many workers – in particular young people of color – can benefit.

For example, the Milwaukee Energy Efficiency project will invest up to $500 million and employ hundreds of workers to retrofit buildings, with the investment recouped in 10 years through reduced energy costs. Many of the jobs will be filled by people from under-served communities.

“We have all this work now that needs to be done and we have all these young people who need work,” he said.

At the Minnesota roundtable, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and a number of lawmakers described steps already taken toward a green economy – such as landmark state legislation requiring greater use of renewables – and their plans for the future.

The mayors are embarking on the second phase of their initiative to create green manufacturing jobs in the Twin Cities. The next steps include realigning the cities’ economic development tools to focus on the green “industries of the future” and marketing the area’s strong position in terms of workforce, education, industrial land, and economic support.

For more information
Visit the Blue Green Alliance website, and the Green for All website,

A new online video program, Brave Nation, features a conversation between Green for All founder Van Jones and Sierra Club director Carl Pope. See