Greener Pastures Part 2: bringing home the green

Here we are, back again to share a love of learning. And now it’s time to discuss the topic on everyone’s mind in this economy: jobs! More specifically, green jobs. Not only is this growing atmosphere of environmental awareness creating previously nonexistent occupations, but it is largely taking old jobs and giving them a green twist. A little later, I will talk about how to green your office, but first let’s look at those new creations.

The Kansas City Business Journal on November 14, 2008, reported on the local efforts of local citizen David Crawford to connect unemployed workers with green jobs in the area. Another suggestion in the article is taking the displaced airline maintenance workers and putting them to work on wind turbines, where their skills translate well.

Another area where old skills can be translated to new jobs is in the area of emissions brokers. One of the self-proclaimed “largest and most successful energy brokers in the world” is TFS Green. Over at, in an article posted in July of 2007, emissions brokers are explained thusly: “In a market economy, credits to emit greenhouse gases can be traded on an exchange, and brokers facilitate the deal.” Pretty simple, right? The article also adds “[i]f the U.S. ever moves to a mandatory trading system, expect this field to boom.”

Another new position cropping up at many companies and universities is that of Sustainability Coordinator, presumably a person who would oversee the company’s environmental impact and how to make the company more “green.” To get a full run-down of the Sustainability Coordinator’s responsibilities at Duke University, just click here. Though the job description often sounds a little vague, you can go to sites like MySpace Jobs, type in “sustainability coordinator,” and get a number of hits.

Whole sites have sprung up devoted to landing a green job. Check here for green technology jobs, and for an excellent blog on where the jobs are by Joel Makower, click here. Green Career Central is another great source.

Everyday industries such as architecture and dry cleaning are also going green. Not only does having a green home or office building lessen its impact on the environment, they save us money, too! Though, admittedly, the initial investment can be high (such as with my parents’ low-flow toilets that, when flushed, sound like I imagine a black hole would, momentarily ripping through time and space), the long-term savings are equally so (ask my mother about her water bill).

Back in 2004, the World Franchising Newsletter wrote up a great introduction to franchising in the green industry, from organic lawn care to green dry cleaning. If you are thinking of opening your own business, start here. Even in these sad economic times, remember that green is growing.

So let’s say you have your own business already, or are simply looking to green your office. A good place to start is at your computer (because you are already sitting there right now reading this blog, don’t deny it). Are you as sick as I am of those wasted pieces of paper that pop out of your printer with only a web address and date or copyright information that you really couldn’t care less about? (Seriously, Yahoo, I couldn’t steal your technology if I tried.) Then you should consider downloading GreenPrint, a freeware I discovered just the other day. We haven’t had much of a chance to get to know each other, but so far, I like it! When printing a word document, it popped up with a print preview before printing and asked if I really wanted to print a page with only two lines on it. As this was a resume, no, I did not, and went back to correct the issue before attempting to print again. Ink and paper are expensive, and my poor college student mentality hates to see things go to waste, to say nothing of my hippie environmentalist upbringing.

Something else you can do with your computer to save money and energy is put it to sleep. Or, if you can do this, turn the darn thing off, then unplug it. (I switch off my power strip at the end of the night, which is as good as unplugging everything all at once.) In fact, do this with anything plugged into the wall that doesn’t need to constantly be on – TV, stereo, etc. It’s surprising what all these little steps can add up to.

I don’t think there is a doubt in anyone’s mind that our future is anything but green, and 2009 seems to be quite the year of promise for us. A new era is dawning, and I don’t just mean on January 20th. Just look at what Detroit’s offering up this week! As has been said many times before over the course of human history, it’s an exciting time to be alive.


Greener Pastures Part 1: looking ahead at green technology in 2009

Happy New Year! Yup, it’s that time again; time to look back at our past mistakes and triumphs, and look ahead to what the future might hold. The future is especially exciting for us in the United States with the fast approaching inauguration of our new President Barack Obama on January 20th! And one of the things that I personally find most compelling about our charismatic President-elect is his new energy plan for America. He has promised to create five million new “green collar” jobs, and work toward energy efficiency and conservation. The past year 2008 was already a pretty exciting time for green technologies, and with Obama leading the way, 2009 promises to be even better.

With eye-catching headlines like “US military funds $35M in research of algae-based jet fuel” popping up at the end of December, and “Air New Zealand tests biofuel Boeing” on January 2nd, the thing on everyone’s mind lately seems to be biofuels. And boy, is there a lot to choose from!

Probably the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of biofuels is ethanol, which, contrary to popular belief, can and is made from things other than corn. The world’s second largest producer of ethanol, Brazil, has been using sugar cane for thirty years. But the buzzword now is not simply “ethanol,” but “cellulosic ethanol,” which is defined on Wikipedia as “a biofuel produced from wood, grasses, or the non-edible parts of plants.” An article posted on CNBC’s website in March of 2007 called cellulosic ethanol “the closest to rewarding investors with solid returns in the immediate future.”

Also quoted in that article is Jerry Taylor, analyst at Washington DC’s Cato Institute, who reports that cellulosic ethanol costs approximately five times as much as corn-based ethanol, which is “several times the cost of a gallon of gasoline,” especially without subsidies. However, Jim Matheson, general partner at Flagship Ventures, counters that by insisting new technology will cut that cost within three to five years, and judging by the rate of this craze, he’s probably right. A popular choice for cellulosic ethanol is switchgrass, an inedible, drought resistant plant commonly found in the prairies of North America and used for soil conservation.

Another up-and-comer on the biofuels front is the jatropha fruit, or more specifically, the oil from its seeds, which is already being used to make biodiesel that power cars and trucks, and now that Air New Zealand Boeing 747-400 mentioned above. The Boeing’s engine has been retrofitted to run on a combination of half Jet A1 fuel and half jatropha oil. Air New Zealand was not the first (Virgin Atlantic Airways flew the same plane fueled partly by a coconut oil and babassu oil concoction just shy of a year ago) and certainly won’t be the last commercial airline to mix biofuels with traditional jet fuel. Considering that a good chunk of the major automotive companies around the globe are looking at 2010 releases of their electric vehicles and plug-in electric gasoline hybrids, right now is an exciting time for alternative energy sources.

Speaking of electricity, we’re looking for new ways of generating that, too. The popular answer here is wind power, often touted as being recession proof, despite the cost of wind turbines increasing with demand. But with oil moguls like Boone Pickens investing, there must be more than a little something to it. The Cleantech Group (formerly known as the Cleantech Venture Network) reported in a CNBC article that “[w]ind energy attracted $380 million [in 2006] compared with $1.5 million in 2005.”

There are a few potential drawbacks to using wind power. A lot of the prime locations are, well, out in the middle of nowhere, for example, and power is only generated while the wind is blowing the turbines, but I agree with Jim Matheson and say that here, too, technology will quickly catch up and solve these short-comings in the very near future. Batteries to store the power from when the winds are blowing, for instance. Though the initial investment is higher than other forms of generating electricity, the pay-off is also higher, and “wind power plants have relatively little impact on the environment compared to other conventional power plants,” as pointed out at this advantages and disadvantages page by the United States Department of Energy.

In addition to the somewhat shortsighted “they’re ugly” argument (I find wind turbines to be peaceful and generally on the aesthetically pleasing side), many people express concerns about the giant blades killing birds, but according to this Wikipedia article, “studies show that the number of birds killed by wind turbines is negligible compared to the number that die as a result of other human activities such as traffic, hunting, power lines and high-rise buildings and especially the environmental impacts of using non-clean power sources.” Like power lines aren’t ugly, and I’ve noticed they’re far more popular with the birds than wind turbines.

If you’re the investing type, I hope this post has opened your eyes to some new markets. If not, don’t worry, I did promise you a two-parter, and next week I’ll be looking at those green technology jobs promised to us by so many. Learn how to green your home and business. The technology is out there, we just have to harness it.

green How-To

3 Ways to Green Your Office

These 3 steps can easily green your office:

1) Restrict your paper usage. Ya, I still use notebook paper, but I didn’t use the printer to print out a single sheet of paper in September. September should be “No Printing Month”. 😀

2) Buy carbon credits. Your servers, laptops, electronic gadgets, cars or buses carbon emissions can be offset through carbon credits. A site like myclimate might spend the money on algae in the sea for more oxygen.

3) Go Solar! With the Solio Charger for your iPhone, or solar backpacks from Voltaic Systems, you don’t ever have to plug into the grid again… as far as computing goes.