Going Green: The impact of sustainable industry and living
3rd June 2011 · 0 Comments
By Zoe Sullivan
The Louisiana Weekly
The blast of a train horn is just part of the background noise at The Green Project, which abuts the a gravel driveway next to the tracks on Press Street and St. Claude. The entrance to the store is embedded in an old warehouse, past a section of doors with broken window panes and peeling paint, which are available for purchase. The Green Project’s mission is to keep old building materials out of landfills, and it does that by taking used and surplus supplies and re-selling to people who want to re-do some aspect of their home.
Inside, I’m greeted by Phyllis Jordan, whose enthusiasm is as clear as the summer sky. Jordan came out of retirement to run The Green Project after serving on the organization’s board for years. She confides that in her previous life, she founded and developed PJ’s Coffee, an experience that gave her the retail and management skills appropriate for The Green Project’s re-sale activities.
The Green Project is only one of many businesses around the New Orleans area that focus on “green,” or environmentally friendly, products and activities. The Louisiana Workforce Development Commission (LWDC) has partnered with Louisiana State University (LSU), Mississippi State University and the Mississippi Department of Workforce Security to study what percentage of jobs in both states currently fall into a “green” category.
According to Chris Schmidt, the Green Jobs Project Manager at LSU, the LWDC will also be creating a portal for job seekers interested in green job opportunities and training. The statistics from the study will be available later this summer, and the portal should be online at roughly the same time.
While many people are familiar with green industries such as solar panels and home improvements, the sector has many more outlets and applications. The Louisiana Green Corps is a non-profit organization that was established in 2008 to provide green job skills for low-income youth, primarily between the ages of 16 and 24. Most recently, the organization has focused on deconstruction and recycling projects. “I would say that the big bread and butter ticket that we provide for the participants is the work experience out on these green projects,” Suzy Mason, Program Director at LA Green Corps, told The Louisiana Weekly. “LLT [Louisiana Land Trust] demolitions have been fast and furious, and we’ve come to an agreement where we’ve been able to send out these crews…”
Mason estimated that since its inception, 190 of the Corps 250 enrollees have graduated with all of the certifications offered. LA Green Corps works to help place those graduates in jobs, and, Mason said, the placement percentage keeps improving. “It’s about 70 percent with this last session,” she said.
For some, the flooding associated with Hurricane Katrina represented an opportunity to rebuild smarter. Mason believes that green practices represent an opportunity for New Orleanians. “In my humble opinion, I think there is a great deal of potential, and it’s not necessarily going to be a matter of having newly created businesses. I think the impact is going to be when existing businesses and contractors adopt green principles in their practices…[that will] impact on the types of jobs that are available and the sustainability of New Orleans in general.”
Some state and local policies are supporting these efforts to move towards better home weatherization and energy efficiency. Forest Bradley Wright is a member of the Chamber of Commerce’s new green business committee. “Louisiana has the best residential solar tax credit in the country,” he told The Louisiana Weekly. “[There is a] 50 percent solar tax credit that can apply to water heaters.” Wright said this legislation went into effect in 2008 and produced clear results. “[We] saw a transition from there being 3 companies that did solar installations to there being more than 100.”
On a local level, the New Orleans City Council adopted an energy efficiency program in April called “Energy Smart.” Energy Smart is a three-year program that provides energy audits for $35 and instant rebates of up to $1,000 for energy-efficiency improvements. NOLA Wise, a public-private partnership that focuses on promoting energy-efficiency, has a walk-in center at 841 Carondelet, where residents can learn more about Energy Smart and other programs.
Aside from these home-related green initiatives, the area is also home to several large green projects. Last summer Blade Dynamics announced that it would open a factory in Michoud that would function as its world headquarters. The firm produces wind turbine blades for wind farms and expects to employ 600 people.
In another effort to expand clean energy sources, Free Flow Power is planning to install turbines in the Mississippi River to capture the energy produced by the river’s current. Curry Smith of GNO, Inc. told The Louisiana Weekly: “We think water management is going to be a huge sub-sector within the green industries,” which, he said, could account for as many as 90,000 jobs state-wide. As a result, GNO, Inc. is working with Waggoner Ball Architects on a water management project for Jefferson, St. Bernard and Orleans parishes.
GNO, Inc. released a report in early May that identified 13 green industry sectors that it called “strong ‘fits’ for Southeastern Louisiana.” These areas included bioengineering, sustainable agriculture, disaster mitigation and management, coastal restoration and protection, and disposal of hazardous waste in a sustainable manner.
This story originally published in the May 30, 2011 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.