Sam R. Pearl-Schwartz
Walt Whitman High School
Maryland – 3rd Place Winner
What Green Jobs Can Do For DC
Imagine DC where entrepreneurs and the local governments work hand in hand. Imagine DC where the next generation works to improve the quality of life for those living in DC. Now combine those two and image that the government and entrepreneurs work together to inspire the next generation to improve the quality of life for DC residents. I know it’s a stretch, but it could happen. My answer to the question, “How can young entrepreneurs and the local governments of DC, Maryland, and Virginia work together to empower the next generation to improve the quality of life for the citizens of Greater Washington?” is to create green jobs.
Before I go any further, I think it is important to define exactly what improves the quality of life for people who live in the DC area. I split this up into two separate categories-- necessities and things to make life more enjoyable. The first category centers on jobs. The economy is still shaky and unemployment hovers around 9%. Considering that around 14 million Americans are unemployed, having a job is crucial to improve the quality of one’s life. Then there are the less necessary, but still important things such as free time, extra money to spend on luxury items, better health, and peace of mind. I realize these two groups seem to be unconnected, however green jobs can bridge that gap.
If local governments and entrepreneurs can prove to the next generation that green jobs can be successful both economically and environmentally, they can empower the next generation to create more green jobs. This would allow those jobholders to focus on the little things that can make their lives better. In such a situation, creating green jobs produces a domino effect. Having a job creates a sense of security and a steady income. A steady income creates the ability to spend money for pleasure and enjoy the finer things in life. However, the benefits don’t end there. Buying products puts money back into the economy which can further economic recovery.
So, the question becomes, how do you convince the next generation that they should create green jobs? Simply put, the government and entrepreneurs today have to create green jobs to show how effective and profitable they can be.
A perfect example of the government working hand in hand with an entrepreneurial environmental business is Capital Bikeshare. Capital Bikeshare is an organization that provides bikes all over DC for a minimal price that eliminates the need for cars and other transportation. However, this business was largely successful because of government help. County governments and the private business Alta Bike Share Inc jointly own Capital Bikeshare. The government supported this program by giving it money to get started. In fact, because the D.C. program more than doubled its expected users, the U.S. government provided $400,000 in federal transportation funds to set up the program in Alexandria, Virginia. Alison Cohen, President of Alta Bike Share Inc, is a young entrepreneur and with government funding, her program has spread rapidly. This group not only produces jobs, but also reduces the number of cars on the road, improving local air quality and the quality of life. If the next generation sees that pursuing green jobs with the governments support can be profitable, they will pursue similar ventures.
The argument can be made, however, that improving the environment won’t substantially improve the quality of live for people in the DC area. If one needs more proof, look instead at the DC Project, founders of Weatherize DC. This project, with government support, reduces pollution, creates jobs, and saves people money all at the same time. The organization was started in 2009 by a group of young entrepreneurs, and has grown rapidly ever since. The organization’s goal is to provide a cheap, efficient way to reduce the energy consumption in houses through a technique called “weatherizing.” Unlike solar panels, which cost from $15,000 to $80,000 to install, weatherizing creates comparable carbon footprint reduction for around $3,000. The program is incredibly efficient and can lower energy bills by as much as 25% (“About”). Because of its success, Weatherize DC has expanded rapidly over the past two years, and has thus created jobs. Since its founding only two years ago, Weatherize DC has produced 44 jobs locally, a number that makes it one of the most effective green energy initiatives in the country (“About”). This program is ideal for inspiring the next generation. It has been immensely successful not only economically, but also in completing its mission, to save people money by making houses more energy efficient.
Finally, replicating this process on a national scale would create green jobs and reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil. If all of America’s entrepreneurs and local governments work together to inspire young people all around the country, it could bring about truly monumental change. Not only is green energy good for the environment and a great way to create jobs, but it would also reduce the need for America to protect oil-producing nations in the Middle East.
Consider, for example, the war in Iraq. Although there is no definite proof to support this claim, it is widely believed that ensuring access to oil was one of the main reasons that America invaded. Oil dependence is America’s Achilles heal. America has only 3% of the world’s oil reserves, yet uses 25% of the world’s oil. On the other hand, the Middle East has 75% of the oil reserves, yet uses very little of it (Goldman). Every time an American purchases gas, they are funding these Middle Eastern countries that more often then not, oppose United States policies and interests. America fights a war on terrorism, yet funds its enemies by buying their oil. If the next generation could revolutionize the green jobs industry it would reduce dependence on foreign oil, therefore increasing national security.
Green energy has the potential to create immense changes in our society. As shown by Capital Bikeshare and the DC project, green projects can help save the environment, create jobs, and save people money. However, if applied on a national scale, green jobs could do so much more. As well as creating employment, they could also reduce our dependence on foreign oil. How do you convince the next generation to create green jobs? Local governments and entrepreneurs need to show now the tremendous positive advances that can result from the creation of green jobs.
I’m part of the next generation, and even as I write this essay, I’m skeptical as to my message’s practical implications. Despite the successes I was able to find, work still needs to be done before green jobs can make a profound difference. Entrepreneurs and government workers face an important challenge--Make me want to improve the environment. Make me want to create positive change in DC. And, more than anything else, make me believe that entrepreneurs and local governments working together can achieve success.
- "About Us." Weatherize D.C. The DC Project. Web. 31 Oct. 2011. http://weatherizedc.org/about.
- Goldman, Ari J. "Ending America's Dependence on Middle East Oil." Ending America's Dependence on Middle East Oil. 27 Oct. 2004. Web. 31 Oct. 2011. http://www.meforum.org/653/ending-americas-dependence-on-middle-east-oil.