Green jobs touted as fix for struggling economy: Eco-friendly investment could put 'tens of thousands' to work, new report says

Stephani Carter earned a reputation early in her career as "the Green Girl who asks tough questions," constantly pushing the envelope of her Earth-first sensibilities about architecture and design.

Today, she heads her own company -- EcoAmmo -- researching materials, teaching commercial builders how to go green, and generally spreading the word about sustainable design.

In the past, Carter has observed Earth Day by challenging her staff to a spirited round of Eco Bingo, a game she invented years ago, where the spaces on the card are filled with eco-friendly initiatives instead of numbers, and prizes are organically prepared dinners for two rather than cold, hard cash.

Carter and a growing number of others with so-called green jobs believe a healthy environment and a healthy economy are intertwined.

That belief is at the heart of a report to be released today that calls on the provincial government to invest in creating more green jobs to strengthen Alberta's sagging economy.

The report says "tens of thousands" of such jobs can be made available "right away," not only shrinking the province's oily footprint, but developing "a new green economy" at the same time.

The report is the result of an unlikely alliance between organized labour and environmentalists.

Recent job losses in Alberta -- 44,000 full-time jobs in the past three months alone, according to government statistics -- have prompted the Alberta Federation of Labour, Greenpeace Canada and the Sierra Club's Prairie chapter to join forces in calling for a shift toward greater sustainability.

The report suggests the government stop pouring money into oil and gas and start investing in other green-job industries, such as transit.

The province can dramatically reduce automobile dependency by refurbishing buses and light-rail transit cars now in use, building rapid-bus systems, expanding LRT systems and creating a new high-speed rail system on the Edmonton-Red Deer-Calgary corridor.

The report also calls for the creation of a new provincial Crown corporation to focus on renewable energy resources, such as wind, solar and geothermal.

Energy efficiency should be another major focus for green-job investment, the report suggests.

By retrofitting homes -- insulating, weather-stripping and installing high efficiency windows and furnaces -- up to 14,000 Albertans could be put to work in the next two years, while energy consumption, emissions and heating costs would be reduced.

For Carter and her fellow advocates, the recommendations in the report are timely, if not overdue.

"I'm 29, and a lot of us from the Earth Day generation of the '90s have really embraced environmentalism," she said.

"We're actually out in the job market now, looking to change jobs to be green, or starting green companies ourselves.

"We want to be part of a green workforce."

Edmonton Journal, Wed Apr 22 2009
Byline: Jamie Hall

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