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2 posts from November 2008

November 28, 2008

Women-Friendly / Earth-Friendly Education

An ounce of preventative education is worth a pound of bail out cure when it comes to the creating a stable economy and green jobs.

While Obama's administration is searching for ways to turn the economy around and transform the market to more sustainable jobs, the LA Community College District is doing it. This is a district where 60% of the 226,000 students are female and the majority of them are minorities. (under bloggy disclosure, I work with Green Building Pageswhich LACCD uses to gain transparent, green building product information.)

LACCD Solar Parking LotHow is LACCD able to succeed in a slow market?

Over $6 billion in bond money was raised in 2001, 2003 and 2008 to fund the construction of 50 new energy efficient buildings and retrofitting hundreds of older facilities.

It's estimated that LACCD will employ over 48,000 to make it all happen. (Detroit's lost is LA's gain)

Many of these facilities are already completed including parking lots "shaded" with solar panels - cars stay cool, while the wasted space above them now generates power.

  • The nine campuses are on track to be "off the grid" in 2009, by using a combination of solar, geo-thermal, wind and hydrogen. (good-bye to fossil fuel, carbon emissions and the expense)

  • The hydrogen created can be used as alternative power in hydrogen powered cars which give off the by-products of water and oxygen. When you turn new technologies into mainstream operations, i.e. hydrogen for cars, you can also TEACH how to service hydrogen cars.

  • When you have a campus running on free energy, you can keep tuition rates down. Rates are currently at $20 a credit hour and some graduates with a two-year associate's degree are earning $80,000 in their new green collar job.

    Surrounded by green technology and products, you can't help but get swept up in the cool factor. What students learn/experience at LACCD, they will take with them on their first job. If a community college can do this with a little bond money and leadership, then anyone can do it.

    Green Collar job education doesn't start and stop with technology, however, it's LACCD's goal to infuse every class including English and art with green, sustainable thinking; from the way the rooms are naturally lit, to the zen quality of outdoor spaces, to every surface and experience in the dining halls or bathrooms. Students will learn how to function well by using less, but using better technology. What's not to love?

    Green fatigue tends to set in when you think that what you are doing doesn't matter. Watching LACCD succeed in co-creating a short term and long term market transformation while using their billions to push the construction tipping point across the nation, gives me tremendous hope. Now if we could just get the LA Times and the NY Times to cover all this positive information like they do sports and entertainment. Until that day, I'll depend on blogs for my continuing ed.  

    (this post is part of the Green Mom Carnival on "Prevention" hosted by Big Green Purse.)

  • November 23, 2008

    Time to Get Out the Green Switch

    She stood at the mic and asked, "After attending this session, how many of you know what to do now"?

    She was addressing a room of architects, designers, specifiers, manufacturers, media - a lot of very smart people - yet after sitting through countless slides and a panel of presentations, only 2 or 3 out of a couple hundred, kept their hand up in the air when the question was asked.

    Greenbuild lable

    Ironically, this session as titled: Navigating Green Labels and Certifications, it was one of the last educational sessions featured at Greenbuild in Boston on Friday. All the decisions that go into Labels and Certifications are things that average citizens never vote on and yet we have to live with every day. [Everything that you touch has a manufacturing standard attached to it. Now those standards are regulating toxins and greenhouse gas emissions.] 

    While the group didn't leave enlightened, what we did learn is that the USGBC has taken the stand that they WON'T take a stand and help put the market into a controlled, green turn. Instead, they are taking the anti-leadership approach and letting the market-at-large figure out the mess and get back to them with a direction

    Here's the irony.

    The post presentation questions were answered with professionalism and intellectual respect until one woman stood up and asked, "What about the consumer, how are we suppose to figure this out. Can we just use one certification like SMaRT"? 

    Instead of answering on the same intellectual level as prior questions, the answer was dumbed down as if she (now a mere consumer and not an equal professional) needed an ABC answer. Afterward I learned that she was a member of the Green Building Alliance one of the more progressive groups trying to add clarity to green standards to the end that they even put out a comparison chart. At that moment, however, "she" represented consumers and consumers aren't as smart as everyone in that room. (The same room that couldn't navigate certifications and labels after they were told how, by the way.)

    Here's where I just lose it.

    Why oh why do we dumb down the conversation? We have some very BIG problems to deal with going forward. We simple minded consumers (and this includes guys as well) are responsible for 70% of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product. That's the world economy in a nutshell, and as we have so recently witnessed whatever happens here, so goes the world. Therefore the solution buck starts here. If we keep dumbing down the conversation, how will consumers and citizens know what to ask for or demand?

    It was insulting to hear, but demonstrated the bigger problem that will hit as soon as we can get the credit issue under control - how to educate professionals and consumers alike on the need for standards and which ones we should use, quickly to put our green work in a controlled turn that the corporations can work with? 

    I would like to suggest that we start by not rewarding the lowest common denominator of labels and certifications. Let's talk about the highest standards with the most integrity that will give the planet it's best shot at surviving and thriving instead of rewarding those with the best talking head or a highly funded marketing campaign. I'm all for marketing, but I want the best to be hyped, not something that rewards effort, but not execution. 

    What's the point of education if being a "C" student is good enough? Would you hire nothing but C students? Why should we as a society hire a C level standard or certification to set our green guidelines?  If we're going to try to improve, shouldn't we try for the top and not the middle?

    I'm ready to put ALL these standards to the test. I want to know:
    1. What is REQUIRED, not just "suggested."
    2. What is COVERED, how comprehensive is it?
    3. Mostly I want to know the two most pressing issues, how does this standard work to lower Green House Gas emissions (we have to get that one right first), and how does it eliminate or lower toxins in manufacturing?

    As the old adage goes, "Spare the rod, spoil the child." Perhaps it's time for the green mommy bloggers to take the green switch to business and let them know that we mean business - really green business.