Sustainable D.C.

Green Economy

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With the District’s unemployment rate stuck at 10.8 percent, the impact of bicycle and pedestrian projects on job creation must be underscored. According to a recent Political Economy Research Institute study, bicycle and pedestrian projects create about 11.4 jobs for every $1 million spent compared to 7.8 jobs created through road projects.

Washington D.C. should continue to invest in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure improvement projects to boost job growth. 

Green economy jobs can come from a variety of sources. Green infrastructure is infrastructure so needs to be designed, installed, and maintained – and is then a source of jobs. Green roofs, for example, are highly labor intensive, and these jobs can’t be exported. 

At a recent conference, Steven Peck, Honorary ASLA, head of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, said that adding green roofs to 1 percent of U.S. buildings would cost $9 billion and create 190,000 jobs. For 5 percent of buildings, the cost would rise to $48 billion and create almost a million jobs. Finally, if 10 percent of all buildings had these green infrastructure systems, the cost would be $96 billion but almost 2 million jobs would be created. Locally, Washington, D.C,. would be expected to increase the number of green infrastructure-related jobs as it rolls out requirements for new buildings and introduces stormwater runoff fees. 

Use green infrastructure systems, including green roofs, to increase number of local, non-exportable “green” jobs. 

In a recent talk at the National Building Museum, Majora Carter, founder of Sustainable South Bronx and MacArthur “Genius” grant winner, called for a boost in local green job training programs, which are crucial to creating and maintaining the community infrastructure needed for more sustainable inner-city communities. A key part of building healthy, more sustainable inner-city communities is training inner-city residents for green jobs, which “can’t be outsourced” and provide new skills and a way out of poverty or prison.

One ASLA member argued that park maintenance is lagging within the District. More could be employed in ensuring parks are clean and healthy. Washington, D.C.’s many brownfields present job opportunities through bio-remediation and redevelopment. The city’s budding green roof industry also presents opportunities. It’s important that local skilled, certified labor is available to do this work. 

Launch a comprehensive green jobs program, training chronically unemployed and former convicts in park maintenance, brownfield remediation, green roof installation, and other tasks.

Lastly, it’s important that the city become better known as a top green city. Currently, there is little awareness about all the great things the District is doing. If the District successfully promotes itself as a leading green city in North America, it will also in turn attract green talent who can open sustainable businesses, using sustainable business practices, creating a virtuous cycle. Other cities are competing for the same talent. 

Washington, D.C., political leaders should be out at conferences, visiting other green cities, and finding national press opportunities to speak about the District’s achievements. A new Web site and other materials can be developed to attract green entrepreneurial talent. 

Washington, D.C., should launch a national campaign in an effort to lure the best green talent to the District.

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