The African-American community should embrace the sustainability movement, said Andre Pettigrew, executive director of Climate Prosperity Inc., a nonprofit based in Washington D.C.
“Because it seems so green and environmental, many in our community don’t see the direct relationship to the work they are doing,” he said.
However, the movement will directly impact the success of their businesses and quality of life, he said.
This year with the help of Pettigrew and the Climate Prosperity group, St. Louis released its “Greenprint 2012,” an action plan to help grow the regional green economy. St. Louis is the fourth region to develop a regional Greenprint with the group – following Portland, Silicon Valley and Denver.
Throughout 2011, the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association (RCGA) gathered together teams of leaders from the business, civic and institutional sectors to develop the plan.
Generating entrepreneurs and businesses is an important piece of the Greenprint, he said.
“We know there are new business opportunities that are growing in this area,” Pettigrew said. “If you are a construction company, it’s clear that most companies that are making investments in buildings are building sustainably.”
African-American contractors need to understand these sustainable practices and position themselves in that market, he said. RCGA’s Greenprint program can help businesses to network and partner. Sustainable practices will also help businesses and residents to reduce energy and utility costs.
Pettigrew said Climate Prosperity and RCGA have not been as effective in “driving down” the green plan within the African-American community.
“The next step is to directly engage the communities of color,” he said. “We believe that engaging the businesses is an important strategy to that end. We also think that we need to partner that effort in building the capacity with community-based organizations.”
The region already has a local neighborhood agenda called BUILD St. Louis, which encourages people to buy and produce locally.
“That is an important message that the African-American community across the country has either been living or trying to get back to,” he said. “This is how to get our local neighborhoods to be safer, cleaner and more sustainable.”
“Can you imagine us walking down the street to our local stores and merchants – the barber, the baker, and the candlestick maker? That is about sustainable neighborhoods. That’s a movement that I think our community can appreciate.”
The St. Louis Green Economy Profile, a study commissioned by the RCGA in 2010, estimated that the St. Louis region had about 9,000 jobs in the core
green economy. In fact, the study found that green jobs are growing at a faster rate than regular job growth. Between 1995 and 2009, employment in the regional core green economy grew by 54 percent while total regional job growth in that same period was only four percent.
The study also found that St. Louis has a strong base of green jobs and business assets, with about 79 percent of its core green economy jobs concentrated in four sectors: recycling and waste, air and environment, water and wastewater, and energy efficiency.
The Greenprint’s intent is to leverage these existing jobs and assets to build more.
In 2011, nearly 70 companies and institutions completed the RCGA’s St. Louis Green Business Challenge. Organizations ranged from sports teams to non-profit groups to some of the region’s largest companies. Of the companies and institutions that completed the Challenge, more than 75 percent completed a written set of sustainability guidelines and distributed it to all employees.
“This has been a horizontal conversation,” he said. “Yes this is about wind, solar, biomass – but it really more importantly it’s how health care, IT, manufacturing and retail change their business practices in order to be more competitive and sustainable.”
For more information on the Green Business Challenge, go to www.stlouisgreenchallenge.com. To become involved in the Greenprint, contact Eric Schneider, senior director of energy and environment at 444-1148 or email email@example.com.