It seems like forever ago—a whole month!—but I still get excited when I think about the Strathcona BIA’s Sustainability 2.0 expo.

Why so excited? Because Majora Carter was the keynote speaker, and she’s a hero of mine. She’s well known for her work in creating the Sustainable South Bronx—an organization dedicated to making the connections between the environment, the economy and social justice. One of their major projects is called B.E.S.T, Bronx Environmental Stewardship Training, and it’s one of North America’s first green job training programs. 


AUDIO: Majora Carter proves the skeptics wrong

Pictured: Majora Carter speaking in Vancouver's Strathcona neighbourhood about green jobs, green spaces and cooperation.


VIDEO: MacArthur-winner Majora Carter gives a rousing speech about her fight for environmental justice in the South Bronx.]

The Strathcona Business Improvement Association (BIA) got her to come up to Vancouver to speak to its members and neighbourhood because of the amazing things she and her organization has accomplished and the huge potential there is to do the same here in Vancouver in our own marginalized communities. (During her visit, she and Strathcona business owner Toby Barazzuol even did a walking tour of the neighbourhood with Mayor Gregor Robertson to discuss solutions for the Downtown Eastside.)


"A green wave that can lift all boats" —Van Jones

“Green jobs” is a buzz term that you’ve probably heard thrown around a lot in the last year or so, and it’s picking up steam here in Vancouver, too. Van Jones (the White House Council on Environmental Quality’s Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation) is from California and has really spearheaded the green jobs, or Green For All movement, in the U.S.


VIDEO: Van Jones explains what green collar jobs are and why they’re important.


Essentially, a green job improves the environment instead of degrading it and provides fair wages to lift marginalized communities out of poverty. It can be as simple as arming a new worker with a caulking gun and the skills to do basic energy efficiency retrofits.


The BC government has made a commitment to making the public sector carbon neutral, and they’re going about this largely by measuring carbon footprints and then offsetting. Energy efficiency is one of the most efficient ways to decrease a building’s carbon footprint—how many jobs could be created to do basic energy retrofits on public buildings (caulking windows and cracks, etc.) and how much carbon emissions could be reduced? Lots!


I recently read an article on an example of the Picture Perfect Green Job, a job training program for ex-gang members on how to install solar panels. 


Have you ever heard of 1BOG? It stands for One Block Off the Grid. Essentially, you get together with everyone else that lives on your block and use your collective buying power to purchase solar panels at wholesale rates (i.e., cheaper). Makes sense, right? Green jobs come in when you use the installation of those solar panels as an opportunity for job training for at-risk youth in your community.


Back to Strathcona…

We’re incredibly lucky to have a neighbourhood that still actually has industrial capacity as part of our urban centre because most—cities shipped that sort of capacity out of town long ago. This neighbourhood has the incredible opportunity to be a source of green jobs and a green economy for the Downtown Eastside.


The Sustainability 2.0 expo recognised above all that creating sustainable communities that are socially and economically viable can't be achieved without collaboration, that each business in that community thrives on relationship building and partnerships. As Toby puts it, "To reach the next level [beyond recycling and minimizing energy consumption], companies need to start collaborating with one another in order to obtain services and opportunities that they can’t on their own."


I am so excited to see business leaders in this community taking sustainability seriously, creating a space to share their experiences and recognizing the potential for real and positive change in their community.