For our October Happy Hour, we were joined by Justine Burt, Founder and CEO of Appraccel, a local environmental sustainability consulting firm. Justine has worked with organizations including NASA, Costco, and the U.S House of Representatives and brings a wealth of knowledge about green jobs to the table. Fun fact about Justine: She is not only an amazing advocate for the Earth and CEO, she is also a first-time author. Her book, “The Great Pivot”, is a blueprint for creating green, meaningful jobs and advocates for a green recovery to pull us out from the economic recession. It is available at Chelsea Green Publishing and

Justine highlighted ways to successfully implement sustainability projects and shared a few key data points we found especially interesting. One of them is that America’s actual unemployment rate is closer to 27% as opposed to the average official US rate (U-3 unemployment rate from the Labor Department), which is similar for San Mateo County: 7.9%. This presents a huge opportunity to pull out of the economic recession via a strategically well-thought green recovery plan, as the 7.9% represents only the individuals who have actively looked for work and been on interviews recently – a small portion of the much broader pool of unemployed people.

Justine first introduced five key areas she sees as having a lot of potential for job growth. These are decarbonized energy systems, clean transportation, the circular economy, food waste minimization and healthy ecosystems restoration. Following this, she then presented a few examples of successful green economy projects to illustrate what’s possible. These include Kitchen Table Advisors, an organization empowering new organic farmers with the business tools, knowledge and resources they need for their farms to flourish and St. Vincent de Paul, which hired a fashion designer to upcycle donated clothes into statement fashion pieces – tripling daily sales numbers for the nonprofit from $500/day to $1,500/day! Circles of Aunts and Uncles is a crowd-funding group providing small, low-interest loans and social capital to under-resourced entrepreneurs to co-create a more equitable, compassionate, sustainable, and vibrant local economy in the Greater Philadelphia region. Amongst the green start-ups they supported is a company that buys linen shirts from thrift shops and makes them into napkins and towels for restaurants.

It’s surprisingly easy to make green jobs happen!

Justine highlighted these key catalysts to help spur green jobs creation:

  1. Activate your own sphere of influence. This has more potential for change than you might think. Talk to your connections everywhere (family, school, church, clubs, etc.) and lobby for positive change.
  2. Implement progressive ordinances. This can take sustainable initiatives to the next level. Portland’s deconstruction ordinance is a great example. Now, permit applications for demolition of a house or duplex built in 1940 or earlier are required to deconstruct using a Certified Deconstruction Contractor.
  3. Access funding for your green projects. Look at community development block grants, like Berkeley did to launch its tool lending library. Other sources for funding include direct public offering, crowdfunding to fund green entrepreneurs, private equity funding, family and friends funding, fees-for-service (Replate used this model), cap-and-trade funding, green bonds, the private finance world and grants.

Salinas schools’ microgrids are a great example of what can happen when there is a real need for solutions. Salinas schools are mainly filled with farm workers’ children. If the power goes out at the schools, it would take the parents one to two hours to get their children from school. Now, thanks to a five million dollar investment toward microgrids, kids can stay in school and parents at work in case of a power outage.

We would like to leave you with this: there is plenty of capital – $700 billion! – sitting around, waiting to be invested in decarbonizing our economy. We just need people to take action and get green projects shovel ready. There is so much potential to activate change, take a look at your network and look for opportunities to give back!

By Jiana Bowie