Everyone wonders "What is a green job"? Broadly, it is any job that conserves or preserves our natural resources, that restores or revitalizes our environment or that promotes healthy, sustainable living. Some green jobs are recycling waste, reusing through deconstruction, buying products that conserve the environment, weatherizing older homes, planting trees, building rain gardens, installing LED lighting fixtures, building solar panels, installing wind mills, operating a methane plant, teaching workshops on rain barrel installation, building an urban farm, selling farm produced locally, revitaling a damaged creek, planting native species. And the list goes on.
The Partnership for Onondaga Creek (POC) understands the link between joblessness and injustice and realizes that many green job initiatives cannot be exported overseas because they happen in urban neighborhoods, as planting trees or removing lead paint from urban homes. Over the past three years, the POC has been actively involved with green job advocacy through the Pathway out of Poverty RFP, the Green Jobs/Green New York weatherization program and neighorhood contractor associations. We have been advocating for training, business support and construction contracts for urban residents. Our goal is that when construction happens in urban neighborhoods, that contractors from those areas are awarded some of the bids, thereby, empowering them to hire and train workers from the impacted neighborhoods. Sometimes, this is called "first-source" hiring.
Like many cities, Syracuse has an abysmal high school graduation rate coupled with a high incarceration one. For urban youth, finding a secure way out of poverty is a tall order. It is critical to educate our youth to see that the environmental and green jobs are a means to their "health and wealth." Framing green jobs that way sheds a whole new light on that category of employment. To that end, the POC has a program where we recruit and send Syracuse youth to summer camps in the Adirondacks. Each year, the New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation gives about a dozen camperships to the Partnership. We expect each registered child to do local environmental projects before they go to camp. This DEC camp program is a long-term commitment to the upcoming generation. To learn more, go to our DEC Camp page.
At the same time, the POC realizes that it must take active steps to train and hire a neighborhood-based young community organizer to do the Partnership's work. This will be key if our grassroots group wants to be effective and sustainable. One source of urban young people who already understand the importance of the environment are in the Onondaga Earth Corps program (ages 15-19). Currently, the POC actively supports and collaborates with the Onondaga Earth Corps - see Green Infrastruction Page. This year, we hope to deepen that connection and provide an internship for some of the youth aging out of the Corps. To learn more about the Onondaga Earth Corps, go to www.onondagaearthcorps.org.