Chris Jobson of Darien, Conn. was recently downsized from his job in IT management. But Jobson is seeing the setback as an opportunity to do something he really cares about, while still contributing to the bills in the household he shares with his wife and children.
"I've been talking to several solar and wind companies. I've been saying that it doesn't have to be exactly IT management, but that I'm hoping I can use my years of diverse experience to help green companies grow," explains Jobson, who says he has been looking into both small, scrappy start-ups and green tech wings of major multinationals.
A quarter century ago, Jobson had been involved in a startup with several offices in southeast Connecticut (where many of those news-making hedge funds are famously located). Jobson says his firm offered a range of energy conservation services to businesses and homeowners, from water heater jackets to energy audits, storm windows and more. At first things were going well
"Then in the 80s everyone went back to bad habits, and we couldn't make it," says Jobson. He never gave up entirely on the green dream, however, and Jobson continued to work with land trusts, and has served on the Constitution State's energy advisory board.
In many ways, Jobson's career mirrors that of the nation. Given Jimmy Carter's historic efforts to promote energy conservation (not to mention that pesky oil crisis), things were looking pretty green, and the U.S. was the world leader in solar power, wind energy and other green tech areas, with hundreds of start-ups and thousands of high-paying jobs. But then Reagan and the go-go, booming, me-generation 80s hit like a bad hangover.
Now, with even more complex energy problems and the growing threat of global warming, clean tech is starting to get another look, on a broad scale. "We're going back to the same principles we should have learned before, and there are business opportunities again," says Jobson.
Some of those opportunities are epitomized by the work of dynamic couple Bill Thomas and Jackie Jacques of Always Build Green.com in Norwalk, Conn. The couple recently hosted a lively meeting in their showroom as part of the national Green Jobs Now campaign. Jobson was among those in attendance, along with local activists, teachers, contractors, designers and interested citizens.
Jackie told the small crowd, "We want to build a better America." She explained, "We are assisting the birth of a new industry, which creates much-needed new jobs -- good jobs -- and which brings down everybody's energy costs, for a small investment."
Jackie was speaking about green building, something she admitted had been a fad a few years ago, but which today she says is poised take over as the way things will be done in the future. As Thomas and Jacques' young children bounded through the aisles of gorgeous, brightly colored quartz Caesar Stone (greener than granite!) and Godfrey Hirst natural wool carpets, Bill pointed out that the green energy sector is getting hot. "The energy side is where people are looking now, but you can't go to your local community college in most places and get certified to work in this field -- just yet," said Bill. "That's coming, but now you have to do some homework first."
Bill Thomas of Always Build Green.com can cut any scene you want into your flooring -- and make it sustainable wood!
As examples of what's possible, Bill held up a small sample of a decking product called Prairie Fence. "It's 60% wheat grass and 40% recycled plastic bottles from Mexico. It's a lifetime maintenance-free product that costs a little more than wood but lasts longer. And it's made in Wyoming," Bill explained.
Bill also talked up the latest solar panels, LED lighting, window film that slashes energy use 20%, an air conditioner catalyst that reduces cooling costs by 20%, a "smart box" to reduce wasted electricity and innovative new geothermal technologies. Bill said more and more New Englanders are realizing that "they don't have to have a truck pull up and dump oil into a tank from another country" in order live comfortably.
Like much of the country, Thomas and Jacques hadn't always known about green building, but their current passion is infectious, and their energy seems unbounded. Obama and others have talked a lot about the need for a Manhattan Project-like investment in new green jobs, which many believe could help propel our staggering economy into a new era.
Folks like Chris Jobson and Bill Thomas and Jackie Jacques aren't waiting for help from Washington or anywhere else; they're part of a new movement bootstrapping its way to ecotopia, one solar panel, geothermal heat pump and piece of recycled countertop at a time.
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