A Collar of a Different Color

The Chippewa Valley looks to join the green collar movement as it sweeps the nation and state

Gillian Ekern

The green movement has a long history stretching back as far as the 1800s, but what is now called the “green collar movement” is just getting its start.

Green collar jobs are another labor division among blue- and white-collar jobs that focus on sustainability and environmental issues. A green-collar economy focuses on environmental and economic sustainability that can in the long term, save on money and resources.

Eau Claire is looking towards green-collar solutions in order to remedy some of its economic problems. City council member Andrew Werthmann said that though it’s not quite there, the city has potential to enjoy the benefits of a green-collar economy.

“When you look at the city, there are two rivers, access to other fresh water, and natural resources,” he said. “We have all the right ingredients for a green-collar economy.”

Werthmann predicts that the green-collar movement will continue strong, and unless the city capitalizes on that, it could be left behind.

Eau Claire has begun to move in that direction. Using stimulus money, the city is creating actual green-collar jobs. Work for these jobs include the renovations of city hall and Hobbs Ice Arena. Those stimulus dollars are going directly toward upgrading the buildings in terms of energy efficiency.

Though these jobs may only be short term, some of the money will go long term. The city is also setting up programs and granting loans for energy companies and green consulting firms.

“They’re laying a foundation for green development,” Werthmann said. “Over 10 years all of these things we’re spending money on are saving money in the long term.”

And though the green-collar movement may not carry the fervor and intensity that the environmentalist movement carried in the 1970s, issues are being addressed on a large scale.

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