We live with an economy whose health is measured by consumer spending, by the amount of material goods bought and sold. Yet everything we read and watch - Affluenza, Simple Prosperity, The Story of Stuff - tell us that those days must come to an end. That we are consuming more than our planet can handle, more than our fair share globally and running out of cheap oil while we do it. Pulling the plug on our consumer lifestyle, however, will plunge the economy into a tailspin - or at least that's the argument.
As experts debate what can and may and should happen, a new economy is sprouting up around us. I'm talking about green jobs. Not the kind you initially think of. Not ones funded by Kleiner Perkins. Not the solar industry's efforts to keep up with skyrocketing demands by frantically hiring anyone with a brain and a couple limbs.
I'm talking about the little guys. You and me. Entrepreneurs. Average folks combining their skills and interests, their desire to do good with their need to earn a paycheck, their hope for a more sustainable future with the goal of a more fulfilling lifestyle.
I'm talking about Trevor Paque, a landscape gardener who grows organic produce - instead of ornamental flowers - for his homeowner clients. Mr. Paque was discussed on No Impact Man yesterday. Many people would love to have an organic vegetable garden in their yard but lack time and/or skill. Mr. Paque offers them what they desire and supports himself in the process. He is able to have a job he loves, that is fulfilling and provide a service that allows others to become more aware of where food comes from, reduce their food miles and pesticide use and enjoy delicious food.
Mr. Paque is not unique. A farmers' market friend, who is at risk of losing her farm, has mentioned the same service idea to me. Our own Beany has apparently considered starting up an organic, local ingredient meal delivery service. And the Wall Street Journal featured suburban farmers, replacing their own and neighbor's lawns with vegetable gardens in exchange for a CSA share of the produce grown.
Not all eco-entrepreneurs can devote their time as completely as Mr. Paque, at least initially. Many, however, are starting side businesses in the hopes of one day earning their living entirely from something they believe in.
People with green skills are increasingly paid to teach classes ranging from the Backyard Chickens class I took last month, to classes on solar cooking, canning, and bicycle maintenance. Last weekend, at the Blogher conference, I met a very smart Smart Mama who has launched her own business testing toys to determine whether they contain toxins, helping clients create a non-toxic nursery or home, and teaching classes on how to make green cleaning and beauty products. If rumors are true, she's got a few other green business models up her sleeve. Eco Burban Mom reported on a couple selling homemade lemonade and limeade at her farmers' market. Closer to home, I have a friend who collects old textiles and transforms them into trendy handbags for a local boutique. Another friend is exploring the idea of a consignment store specializing in used nursery items. Yet another friend gave up her career as an attorney to create a company specializing in energy efficiency audits for homes and businesses. I've even had a few blogger friends share some green business ideas with me.
Is this the local economy Bill McKibben dreamed of when he penned Deep Economy? Is this the key to a sustainable future? A means for people to do good and live well? I'm going to say yes. Are you inspired to search out a path that combines earning income with a more fulfilling life?