If I could use one word to describe the many different green events in Washington this week, it would be "convergence." The self-organized constituency group Cleantech & Green Business for Obama (CT4-O) hosted a private party which represented this theme perfectly by bringing together environmental activists, green building professionals and cleantech entrepreneurs into one room to celebrate their amazing work during the Obama campaign and to welcome in a new clean-friendly era in Washington
We all crammed into Johnny's Clam Shell, a Washington institution just around the corner from Union Station, and toasted to a new bright future for the cleantech industries. The all-volunteer organization consists of over 3,000 clean/green professionals who collectively raised over $1 million for the Obama campaign. The first ever of its kind, the group plans on sticking together and supporting new projects including participation in GEN: the Green Economy Network, which as co-founder Jeff Daniels says will reengage with volunteers to expand and mobilize civic development and advocacy. There was also a sense in the room that though everyone worked hard to get Obama into office, the work was really just about to begin. As Daniels said, "Enjoy yourselves for the weekend...but after that it's game back on."
Cleantech is the label for technologies in areas such as renewable energy (wind, solar, and biofuels), end-use and resource efficiency, and green buildings. “Green business” includes a wider range of companies offering products, services, and financing for a cleaner environment, healthier lifestyles, and a low carbon economy. In a time of steadily worsening economic news, cleantech and green business are among the few healthy, rapidly growing sectors of our economy. Cleantech and green businesses already are creating tens of thousands of new jobs in the United States each year and offer the potential to create millions of jobs over the next few years. It is a major engine of growth that is creating entire new industries in the way the biotech and information technology sectors did in the 1980s and 1990s.
Hard-won optimism filled the room. Margie Alt, founder of Environment America, a nonprofit environmental activism group, explained why -- a new found sense that hard work does really pay off. "We thought that (maybe) if you did your part, that it would really work to make the transformational change this country needed. And voila! It happened."
I got a chance to chat with Margie, who is truly one of the heroines of the environmental movement, and she was thrilled about this very new convergence of the cleantech and environmentalist worlds. She said that though they seem (and look) different on the outside, they share a common ability to make amazing things happen out of literally nothing except a vision and the ability to "fight like hell" to turn your vision into a reality. With the two working together, the possibilities are endless.
It's that enthusiasm, and the confidence of having helped get Obama into office, that makes this group particularly well suited to bringing a lofty vision to fruition -- the vision that every home can be powered by clean, renewable energy and that pollution is a thing of the past.