Chicago Green Jobs

Shocker: Exelon Broke With the Chamber of Commerce for Filthy Lucre
October 5, 2009, 4:36 pm
Filed under: Chicago Green Businesses
Show trials are way more interesting than EPA reports

Show trials are way more interesting than EPA reports

By now you’ve heard that Exelon, a Chicago-based energy company, has resigned from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over their anti-climate change legislation efforts. The Chamber’s approach to combatting climate change is to hold a “Scopes Monkey Trial” complete with a judge to rule on whether climate change is man-made or not. I personally can’t think of a better use of my tax dollars than to throw out the findings of the EPA and hold a show trial, but then I’m a native Tennessean and I would be profoundly grateful to pass the crazy torch to someone else.

Exelon is joining a small but growing group of companies to break with the Chamber over climate change.  The Chamber of Commerce, of course, is one of the most powerful lobbying organizations in DC – they’ve spent more money to influence legislation over the past decade than their nearest competitors have put together.

So are you sitting down? I hope so, because I have some shocking news.  Exelon didn’t break with the Chamber of Commerce out of a disinterested desire to do right by the planet, but because – wait for it – they anticipate that their company will benefit from climate change legislation! I know, I know! Poor Kimberly Strassel, a member of the Wall Street Journal’s Editorial Board, is shocked and appalled that a member of a lobbying organization would want their membership to result in favorable legislation. Why, why that would be RENT SEEKING! The US Chamber of Commerce is very strongly opposed to businesses deriving economic advantage through policy decisions instead of through the production of wealth, which is why they they’ve spent $26 million dollars this year attempting to influence legislation on health reform, the employee free choice act, consumer protection regulation, and a range of other issues.

Leaving aside the fact that lobbying doesn’t mean what Strassel thinks it means, Exelon, Apple, and the other companies breaking with the Chamber of Commerce are simply practicing a new and improved corporate strategy for sustainability.  In an ideal world every company could do well by doing good, but the truth is that there are going to be winners and losers when new legislation gets passed. Companies that have a seat at the negotiating table are much more likely to be winners than companies who go in for cheap theatrics.


Apartment Galleries: When Art, Booze, and Personal Sustainability Collide
May 24, 2009, 6:50 pm
Filed under: Chicago Green Businesses

Art or party? For dozens of Chicagoans hosting art galleries in their personal living spaces, there is no distinction. I lucked into a stellar bike tour of west side apartment galleries this weekend and got a window into a way of living I had no idea even existed.

Bill Gross, who hosts 65 Grand, told us that he decided to open a gallery in his apartment because “a lot of the work I liked wouldn’t find a home most places, so I decided to bring it to my home.”  Bill first began hosting art and artists in one of the four rooms in his apartment. About a year later, he decided to expand his gallery to half his living space — at the same time that his girlfriend moved in. As an artist and collector herself, she too feels lucky to have the chance to live with incredible work.

Of course, running a gallery means hosting people, not just art. One host described her gallery as an excuse for a bunch of people to get together to look at art and drink. It’s a tight-knit community with the same crew of folks supporting each other in their endeavors. Selling happens sometimes, but drinking happens more.

Corporations, utilities, and professional firms hire my company to build a culture of sustainability. We talk to folks about personal sustainability, which is about aligning your every-day actions with your values. For example, if a healthy planet is important to you, then choose to switch to green cleaners or recycled paper products year-round instead of confining your environmentalism to doing a park clean-up once a year on Earth Day.

Rather than confining their passion to occasional visits to a museum, these gallery owners are opening their homes and lives to art and artists. Their values and their actions are beautifully aligned, and they are living their lives with intention. I am in the beginning of launching PSP with a new client, and I am grateful to have a reminder of how deep personal sustainability can go.

Lucia Fabio, proprietor of Mini-Dutch, is on the verge of moving to LA and closing down her space. Just before she served up a slammin’ good bbq for the hungry crew of cyclists, she talked a bit about what she’s learned from running a gallery in her apartment. “I’ve learned that you have to be passionate about art if you’re going to live with it. I’ve learned about discipline – how to open my space when I didn’t feel like it because I decided to take on the responsibility. And I’ve learned how to open my home to others.” Will she be opening an apartment gallery in LA?


This Is What the Stimulus Looks Like
February 26, 2009, 5:41 pm
Filed under: Chicago Green Businesses

Boy, it’s nice to read the papers in the morning and find GOOD jobs news for a change. According to the UE, the 300 or so workers laid off when Republic Windows and Doors closed up shop last December will be back to work soon.  California-based Serious Materials has purchased the plant and has agreed to offer jobs  manufacturing energy efficient windows to all the workers laid off last December – at the same rate of pay, no less.

Buildings account for a whopping 72% of electricity consumption in the US, and Serious Materials is in the business of creating high performing building materials that can cut those ridiculous inefficiencies down.  By cutting energy consumption, Serious cuts greenhouse gas emissions right along with the electricity bills. Their goal is to save 1 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions every year, 1/3oth of the global total. And with their focus on manufacturing windows and drywall, Serious is driving to create thousands of green collar jobs.

In other words, Serious Materials is exactly the kind of company Chicago needs. And considering that stimulus bill included $4.5 billion in building weatherization spending and that Mayor Daley has stated that weatherizing buildings is one of the city’s priorities, I’d say that Serious Materials has made a good bet by settling here.

Update: according to the San Jose Mercury News, Serious Materials CEO Kevin Surace said “What gave us the confidence to do this was the stimulus bill.”  Surace estimates that the package includes about $30 billion for projects using the types of products Serious makes. Forward thinking fellow, that Surace.