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06.30.2011 - 04:13PM

Category: Green Jobs & Career News

Upcycling Job Crisis into Green Opportunity


By Danielle Lanyard

June may be summer solstice, but I love it for the inspiring graduation speeches. Most thought provoking was Tom Hank's graduation speech at Yale, where he covered everything from clilmate change to sincere and snarky advice to be grateful for one's parents, as many of these recent grads would soon be forced to move back in with them!

I linked the reference to the current job crisis and unemployment among college grads, to the trend I’ve seen of unlikely green entrepreneurs growing out of the university sector.

Today's world doesn't promise recent grads a sustainable career path, nor are there enough green jobs for these grads to fill. The result is a trend far more inspiring than any speech: recent grads are 'upcycling' this job crisis into a green opportunity. With government unable to fix this crisis, these grads are creating jobs for themselves.

Most of these students and recent grads turned entrepreneurs could give a hoot about the planet in comparison to those of my environmental college days, where for profit solutions to environment problems were rarely covered. The green entrepreneurs of today are driven by a bleak job market, and from seeing the world's problems creep into all of our backyards. These recent grads are coming up with solutions because no other entrepreneur or environmentalist has, because they aren't getting hired elsewhere, and because both the world and the planet desperately need it.

Whether driven by environmental passion, or not, or a job crisis, or an opportunity, these student entrepreneurs are making waves. Take Samantha Smith, NYU sophomore and Director of Global Fellows for Kairos Society, an organization to ally student entrepreneurs. She is creating a sustainable career for herself while still in school. Or Katharine Bierce, whose post-graduation job search uncovered a deep passionate for networking and connecting people to jobs and resources. She 'upcycled' the massive contact list and knowledge base she accrued to engage high-impact social innovators around the world.

Then there's Waste to Watts, a company founded by University of Chicago college students who volunteered in Tanzania to build up their resumes and have experience during the most cutthroat job market in history. Responding to the incessant power outages and amassing piles of electronic waste, they designed a simple power generator made out of the waste. The jobs that recent grads and founders James Molini and Christopher Hamman landed, were the jobs they created for themselves.

Will economic and environmental crises result in a whole new class of unlikely green entrepreneurs presenting for profit solutions? Potentially. Were I to bet between the deep crises of unemployment and the environment, I'd put everything I have on these student entrepreneurs and the sustainability solutions they are innovating the world over.

About Danielle Lanyard

Danielle Lanyard is a lifelong activist and nonprofit professional who is now a NYC-based serial entrepreneur who helps support and launch startups for social and ecological change.

This commentary is written by a valued member of the CSRwire contributing writers' community and expresses this author's views alone.



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