2011 was a very important year for the green economy. Gains were made on several fronts. Many established companies sought to make facets of their supply chain greener. That meant more opportunities for people, businesses and organizations focused on environmental sustainability. The average person sees people involved in building green businesses as part of a fringe movement. The commitment to green business and environmental sustainability made by governments, organizations and individuals and the positive media coverage it received in 2011 has helped to begin changing that perception and stimulate the growth of green businesses.
For the green economy 2011 was an important year. A large number of green jobs were created and thousands of new green businesses emerged internationally as entrepreneurs began to respond to the call for newer greener businesses to provide products and services to people and corporations worldwide. Green office space has made progress. Energy efficiency has also made strides. The density of packaging has declined and recycling has increased. This has provided opportunities for a number of entrepreneurs who specialize in organic packaging and a variety of other innovative green technologies.
Some challenges still remain. Organic farming, while it continues to grow, still represents less than 2% of the total farmland in the US. More electronic waste products are being recycled than ever before, however production dwarfs recycling so there is a net gain in the amount waste electronic parts. The production of energy related greenhouse gasses is also problematic. It has actually risen over the past 12 months. The broad mass of consumers, while they have taken some steps towards supporting the green economy, remains the biggest obstacle. They must be encouraged to fully embrace the concept of going green.
The green economy made progress in 2011, but many opportunities remain. Creative entrepreneurs can transform challenges in organic farming, electronic waste and energy related greenhouse gasses into the success stories of 2012. “Clean technology is the next wave of innovation Silicon Valley needs to capture.” Chuck Reed, the mayor of San Jose said in August as he cut the ribbon on a major solar power project. Projects like those are opening all over the country. Innovation in solar, wind and water energy, the greening of many mainstream corporations, recycling and other socially conscious efforts of ordinary consumers and the new businesses created by entrepreneurs committed to the green economy made 2011 a good year for the green economy. But there is a long way to go. The Brookings Institution reported in July 2011 there were 2.7 million green jobs representing 2% of the US economy. It is a good start, but there is much more work to be done.
The big question is how we move forward in 2012. What can we learn from the last 12 months and how can we maintain and increase progress. Clearly business, government and non profits need to cooperate more and integrate their efforts to achieve greater impact. Green business is here to stay and in 2011, despite the recession, progress was made against all the odds. This is because there are millions of people who believe in sustainability.