Green For All is Born

Building a new economy that can beat global warming while addressing poverty & inequity.

Van Jones launched the organization—and a movement—in 2007, relying on a staff of three who worked from a donated cubicle space at the Ella Baker Center in Oakland. In the years since, Green For All has helped build demand for a sustainable economy, making sure that people of color and low-income Americans are part of it.

Movement Building

It started with a bang: On April 4, 2008, Green For All hosted The Dream Reborn, a groundbreaking event in Memphis that honored the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., by looking at the opportunities in the new green economy to take another step towards his famous dream. More than 1,250 people from diverse communities joined the event—and thousands of new green economy evangelists were born.

In the years since, Green For All has inspired, trained, and brought together thousands of new activists. We’ve helped organize events like 2008’s Green Jobs Now campaign, bringing together 50,000 people from all 50 states. Through our college ambassador program, we’ve trained fifty ambassadors on fifteen different historically black college and university campuses, and they’ve spearheaded dozens of initiatives, including Energy Saving Dorm Competitions, Anti-Bottle Campaigns, and Green Job Fairs. Meanwhile, our GFA Fellowship program has trained and supported 135 grassroots leaders nationwide—focusing on a wide range of issues including food policy, youth development, clean energy, and community resilience.

Popular culture and music has played a big role in our movement-building work. In 2010, Green For All partnered with superstar Drake for the Campus Consciousness Tour, reaching more than 10,000 college students on 17 different campuses. In 2011, we joined hip-hop icon Wiz Khalifa for the Keep It Fresh campaign, which encouraged fans to adopt a sustainable lifestyle. Most recently, GFA has partnered with Prince at three concerts in Chicago, and worked with artists like Wyclef Jean, Common, and Les Nubians.

Changing the Conversation,
Engaging the Masses

When Van Jones released his book, The Green Collar Economy, in October 2008, it shot onto The New York Times’ Bestseller List—the first environmental book by an African-American author to do so. The book’s popularity helped spur the growing demand for green jobs. It also spurred demand for Van—by March of 2008, President Obama had tapped Green For All’s leader to serve as Special Advisor for Green Jobs at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. With Van’s appointment, the organization needed a new leader. Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins was named CEO, and helped Green For All make the transition from inspiration to implementation.

Phaedra kept the green economy in the media spotlight, appearing on news shows like MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes and Melissa Harris-Perry. Phaedra also served as a regular voice in outlets like, The Root, Huffington Post, Daily Kos, and The Hill. Green For All’s work has been featured in media outlets like The New York Times, Associated Press, The Washington Post, and O, The Oprah Magazine.

Meanwhile, Green For All has produced more than 150 videos since its launch, featuring tracks by up-and-coming hip-hop stars as well as icons like Drake, Ludacris, Common, Wyclef Jean, and Anthony Mackie. Our short films have been recognized at film festivals and won praise from Usher, Prince, Bill Clinton, President Obama, and others. And as severe disasters like Superstorm Sandy spurred conversations about climate change preparation, Green For All has ensured that those who are hit first and worst—people of color and low-income Americans—are not forgotten. In 2013 alone, Green For All produced more than forty blogs, commentaries, and opinion pieces, many calling for measures to address the unique climate change vulnerabilities of communities of color.

Driving Policy Solutions

Over the years, Green For All has played a key part in imagining and enacting policies—both federal and local—to spur the growth of clean energy and fight pollution, all with a clear eye on creating good jobs and lifting more Americans out of poverty.

One of Green For All’s first policy victories was helping to pass the Green Jobs Act, which authorized $125 million per year for the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Worker Training Program. Another victory came in 2009, when Congress passed President Obama’s $787 billion Recovery Act, which included many initiatives that GFA had been pushing for, including investments in weatherization, green job training, and clean energy. When the House passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) in June 2009, it also included two key Green For All provisions: The Green Jobs Act and the Green Construction Careers Demonstration Project. In 2011, Green For All began working with the Obama Administration and federal agencies to attract more minority- and women-owned small businesses to opportunities in the federal marketplace. Green For All created Doing Business with the Federal Government, a user-friendly guide designed to help businesses navigate the procurement process across agencies.

Green For All has also served as an unwavering voice in defense of the Environmental Protection Agency. Through efforts like our 2011 “Cost of Delay” communications campaign and our 2012 Mercury & Air Toxics Standards Toolkit, we’ve promoted and supported EPA efforts to protect clean air and water. We’ve also worked with allies like the Congressional Progressive Caucus to ensure that initiatives like President Obama’s Climate Action Plan address the needs of vulnerable communities.

But Green For All’s policy work hasn’t stopped at the Beltway: In 2009, GFA persuaded the U.S. Conference of Mayors (representing more than 1,200 mayors nationwide) to sign onto the Local Government Green Jobs Pledge. And in 2009, we helped Washington, Texas, and New Mexico pass important state green jobs legislation.

Planting Seeds for a Robust,
Inclusive Green Economy

Through our state and local initiatives, Green For All has helped launch thriving green businesses and social ventures, and has created robust and innovative green economy models designed to be replicated throughout the country.

In 2009, Green For All partnered with the City of Portland, Oregon, to develop and launch Clean Energy Works, a home energy retrofiting program designed to create quality jobs, social equity, and business growth while improving homes and reducing carbon emissions. To date, the program has upgraded more than 3,500 homes, employed more than 1,400 workers, and generated more than $62 million in local economic development—all while achieving targets for workforce and contractor diversity. We later helped launch a similar $140 million- initiative in Seattle, Community Power Works. Meanwhile, we designed MPower, an innovative financing model for water and energy efficiency upgrades to affordable multi-family housing in Portland. Through our Communities of Practice program, we’ve connected thousands of on-the-ground leaders and experts to drive innovation and advance green economy models that work. We’ve also served as a leader and connector in one of the most promising green economy sectors: water infrastructure. Through research, like our report Water Works: Rebuilding Infrastructure, Creating Jobs, Greening the Environment, and by partnering with utility managers who collectively spend $12 billion per year on clean water infrastructure projects, we have helped lay the groundwork for the growth of good jobs within the water sector.

Green For All has also spurred the growth of green businesses. Our Capital Access Program, launched in 2008, mobilizes funds for clean energy jobs by engaging venture capitalists, businesses, and policy makers. Over the past six years, GFA has provided support to over 3,000 small green businesses, and through partnerships with Accenture and the International Coaching Federation, we’ve paired dozens of small business leaders with pro bono executive consultants and business coaches. By partnering with groups like RecycleForce in Indianapolis, GFA has helped show how connecting ex-offenders with green jobs can further benefit communities. And in a time of tremendous growth in the solar energy field, Green For All helped support the startup phase of one of the most innovative models for solar: Solar Mosaic (now called Mosaic), which has grown into an industry leader, boasting nearly $5.6 million in solar investments.