Green (Fri)Day: How Big is the Green Economy?

On Wednesday the website GreenBiz.com released a big report on the "State of Green Business.(pdf)" Working mainly with government agency numbers, they scored the economy as a whole to be "treading water" in 10 categories, "sinking" in two, and "swimming" in eight—but for some of those, executive editor Joel Makower admitted they were "being generous." (I agree. Take LEED-certified office space construction—it may be a "swimming" category in terms of square footage, but as I argue in an October story, LEED certification is not the be-all and end-all of environmental design.)

It's dismaying to see that despite all the talk about "climate neutral" and "zero carbon," America is making insignificant gains in carbon intensity—the greenhouse gases emitted per unit of GDP.

But where Greenbiz really did a good job was in being honest about the questions they asked but couldn't answer.

For example, water use. "We wanted to measure water efficiency," they wrote, "the amount of water used per unit of GDP. We were shocked to discover that there is no
annually updated metric for national water use."

Or an even more basic question that's certainly of interest to us here at Fast Company—the overall size of the green economy. "I must get 50 to 100 calls a year from people who have some version of the question: how big is the green business movement?" said Makower. If you restrict the question to ground-up, mission-driven green businesses, the Avedas and New Leaf Papers of the world, you'll get one answer. If you count up the people working on GE'sEcomagination, Wal-Mart's Sustainability 360 , and the US Climate Action Partnership, or the companies from Starbucks to Alcoa who have added "VPs of sustainability" to their corporate rosters, you'll get a much bigger picture.

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3 Comments

  • Amy Price

    Yep, there is a lot of people in today's world who have no idea what they are doing to it. A little education can go a long way in the long and short term.

  • Richard Dietrich

    Where the USA is very slow is in it regulations.

    We have back away from trying to bring a toilet to the USA, which can save 75% of the current flush volume because the water and building regulation are still in the 19th century.

    What does this have to do with carbon emission and greenetch, cleantex?

    Well at first I thought we were just conserving water, but then I heard of a number of southern cities in the USA, like Austin, where 50% of the energy expenditure is consumed pumping water into the city.

    I expect other cleantech companies are running in to similar problems.

    Of course we are off to India and China…

  • Joseph Allan

    Where the USA is very slow is in it regulations.

    We have back away from trying to bring a toilet to the USA, which can save 75% of the current flush volume because the water and building regulation are still in the 19th century.

    What does this have to do with carbon emission and greenetch, cleantex?

    Well at first I thought we were just conserving water, but then I heard of a number of southern cities in the USA, like Austin, where 50% of the energy expenditure is consumed pumping water into the city.

    I expect other cleantech companies are running in to similar problems.

    Of course we are off to India and China…