The “green is good” sentiment is sweeping Albuquerque, as local government enacts environmentally conscious business policy and large companies like Schott Solar continue to set up base. Still, the green sector’s size and potential have remained unclear.
No concrete analysis of the scale of Albuquerque’s green economy existed until a few weeks ago, leaving the scope of the city’s eco-friendly industry and business open to understatement or exaggeration.
A report examining the present and future of the green sector was released June 24. It tallies how many green businesses exist and which sectors have the best potential for growth, as well as suggesting how to nurture them.
“This will help us determine which industries to develop for work training,” says NMYO Field Director Juan Reynosa.
I wanted to bring to the forefront the idea that a green economy is not just about solar panels on a house.
Albuquerque’s green economy consists of 314 companies and institutions, according to the study, employing between 6,850 and 14,650 people. About half of these jobs fall under the public service or professional, scientific and technical sectors in the Albuquerque Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). The Albuquerque MSA includes Bernalillo, Torrance, Sandoval and Valencia counties.
Green construction has one of the highest growth potentials in the report, which projects an expansion of about 20 percent from 2004 to 2014. Some of the employment numbers in the study have wide gaps stemming from the ambiguity around what constitutes a green job. A construction company may employ 50 people, but perhaps only 25 are working on green projects.
Forty-eight companies in Albuquerque are considered “green.” However, the percentage of green projects out of a company’s overall business varies widely. Green construction companies employ between 700 and 1,600 people throughout the city. The study states these green builders construct buildings that are more efficient, less toxic and better sited.
Jivan Lee, who compiled the study, proposes a “green rating system of business activity” be implemented for construction projects to determine how environmentally friendly a company is and reduce “greenwashing,” the practice of claiming to be green to attract business.
“In the report, I wanted to bring to the forefront the idea that a green economy is not just about solar panels on a house," says Lee. "It’s about how the solar installer gets to work. What does the solar installer eat? Where is he or she buying their clothes from? It’s about developing a whole economy."
The continued interest of solar manufacturers and the city’s proximity to technological resources such as Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory are also listed as promising assets to green sector growth.
The report concludes, “The city's green industry is sizable, its technological resources are exceptional, its political will is strong, and its existing legislation is supportive.”