In New Orleans, leading the way to a greener future

Co-authored by LaTosha Brown and Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins. Crossposted from

In the next few months, we can redefine how the rest of America -- and the world -- sees New Orleans.

People know, and New Orleans is justifiably proud, that the city's spirit has never been broken, never wavered. The city has seen disaster. The city has survived.
Those stories of survival have been told many times. They're stories made possible by the people who live here, who remain and maintain no matter what happens, who are the city. But it's time for a new story. Or, at least, a new chapter.

In fact, New Orleans stands poised to lead on a new chapter for our nation. The people of New Orleans can create an economy that is new, is innovative and has room for any American who wants to participate. New Orleans can and will lead in the creation of a green economy, one that uses renewable energy as fuel and green jobs as opportunity.

It's happening already. Operation Reach runs the GulfSouth Youth Biodiesel Project, which trains young people on creating fuel sources from organic material. Total Community Action's program puts people to work "weatherizing" homes -- that is, increasing their energy efficiency, significantly reducing energy bills over the long term.

Other organizations and individuals are running urban farms, harnessing the power of the sun, building water management systems -- to the tune of thousands of people, working on creating a cleaner New Orleans.

That success, those jobs, didn't happen by accident. It took recognition of the opportunity and access to resources that could make it possible.

That's what Green For All does. Green for All is a national organization dedicated to sharing our experience in making jobs like this work. It has partnered with small businesses, non-profits and community organizations throughout America to help build a groundswell of support for the idea of a clean economy. Green For All is committed to providing opportunity for every community, regardless of who lives there. Opportunity, in this new economy, is color-blind.

But opportunity requires knowledge. This Saturday, Green For All -- in collaboration with the city of New Orleans, the Gulf Coast Fellowship for Community Transformation, Louisiana Green Corps, the Gulf Coast Fund, The Good Work Network, BLUES to GREEN, Limitless Vistas, Madison Media Group, Sierra Club Delta Chapter and Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing -- will hold a community conference at Dillard University.

Local organizations will share their experience with creating opportunity in the new economy. Attendees will hear about local green initiatives; workshops will provide information about resources for getting involved and getting New Orleans to work - in a new way. Green economy innovators, community leaders, and local artists will share their vision for building a new system. The day will culminate with a concert featuring Dead Prez, Charmaine Neville and the Hot 8 Brass Band.
The people of New Orleans are nothing if not resourceful, nothing if not passionate about making the world better, more glorious, more fun.

This city is not defined by disaster and recovery; it is defined by an ability to show a new way. Without an informed, engaged citizenry and empowered grassroots movement, big changes are not possible in New Orleans, Baton Rouge or Washington. The people of New Orleans are finding a way out of no way. And because of that spirit, change is coming to America, change derived from a new ways of creating power and protecting our planet.

Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins is the CEO of Green For All, a national organization working to build an inclusive green economy. LaTosha R. Brown is the Director of the Gulf Coast Fund for Ecological Health and Community Renewal, a community-led social justice philanthropy in the Gulf South region. For more information about the event, go to