EcoWURD wants to connect black Philadelphians to green economy

Student trainees receive hands-on experience in solar installation under the supervision of practitioners provided by Philadelphia-based company Solar States. (Courtesy of the Philadelphia Energy Authority)

Student trainees receive hands-on experience in solar installation under the supervision of practitioners provided by Philadelphia-based company Solar States. (Courtesy of the Philadelphia Energy Authority)

This story originally appeared on PlanPhilly.

A solar company that hires locally and reduces energy bills, a brewery that gives used grains to farmers, and a program that teaches young people about the environment in their own neighborhoods.

These are just a few of the players in Philadelphia’s growing green economy. In a city full of drafty buildingspolluted waterways and smoggy air, there is no shortage of opportunities for businesses focused on building more sustainable, eco-friendly neighborhoods

But many of the jobs generated in Philly’s growing environmental sector end up going to people who don’t live in the neighborhoods hit hardest by environmental injustices.

EcoWURD, a project of WURD Radio, is trying to change that.

“The poverty rate in Philadelphia is through the roof,” said Sara Lomax-Reese, president and CEO of WURD Radio at an ecoWURD event on Saturday. “ We need to connect people with opportunities in our neighborhoods, in our communities so that they are empowered and they can earn livable wages and can be sustained.”

There are close to 9,000 clean energy jobs in Philadelphia, according to a 2018 report from E2, a non-partisan advocacy group for business and the environment.

EcoWURD panelists said not enough is being done to connect local people to these opportunities.

Ky Sanders is a solar installer and trainer for Solar States, a Philadelphia-based solar installation and education company.

She said sustainability needs to be incorporated into everyday life in order for people, especially young people, to see it as a viable career option.

“Culture pushes what you do,” Sanders said.” So if it’s not in your culture to be sustainable, it’s not in your culture to clean, have these clean jobs then you don’t know about them.”

EcoWURD is a multimedia environmental justice journalism initiative exploring the intersection of race, income & the environment. Saturday’s event was held in partnership with GreenPhilly. It was the digital news project’s first event of 2019.

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