Some say we can't protect the environment without killing jobs and harming the economy, but this a false choice. Not only can smart environmental protection improve health and save lives, but it also can add jobs right away and give us an economy built to last.
Organizations like the Earth Day Network have spent years consistently highlighting companies around the world that recognize how smart environmental practices lead to new innovations, job creation and improved human health and environmental conditions.
Now is not the time to wait to improve our American companies. Building more and stronger public/private partnerships will help more American businesses, especially in the important manufacturing sector, and find and reduce waste so that companies have more money for new innovations and hiring. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is a part of a new and increasingly popular framework of federal/state/local public agencies that partner with business at the local level to help American manufacturers make smart fixes to tune up their factories and reduce waste and pollution so they increase profits and have more money to upgrade and even hire new workers.
The new effort is called E3 -- Economy, Energy and the Environment -- and it started as a community-based pilot in San Antonio that brought together local, state, federal, academic and private sector leaders to roll up their sleeves, get experts onto the factory floor and find areas where they can cut waste and save money. The nine initial companies are now expected to save more than 2 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, which is enough to supply 2,500 homes in San Antonio for almost a month. This savings also takes out 1,400 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the air, or about the amount emitted from nearly 300 cars on the road for a year.
At one San Antonio facility that asked for an E3 tune-up, the company employed about 100 machine operators. After the E3 tune-up, that same company created more than 100 new jobs and is expected to add 100 more -- tripling their work force. As noted by the CFO, "Every dollar we don't have to spend on wasted energy or materials is one more dollar we have available to invest in our work force."
Some of the changes are quick fixes, some more long-term. One study of an E3 pilot in Ohio showed how six companies that did a tune-up averaged potential savings of about $600,000 in less than a year. When Alabama adopted E3, former Republican Gov. Bob Riley praised E3's effectiveness in bringing together federal and state government organizations to work together as one team: "E3 will be the first comprehensive look at what happens when federal, state and local governments work together to see what we can do to become more efficient and greener than we have ever been."
Leadership and teamwork in public private partnership efforts like E3 show how being smart on the environment is good for both job creation and public health and is a smart place for America to outpace the competition.
Like most areas of our economy, strengthening American manufacturing won't be easy; it will require hard work, collaboration and perseverance. It also will require that we put aside the false choice between environmental protection and a strong economy.
Bogoshian is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Senior Policy Counsel at the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention and is also an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University Law Center. Rogers is President of Earth Day Network.