Conventional wisdom holds that the forward-looking coastal enclaves of the United States are where we’re supposed to expect cutting edge experiments in building a green economy. But if Ted Howard has his way, every activist who wants to promote green jobs and economic growth should turn instead to the city of Cleveland, Ohio, for inspiration.
Howard is one of the chief architects of the “Cleveland Model” — an effort to create good jobs in depressed urban neighborhoods by fostering for-profit cooperatives founded on a principle of environmental sustainability. The neighborhoods targeted by Howard’s Evergreen Cooperative Initiative suffer from 40 percent unemployment, but he suggests tossing out any preconceptions one might have about whether or not desperately poor people care about the environment. Howard recounts one cooperative worker telling him, “I thought I’d have to move to Portland to become part of the green revolution, and now I can say that we lead the way in Cleveland.”
So far, the Evergreen Cooperatives has two small businesses up and running — a green laundry operation and an already profitable solar panel installation/home weatherization outfit. Currently under construction: a greenhouse intended to provide millions of heads of lettuce and other greenleaf vegetables to local grocers and institutions.