Ellis-Lamkins encourages Guilford students to be Green For All

“If you know a young child, someone with asthma, an older person with trouble breathing, or a person who lives in an area with poor air quality, you probably know someone who will be sick within the next year or two,” said CEO of Green For All Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins.

On April 5, Ellis-Lamkins came to Guilford to speak about Green for All, a national organization dedicated to improving the lives of all Americans through a green energy economy. She was the last speaker in the Center for Principled Problem Solving series on sustainable economic development.

According to the company website, Green for All works with business, government, and grassroots communities to create and implement programs to increase quality jobs and opportunities within the green industry.

Ellis-Lamkins said she grew up in a community with the worst air quality in California, populated primarily by single moms and people of color. Her environmentalism began when a doctor told her single mom that the family should move because of Ellis-Lamkins’ asthma — not a feasible option at the time.

“It wasn’t helpful to tell us that what we were doing was wrong without having a solution,” said Ellis-Lamkins.

As a result, Ellis-Lamkins wanted to create more practical ways for people to be environmentally friendly that would “meet them where they are.”

“Too often economics is an afterthought for many engaged in social change efforts,” said Director of the Center for Principled Problem Solving Mark Justad in an email interview. “This is unfortunate because without sustainable economic models our efforts for change can lack staying power.”

Green For All seeks to bridge the gap between economic and environmental efforts, in order to make sustainability more practical for more people.

“We aim, in partnership with our allies, to build a green economy and sustain an infrastructure that closes the gaps in income, wealth, health, security, and opportunity across the U.S.,” according to the Green for All website.

An important aspect of these goals is spreading awareness of green jobs, which are the fastest-growing jobs in the economy, according to Ellis-Lamkins.

She explained how many people were left out of the hi-tech movement because they were unaware; she wants to prevent this from happening again with the green industry.

“The reality is that by the time most people pay attention to the green economy, it will have passed them by,” said Ellis-Lamkins.

Lamkins encouraged the students to consider a green job after graduation.

“Yes, I most certainly am interested (in a green job),” said sophomore Will Singley in an email interview. “That is going to be my first priority upon leaving college or grad school.”

Lamkins paused to ask the audience what industries were growing in the economy; after a long pause, a few people threw out suggestions: waste, biofuels, transportation, construction. Ellis-Lamkins added that water was the most important industry.

According to theGrio, an NBC site focused on the African American community, Ellis-Lamkins has already made progress.

Green For All has succeeded in getting legislation passed through Obama’s Recovery and Reinvestment Act, with $500 million reserved for green-jobs, among other accomplishments.

Ellis Lamkins’ latest pursuit is Green The Block, a partnership with Hip Hop Caucus and Green for all, according to the Green The Block webpage. Green The Block is a national campaign targeted towards helping low-income communities, particularly those of color, to change the environment and economy through green jobs and initiatives.

“We want you to take the inspiration and turn it into something that transforms people’s lives,” said Ellis-Lamkins.