Earth Month 2013 Talk: Green Jobs, Sustainable Businesses

April 30, 2013

Green Jobs Discussion

by Laura Pochodylo '14

Green jobs and sustainable businesses were the topic of conversation at a panel hosted by the Knox College Bastian Center for Career and Pre-Professional Development on April 8 as part of Earth Month 2013. Four local panelists involved with the green industry in the area shared their experiences.

Joyce Harris is the founder and owner of two businesses: a janitorial and business maintenance service called Personal Touch Service Solutions based in Peoria, Illinois, as well as a historical building preservation business, called Artisan Brick and Stone Renovation, that is new in Galesburg.

Starting out originally in janitorial services and now an entrepreneur, Harris encouraged students to follow whatever "lights them up" and turn it into a career.

"This won't be just about a paycheck, it will be about leaving a corner of the world better off," Harris said.

She also offered hands-on internships for students as her company begins to renovate the exteriors of historical buildings in Galesburg.

Peter Schwartzman, associate professor and chair of environmental studies, spoke about the promise of entering the growing green industry.

"The fact that you came here tonight is incredible," he said. "You're the visionaries. You're the ones that will make the difference."

A member of Galesburg's economic development team, Eric Dilts, also spoke. He is director of the Sustainable Business Center, a business incubator for sustainable entrepreneurs.

"The sustainable marketplace is growing rapidly," he explained to students.

Dilts locates, takes in, and mentors businesses like IntelliHot, a company that produces American-made tankless water heaters, and Sitka Salmon Shares, a company that distributes sustainably harvested wild Alaskan salmon.

"It's an ongoing process of growing businesses," he said as he explained the three-year process of rotating tenants at the Sustainable Business Center.

With a degree in music business, he reminded students that it is possible to be in the green industry without having a background specific to environmental studies.

Knox College Sustainability Coordinator Shawn Tubb spoke about his background in architecture and the importance of jobs focusing on sustainability.

"If we are able to ingrain an attitude of collective responsibility and sustainability in the community, it will be important," Tubb said.

Sustainable jobs are noteworthy for the variety of jobs and fields of expertise they can involve, the speakers said.

"Green jobs are not just a fad, they're the future," Schwartzman said.