Going Green: Building a New Economy from the Grassroots Up

Going Green: Building a New Economy from the Grassroots Up

Riding on the momentum of its Green Festival, nonprofit Global Exchange is leading the development of a “Global Citizen Center,” which promises to be a hub for organizing the local green economy while providing employment and training opportunities for individuals within the community in which it's located. By Johanna Schultz



The Green Festival, held last November in San Francisco, was a trailblazing event that illustrated the potential of the local green economy. Produced by Global Exchange, Co-op America, and Bioneers, the Green Festival "helps stimulate more green business, fair trade and fair wages, local cooperation, community building, and accountability -- and creates more connections among the people and organizations working on these issues."

Alternative building and power companies and vendors of organic food, fair-trade indigenous goods, and natural-fiber clothing are just a handful of the pieces that came together to make the green-economy picture whole at the Green Festival. And the larger-than-expected crowd of 13,000 attendees proves that there is demand on the part of the American consumer.

Many Green Festival attendees reportedly asked Kevin Danaher, co-founder of Global Exchange, “How often can you do this?”

"The answer is every day,” Danaher replies, “if the green-economy movement can create multi-use buildings with ground-floor green everything stores."

If you think Danaher sounds like a man with a plan, you’re right. Determined to flow with the momentum of the Green Festival, Global Exchange and other organizations are coming together to create a green-architecture building that will house offices of social-change organizations, ground-floor “GreenMart” stores, plus an organic, vegetarian food court, activity space, and other components. The “Global Citizen Center” promises to be a hub for organizing the local green economy while providing employment and training opportunities for individuals within the communities in which they are located.

Global Exchange hopes that the success of this venture in San Francisco will provide crucial lessons for replicating the model in other cities around the world. These centers can then be networked in a manner that maintains local autonomy, yet assembles enough economic power to challenge the dominance of transnational corporations. The goal is to build a new economy from the grassroots up -- as Danaher puts it, "an economy based on life values and citizen empowerment rather than money values and corporate control."

In the meantime, more Green Festivals will be taking place -- in Austin, Texas on Oct. 11-12 and again in San Francisco on Nov. 8-9 -- and organizers hope to extend to other cities in the future.

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Johanna Schultz is director of environmental and social policy for Thanksgiving Coffee Company. She is co-chair of Mendocino Alliance for a Community-Based Economy, and a founding member of Sustainable Mendocino.