Green For All (GFA) was established in 2007 by Van Jones, who today serves as the organization’s president, and Majora Carter. Its founding purpose was to lobby for federal climate, energy, and economic policy initiatives rooted in the premise that capitalism is a principal driver of both environmental degradation and social injustice.
While “holding the most vulnerable people at the center of [its] agenda,” GFA aims to “build an inclusive green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty” by “creating millions of quality jobs and careers.” The key to realizing this goal, the group explains, is to “leverag[e] government funding” in conjunction with “private investment.”
One of GFA’s first policy victories was helping to pass, as part of the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, the Green Jobs Act which authorized $125 million in annual taxpayer expenditures to train low-income minority workers for employment in a variety of green industries—in accord with GFA’s commitment to redistributing wealth by “mak[ing] sure people of color have a place and a voice in the climate movement.” That same year, GFA launched its Green Cities Program in collaboration with the Apollo Alliance.
From its inception, GFA portrayed itself as a continuation of the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.—in the sense that it was striving to improve the lives of those on the lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder. The organization’s first conference—titled “The Dream Reborn”—was held on April 4, 2008, the fortieth anniversary of King’s assassination. This gathering was sponsored and funded by such entities as the Alliance for Climate Protection, the Liberty Hill Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
Also in 2008, GFA sought to amplify its Washington lobbying efforts by launching the Climate Equity Alliance, which aimed to “limit carbon emissions” by imposing—via a cap-and-trade arrangement—monetary penalties on companies with emissions above a certain level. In local lobbying efforts, GFA in 2009 persuaded the U.S. Conference of Mayors—consisting of some 1,200 mayors nationwide—to sign on to the Local Government Green Jobs Pledge.
In 2008, GFA and Al Gore‘s WE Campaign together created the Green For All Academy to train “leaders from low-income communities and communities of color,” and thereby “expand, educate and engage the base of support for climate solutions and a clean energy economy in America.” During its first two years of activity, this Academy trained some 100 Fellows, many of whom had previously worked for such prominent progressive organizations as the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Democracia USA, Global Exchange, Human Rights Watch, the Illinois League of Conservation Voters, MoveOn, Progressive Majority, and the Sierra Club. Other GFA Fellows had formerly worked for luminaries like Hillary Clinton and Dennis Kucinich.
Another of GFA’s major campaigns is its Retrofit America’s Cities Program, designed to “perform energy-efficiency retrofits” and upgrades to such items as the insulation, duct sealing, water heaters, HVAC units, windows, roofing, and doors in urban homes and apartments. For example, in 2009 GFA partnered with the city of Portland, Oregon to develop and launch Clean Energy Works, a home energy retrofitting program “designed to create quality jobs, social equity, and business growth while improving homes and reducing carbon emissions.” By 2014, the program had upgraded more than 3,500 homes and employed over 1,400 workers—“all while achieving targets for workforce and contractor diversity.” GFA later helped implement a similar $140 million initiative in Seattle, titled Community Power Works.
Bringing radical environmentalism to the pulpit, GFA’s Green The Church Program seeks to expand the role of black churches in “creating resilient communities that are not only preparing for the effects of climate change, but also mitigating its impacts through the adoption of clean energy infrastructure, such as solar and energy efficiency.”
GFA’s College Ambassador program has trained dozens of young adults on at least 15 historically black college and university campuses, preparing them to lead a host of initiatives like Anti-Bottle Campaigns, Energy-Saving Dorm Competitions, and Green Job Fairs.
In 2013, GFA worked with the Congressional Progressive Caucus to ensure that President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan would adequately “address the needs of vulnerable communities”—i.e., set aside funds for nonwhite workers and minority-owned firms in the green-energy industry.
In many ways, GFA has operated as the environmental linchpin of progressive labor. For example:
To help disseminate its environmental message to young people, GFA has produced a host of videos—more than 150 from 2007-14—featuring tracks by emerging hip-hop stars as well as industry icons like Common, Drake, Ludacris, Anthony Mackie, and Wyclef Jean.
Key funders of GFA include Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Ford Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the New World Foundation, George Soros’s Open Society Institute, the Rockefeller Family Fund, the SEIU, the Streisand Foundation, the Surdna Foundation, the Tides Center and Foundation, the Wallace Global Fund, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
For additional information on GFA, click here.