When zero waste and the circular economy transform jobs

When zero waste and circular economy are transforming jobs

Green jobs are not just in the renewable energy sector.

Ten years ago, the circular economy and zero waste were only discussed by a few people in Birkenstock and harem pants. But from one damning IPCC report to another, we are becoming aware and realizing the importance of turning to sustainable models, hence green jobs.  

According to ECO Canada, “the growth of jobs in the environment will be three times greater than in other sectors in the coming years”, indicates Christoph Stamm, lecturer at the University of Montreal and member of the Research Chair on the transition ecology from UQAM. 

Metro wanted to find out more about green employers by speaking to Kevin Drouin-Léger, director of operations at the Centrale agricole, which brings together 21 companies operating under the principle of the circular economy, and Andréanne Laurin, holder of a master's degree in environmental sciences and co-founder of Épiceries LOCO, zero-waste shops that also offer local and organic products.  

A rather vague definition

First of all, you should know that a green job does not have the same meaning for everyone. “It's a very vague concept,” explains Christoph Stamm. There is no single definition: it can be more or less strict and include more or fewer jobs.” 

Often, these are said to be jobs that directly aim to reduce the environmental impact of human activities. But if I give a course in environmental policy, does it count? Or organic farming would be green jobs, right? Yet this is often ruled out.

Christoph Stamm, lecturer at the University of Montreal and member of the Research Chair in Ecological Transition at UQAM 

What is or is not a green job is therefore quite arbitrary. A job in the circular economy is generally considered as such, but those in a zero waste business, not necessarily, although they reduce the impact on the environment. Often this is because they do not require additional qualifications.  

The academic indicates that clean technologies are usually considered a sector of green jobs, but one can also wonder: manufacturing batteries for electric vehicles, is it really ecological? What if we make solar panels, but produce them in a coal-fired factory?

According to Statistics Canada – which has a rather limited definition of what is or is not green work, in Mr. Stamm's opinion – less than 2% of jobs in the country would fall into this category. “ECO Canada has a less restrictive definition and comes with twice as many green jobs, so almost 4% of total jobs in the country,” he illustrates.  

A different management 

Both at the Agricultural Center and at the LOCO Grocery Stores, reducing your carbon footprint comes with more management. We don't bring 21 companies together by crossing our fingers so that all collaborative initiatives are born by magic! 

“One of the challenges for the sustainability of our initiatives is to have a facilitator, which is somewhat the role of the central, explains Kevin Drouin-Léger. You need good communication, you need project leaders, you need mediators to make sure that all the companies in the central office get their money's worth.” 

That's why some people are employed directly by the plant, not by one of the companies that are part of it. We find, among others, a circular economy technician who plays this liaison role.  

The tasks of LOCO grocery store employees are also a little different from what we are used to seeing elsewhere.  

“Our great feature is that we have an educational customer service, says Andréanne Laurin, whose company offers continuous training to its staff. We have a lot of explanations to give and customers have a lot of questions, among other things about the ecological footprint of food. It can be a big burden for the employees, so they have to be committed to the environmental mission and motivated.” 

The idea is not always to create more jobs, but also to transform those that exist to make them more ecological. For example, rather than calling a waste management company, a brewery could do business with the Centrale agricole. The spent grains would then be processed for consumption instead of being sent to a landfill. So we replace one job with another.  

Not just shoveling clouds 

What these establishments have in common, it is an environmental mission, yes, but also an economically viable business model which allows them to fit in with the times and to transform, at their level, the world of work. &nbsp ;

“The motivation is environmental, but to sustain a model like ours, there must be an economic benefit, fully assumes Kevin Drouin-Léger. No company is going to sustain an environmental initiative if it does not find its account.” 

Thus, rather than spending on advertising and working with distribution networks as traditional chains do, LOCO Grocery Stores have relied on close relationships with producers in order to offer them fair compensation. “It is important that more ecological producers are able to live well so that the model is sustainable,” insists Andréanne Laurin.  

Economic reasons are even at the origin of the Agricultural Centre. A study by the Laboratory on Urban Agriculture published in 2017 targeted the lack of access to adequate production space and traditional financing as the main obstacles to commercial urban agriculture. By bringing together several companies under the same roof, costs were reduced.  

From this collaborative economy was born the idea of ​​the circular economy: why spend time and money to get coffee? coffee to help grow mushrooms when you have a roaster next door?  

Rethinking our way of conceiving a business model while keeping the environment in mind, this n It's not taking the easy way out, admit Andréanne Laurin and Kevin Drouin-Léger. But it is necessary to deal with climate change.  

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