The Challenge of Turning Blue Collars Green

The new documentary <em>The Greening of Southie</em> follows construction workers in Boston as they adapt to the new rules and regulations of green development (sometimes unwittingly).
May 27, 2009, 9am PDT | Tim Halbur
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"At a construction site in South Boston a couple years back, a foreman was explaining some rules for the job to an increasingly flustered tile-worker. They'll have to use some new non-toxic adhesive. All the waste must be recycled. And the real kicker-there's no smoking in the building. 'You don't understand,' said the foreman, 'this is a green building.'

'That's right,' the tile-worker quips. 'I don't understand.'

The encounter, related in the opening scene of the documentary The Greening of Southie, is far from unique. For all the talk of "green jobs" these days, it's relatively common on construction sites (and in manufacturing plants, for that matter) for workers themselves to be the last to know that their collars have changed color from blue to green.

Filmmakers Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis see this as a problem. 'The extent to which these guys were left out of the conversation about green building was surprising,' Cheney told me. 'It seems like a tremendous missed opportunity if we stop at simply calling these 'green jobs' and don't help the workers understand why this might be a good idea, why it's important.'"

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Published on Tuesday, May 26, 2009 in GOOD Magazine
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