by Laura Ross
I’m just going to come out and say it: in the United States, going green is sexy. From toting a reusable shopping bag to building new construction according to various green standards, everyone and their barber wants to “be green”. Consumers view it as fashionable; businesses view it as a new way to gain a competitive edge.
In Haiti, it might be the only competitive edge.
I remember how astonished I was, walking along the streets of Cite Soleil, past the tent villages and resounding poverty that crowd the region, to learn that Poverty Resolutions was going to install solar charging stations in some of the communities. Solar charging stations. Maybe I’m just a product of my generation, but the concept of solar energy still seems so high tech and new millennial. It boggled my mind that such a sophisticated project was being installed in Haiti—a technology we’re still trying to install across the United States.
It struck me as rather significant that two countries as vastly different as the United States and Haiti—one a nation that has been fighting to ensure universal health care for its citizens, and the other a nation that struggles to provide health care to any of its citizens—could find themselves so close on a single issue. Yes, the scales and methods of implementation differ, but the fact remains: both countries view solar energy as important, perhaps even critical.
This got me thinking: why don’t we emphasize this concept further? In international development, why don’t we play off of the fact that green energy is a technology that helps all sides—the developing and the developed. By promoting projects—such as the one Poverty Resolutions is leading in Haiti—that focus on developing new ways to integrate green technology into sustainable aid solutions, we can foster relationships between companies in the US and citizens in developing nations. Businesses that have had success in “greening” their industry, and found innovations that can cut costs or improve efficiencies, can work with entrepreneurs in Haiti to find similar, albeit probably less complex, methods to improve their businesses.
And it wouldn’t have to be a one-way relationship. Haiti might not have a high-tech sector like the US (or much of a tech sector at all, for that matter), but Haitians do have plenty of ingenuity. Poverty Resolutions has contacts with tons of individuals who have found incredibly resourceful ways to go green—from creating a toilet that turns waste product into fertilizer, to incentivizing citizens to recycle scrap metal. The innovations Haitians and Americans could create, working hand-in-hand to improve both of their businesses, could truly revolutionize aspects of green business.
Realizing that we share this point of commonality with Haiti—and much of the developing world in general—could go a long way in identifying creative and sustainable aid solutions to replace many of the outdated methods that have failed to generate meaningful change in communities. And although our friend Kermit might disagree, by working together, we might just find that it is easy being green.