The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has launched GreenCorps, an ambitious program to recruit workers for a variety of environmental initiatives across the state.
The program is an off-shoot of AmeriCorps, the nation's largest paid community service program. The program will hire 22 people in its first year to work on "living green" outreach, school waste prevention, local food systems, urban forestry, and local government energy conservation.
"We desperately need this," said Kevin McDonald, supervisor for sustainable development at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. "If you look at our state and our nation, we are transitioning to a green economy."
Even before the program formally announced its launch, more than 300 inquiries flooded into McDonald's e-mail inbox, mostly from people drawn to the program by word of mouth.
"Given the state of our economy, I think we're going to get applications of all types," McDonald said. "We're going to have recent grads. We're going to have people who've become unemployed or under-employed, or people who might be faced with some circumstance that has catalyzed a reconsideration of their career path."
The nine-month program pays a stipend of $11,400. An additional $5,000 educational credit is provided upon completion of service. The program also provides a "modest" health insurance plan.
The variety of initiatives included in the GreenCorps program reflects the increased statewide focus on environmental concerns.
The "living green" program will provide public outreach to reduce junk mail, help consumers opt out of phone books, promote lead-free fishing tackle, plan community education events, educate consumers about proper fertilizer use and hazardous waste disposal, and encourage workers to organize carpools.
The school waste prevention program is designed to help schools boost recycling efforts, develop composting programs, implement energy-saving lighting, and educate students about environmental topics.
Support for local farmers markets and community-supported agriculture will be the main focus of local food systems program. The program aims to reduce the distance food travels from "farm to plate," McDonald said.
The urban forestry program will begin work on a statewide tree inventory to help assist officials with addressing the outbreak of emerald ash borer, a foreign beetle responsible for the decimation of many ash trees throughout Minnesota.
The local government energy conservation workers will help update existing databases, to better identify and prioritize opportunities for government buildings and vehicles to become more energy efficient.
GreenCorps received $267,000 in funding from ServeMinnesota and the Corporation for National and Community Service, the organization that administers AmeriCorps.
McDonald said he hopes the program will secure more funding next year.
"We intend to gradually ramp this program up," he said.
The deadline for applications is Aug. 3. The program will begin in September.