Environmentalism isn’t just for wackos anymore; consumers across North America are trying to lead more environmentally friendly lives and becoming more conscious of how damaging many of our current practices are.
As someone thinking of starting a small business, starting a green business has two advantages over starting any other kind of business. First, environmentalism is still growing so you will be starting a business targeting a growing market. Second, starting a green business can be particularly satisfying as you get to make your own contribution to making the world a better place.
Here are what I think are the best green business ideas.
1) Help them grow it.
Gardens for Small Spaces
The growing concern about where our food comes from and what’s been done to it is translating into increasing numbers of people who want to grow their own food, wherever they live.
One green business idea is to produce “garden-paks”, small collections of seeded plant trays that would fit on the smallest balcony and allow people to grow their own vegetables.
On a larger scale, as a garden designer you could specialize in rooftop garden installations.
Or you could develop a green business focusing on products that will help people grow their own food, such as greenhouses suitable for residential homes or ecological pest controls. Growing food is one trend that’s only going to… um… get bigger (excuse the pun).
2) Help them cut energy costs.
Solar Water Heating Systems
I think it’s a safe bet that the cost of traditional energy going to go up – making green business ideas related to saving energy and cutting energy costs also a safe bet.
Building a solar panel or wind farm is a great idea, but probably out of most people’s league. But that doesn’t mean you can’t start a green business involving renewable energy. For instance, solar water heating systems can provide significant energy cost savings (providing up to 70% of a family’s hot water when properly installed, according to some distributors). In some provinces, such as Ontario, residents can get zero-interest loans or rebates for installing solar water heating systems (PowerHouse Program), making these systems even easier to sell.
If this green business idea appeals to you, Natural Resources Canada’s Solar Thermal information is an excellent backgrounder.
3) Help them clean it.
Eco-friendly Cleaning Products
From laundry through vehicles, things have to be cleaned. But people are a lot more sensitive to what’s being poured down the drain and want to be able to get the sparkle without the environmental strain. One green business idea to help them accomplish this is to sell environmentally friendly cleaning products. This is another green business idea that could work well as an ecommerce site.
Going green is also a great marketing strategy for a cleaning business. Commercial and residential cleaning businesses are still “hot” business ideas as the demand for cleaning services is still growing. Using only eco-friendly cleaning products in your cleaning business could give you a competitive edge.
Note: Also watch for the commercialization of “virtually waterless” cleaning. Researchers at the University of Leeds have developed a new way of cleaning clothes using less than 2% of the water and energy of a conventional washing machine.
4) Help them find it.
People want eco-friendly alternatives to the products they’ve been using. But in many cases, such products are hard or even impossible to find locally. Take, for instance, my recent nemesis, the biodegradable full-sized garbage bag. After a fruitless slog through local retailers, I was forced to search for said bag online – where I did successfully find what I was looking for.
Two green business ideas stem from this experience. One, as a retailer, I would definitely start stocking eco-friendly products. Two, green products would be an excellent theme for an ecommerce website. (See 7 Online Business Models for more about starting this type of online business.)
Here are more of what I think are winning green business ideas, business ideas based on products and/or services that will help people concerned about the environment lead greener lives:
5) Show them what needs to be done.
As the price of energy goes up and being green becomes increasingly popular, more individuals and businesses want to become greener but don’t know what the best course of action is. So green consulting is a business idea whose time has come.
Green consultants put together an action plan for their clients by examining their client’s environment and analyzing their environmental strengths and weaknesses. For instance, a home or business may be using a lot more energy than necessary for heating because of a lack of weather-stripping.
Some green consulting businesses also offer event management. The green business idea is that the consulting company will see to it that every aspect of the event, from advertising through waste management, is handled in the most environmentally friendly way.
6) Help them get there.
Scooters and Bikes
Transportation is another venue of change for many people, whose need to go green is strengthened by increasingly high prices at the pump. Scooters and bikes are a very appealing “all-in-one” solution; as a scooter or bike rider you get to save money, be environmentally friendly, and, if you get the kind of bike that needs pedaling, improve your health, too!
I have to admit that’s not the kind that appeals to me; my favourites are the Vespa LXV and GTV and the three-wheeled Piaggio MP3. Becoming a dealer might be the green business idea you’ve been looking for.
All kinds of electric and gas scooters and electric bikes are going to increase in popularity though. Daymak Canada has a good range of green vehicles, including mopeds, scooters and electric bikes and offers franchises.
If you live in an urban area, renting out bikes and scooters might be a profitable green business.
7) Help them build green.
Green building is a trend rife with possibilities for starting new green businesses. Construction companies, architects, designers and contractors can specialize in green building. For instance, a contractor might become a LEED certified professional; a designer might focus on elements and materials that are the least environmentally destructive.
And green building calls for all kinds of green products that could become the foundation of your new small business, from water-saving toilets through salvaged wood (and solar water heating systems).
Learn more about LEED Canada (the environmental rating system used as a standard for new construction and major renovations) at the Canada Green Building Council website.
Green Businesses Deliver More Than Profits
Hopefully these green business ideas have got you excited about the possibilities. You may not get rich, and to be honest, you probably won’t. But you will have the pleasure of running a business that helps people lead greener lives and combining what you do with what you believe in.