Opportunities for environmentally sustainable businesses abound nearly everywhere you look.
By Max Berry
Going green is in, but if you're about to start your first business-or even your second or third-building it on an eco-friendly model will help ensure that being green becomes the norm rather than the rage. Here are some real life examples of sustainable businesses to get you thinking green.
Style and Beauty, the Green Way
"If you are a local retailer your customers are going to be aware of what you do for the environment," says Joel Makower, Executive Editor of Greenbiz.com. Bearing this in mind, an independent retailer can use his or her commitment to the environment as a marketing tool. Shopping with a retailer that sells clothing free of environmentally damaging dyes and chemicals will appeal to the sensibilities of those put off by less scrupulous chain stores. The clothing sold at organic retailers like Hanna's Dream (hannasdream.com) and Yes It's Organic (yesitsorganic.com) is 100% natural. In the case of Hanna's Dream, the European and American designs often aren't available anywhere else in the U.S., meaning they will also appeal to the sort of independent minded consumer put off by the mass-manufactured clothing of those major retailers.
Those interested in organic apparel will no doubt have a similar interest in organic health and beauty products. The vast majority of organic skin care products available are, not surprisingly, marketed towards women. To capitalize on a less crowded market, you may want to consider taking a cue from Saffron Rouge (saffronrouge.com). Its organic shaving lotions and aftershaves boast ingredients like Atlantic seaweed and the twigs of the Australian tea tree. They also appeal to men looking to subject their skin to something more soothing than your standard drugstore shaving cream.
The Green House Effect
Those truly wishing to live green will need an eco-friendly home base. New Life Hardwood Floors in Dallas services this need by reclaiming and refinishing oak and pine flooring originally cut in the early twentieth century. Not only does the service prevent needless deforestation, it also provides homeowners with rustic style and a fully functional conversation piece.
Eco Interiors represents another type of green business opportunity in the home furnishings sector. The North Carolina-based design firm takes a sustainable approach to constructing and designing home interiors, focusing on improved indoor air quality, reduced exposure to toxic materials, and increased energy efficiency. The company is also dedicated to revitalizing the historic city of Old North Durham "into a creative, prosperous, and sustainability-minded destination." Designer Dana Mortensen believes that the word of mouth generated by innovative services like hers can raise the profile of an entire town.
But with home ownership come household chores. There are green opportunities in that market too. Seventh Generation's (seventhgeneration.com) household cleaning products contain no harmful chemicals or dyes and its vegetable-based laundry detergent eliminates the need for the oil used in petroleum-based detergents. For lawn maintenance, Solar Green Lawn Care in Eagle, Ohio uses wind and solar powered electric mowers to provide lawn care to residential and small commercial properties.
Even the most stalwart eco-activist needs a vacation. Several entrepreneurs have capitalized on this by offering environmentally conscious travel and hospitality services. Manaca (manaca.com), a travel agency that selects in-country operators, tour guides, and eco-lodges, ensures that each one of its clients takes the most eco-friendly trip possible. Ayako Ezaki, Director of Communications for ecotourism.org believes that offering environmental benefits, in addition to high quality customer service, is a recipe for success. "A large and growing number of travelers are interested in eco-friendly travel," she says. "I believe that the most successful tourism businesses offer authentic, unique and memorable experiences, as well as genuinely green travel options."
Services like this also highlight the fact that environmentally sustainable lodging is a booming enterprise. Eco Lodges' commitment to cultural sensitivity and respect appeals to travelers looking for a richer experience in their chosen destination than a run of the mill hotel might allow.
Green Tips for Any Trade
Whatever your business, there are several day-to-day practices any firm can abide by to nurture the environment. Using a service like Go Green Messaging (gogreenmessaging.com), which provides paperless advertising and business communications, will allow you to market yourself with no additional cost to the earth's forestland. And don't be afraid to follow the examples set by the big guys: Office Max now offers 100% post-consumer recycled paper at its self-serve copy machines. Pitney Bowes has reduced emissions and saved $3 million in fuel costs by conducting more of its customer service over the phone and making sure its technicians solve consumer problems in a single visit.
And don't forget to align yourself with other green causes. Join a group like One Percent for the Planet (onepercentfortheplanet.org), a coalition of over 898 companies worldwide that donate 1% of their sales to a network of 1,582 environmental organizations. Simply publicizing your allegiance with a group like this will make your customers happy to do business with you, and raise their awareness about the possibility of a greener world.