If you’re looking for inspiration on how to start an eco-friendly business, there are green business ideas that you can consider. With climate change at the forefront for many, this Earth Day could be an optimal time for those with an entrepreneurial itch to start a company that helps the environment through its services or products. Some sustainable businesses will even be able to benefit from tax incentives and government subsidies.
If you’re convinced it’s the right time to start an eco-friendly business but aren’t sure where to begin, consider trying these sustainable business ideas.
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1. Composting services
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Some consumers may be interested in composting food waste to help the environment, but not all of them have a use for the end result. You could start a business that collects composted material from homes or businesses and sells it to gardeners or farmers.
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2. Green dry cleaning
Traditional dry cleaning can involve chemicals considered harmful to both the body and the environment. Machines that use the common dry cleaning solvent perchloroethylene (also known as perc) will be banned in California by 2023. Meanwhile, the emerging field of green dry cleaning uses alternatives that are safer for people and the planet.
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3. Green junk removal
With growing awareness about waste and trash filling up landfills, it’s possible to start a business that collects and disposes of household or business trash in a sustainable way. Green junk removal companies will donate, recycle and reuse items to keep them out of landfills.
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4. Clothing resale shop
A business owner could open a shop that sells secondhand clothing to give it more life before it’s discarded. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, landfills received 11.2 million tons of municipal solid waste textiles in 2017 (the latest available data from the EPA).
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5. Other resale businesses
In addition to clothes, there are plenty of other resale businesses you could start to sell goods still in great condition so they don’t get trashed. For example, you could sell:
- Secondhand books
- Gently used furniture
- Used electronics
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6. Green building
There’s a demand for eco-friendly builders, both for homes and commercial businesses. This field is large enough that there are a variety of ways to get involved. It could mean creating or using sustainable construction materials or installing renewable energy sources, such as solar power (more on this later). Obtaining Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification can help demonstrate commitment and expertise on green building.
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7. Green beauty salon
Entrepreneurs interested in the beauty industry could open a hair salon, nail salon or spa that specializes in green practices, including:
- Using products without toxic chemicals and/or made via organic farming
- Having waterless pedicures
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8. Eco-friendly consulting
While many businesses want to reduce their carbon footprint, they don’t always know how to get started. Consider becoming a green consultant who does energy audits to help businesses understand how much they’re currently using, and then advising them on how to adopt more sustainable business practices.
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9. Upcycled goods
Creative and artistic types could create a business turning “junk” into sellable goods rather than letting them go to waste. One common example is turning used wine bottles into candles or lamps. You can sell your goods on sites like Etsy, at local craft or farmers markets or in local shops.
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10. Green house cleaning
There may be demand for home cleaning businesses that use green products that are safer for the environment and families.
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11. Green pest control
Some eco-friendly businesses offer safer, earth-friendly pest control solutions, including:
- Ant, termite and bedbug treatments
- Cockroach and rodent exterminations
Commercial services could be an option, too.
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12. Bike shop
With a bigger spotlight on the carbon footprint of driving, there may be increased consumer interest in transportation alternatives, including cycling. You could consider opening a shop that refurbishes or repairs bikes and sells used bikes and scooters. You could also sell new bikes, though it’s more sustainable to sell used ones.
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13. Technology refurbishment
When electronics age or break, it’s common for people to throw them out. You can reduce this nonbiodegradable waste and turn a profit by refurbishing electronics, such as cellphones or computers, and selling them. You could also do this with other types of technology, such as vacuums.
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14. Printer ink refilling
Rather than letting ink cartridges that contain plastic get thrown into the trash, you could launch an ink refilling business that puts ink back into the existing cartridges. This helps consumers save money and can reduce plastic waste.
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15. Green landscaping
More consumers and business owners increasingly want to reduce water usage and employ landscaping techniques that benefit the environment, such as hardscaping or xeriscaping:
- Hardscaping: Add nonliving elements, such as bricks, rocks, stone and wood; could also include man-made additions, such as patio covers, retention ponds and decks
- Xeriscaping: Can include hardscaping, but may also use drought-tolerant plants; easier to maintain than a traditional lawn or garden and significantly reduces water usage
These practices are low maintenance, better for the local environment and typically look good year-round.
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16. Garden building
Gardens benefit the environment in many ways, such as capturing carbon, though not everyone has a green thumb. You could start a green business building gardens for homeowners or businesses, including vertical gardens, which have become popular in urban environments since they save space.
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17. Green gardening store or workshop
If you’d rather be based in one place, you could open a place where you teach eco-friendly gardening classes and/or sell green gardening supplies.
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Growing food locally without harmful additives or chemicals has numerous benefits. You’re capturing carbon, reducing chemicals and growing fruits and veggies with higher nutrition content. Plus, if you sell locally, fossil fuels won’t be needed to transport it across the country or world. You can sell your goods at your local farmers market or try to get it placed in local restaurants or grocery stores. You could also consider delivering the food directly to consumers in your area with a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.
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19. Solar panels
The solar power industry has grown rapidly and is expected to continue booming — the Energy Information Administration, which provides statistical data to the Department of Energy, even estimates that solar power could be 15% of what the U.S. generates by 2050. More homeowners and commercial building owners are seeking this form of renewable energy, especially as the prices go down.
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20. Wind energy
Wind energy recently became the most common form of renewable electricity in the U.S., so creating a wind farm or another business in this field could be a smart move for those wanting to start a sustainable business. Just be aware that the process of starting a wind energy business can be long and complicated (think obtaining permits, wildlife and environmental impact considerations, etc.) — and it could take several years to get a business off the ground.
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21. Biofuel manufacturing
Biofuel is another form of renewable energy, made from either plants or waste and used in place of fossil fuels. While it requires some science know-how, one idea is to start a green business that produces and sells biofuels, especially as many companies shift to using them. There is predicted to be an increased demand for fuel, which creates an opportunity for those in the biofuel business.
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22. Electric car charging
If electric cars take off with consumers, more charging stations will need to be available so that these vehicles can travel longer distances. You could start a business that offers electric car charging stations.
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23. Car sharing
People who want to reduce carbon emissions may choose to not have a car, especially if they live in a place with decent public transportation — but occasionally a vehicle is necessary. A car-sharing business would give these consumers a way to access a vehicle only when needed.
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24. Electric car service
Ride-share services can help keep fewer cars on the road. But as long as they use fossil fuels, they still create a significant carbon footprint. You could start a taxi or ride-share service using a fleet of electric cars.
For example, eCab is a small electric car service offered in five cities for short rides:
- Austin, Texas
- Chandler, Ariz.
- Kirkwood, Mo.
- St. Louis (including the Central West End neighborhood)
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25. Energy-efficient car sales
Drivers who want to reduce reliance on fossil fuels will become increasingly interested in hybrid or electric cars, so you could open a dealership that caters specifically to this need.
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26. Green restaurants
The farm-to-table trend is popular for a reason. Local cuisine can be less processed and more nutritious, and it supports local farms and uses minimal fossil fuels to be transported nearby. You could consider opening an eco-friendly farm-to-table restaurant that sources as many ingredients locally as possible.
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27. Green catering
Similarly, you could start a catering company that specializes in local, farm-to-table foods. This could appeal to event planners and clients who prefer to spend their money on eco-friendly businesses.
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28. Alternative materials creation
Many businesses are finding ways to manufacture materials and packaging that are more eco-friendly and biodegradable. For example, as some cities ban plastic straws, some businesses began making compostable straws and reusable metal or silicone straws.
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Advantages of starting an eco-friendly business
As consumers become increasingly aware of the environmental impacts of their purchasing decisions, more are demanding green business options that help them reduce their carbon footprint. This could be the right time to start an environmentally-friendly business.
According to market research company Global Web Index, half of digital consumers in the U.S. and United Kingdom in late 2018 said environmental concerns impacted their purchasing decisions. In fact, 61% of millennials (ages 22 to 35 at the time of the survey) said they’d pay more for eco-friendly products. Another sign of growth in this space: Some colleges even offer “green majors” to help students prepare to enter the field of environmentally friendly business.
While entrepreneurs wanting to enter this space can look to traditional small business loans for financing, those starting green businesses have unique access to several loans and grants programs:
- The Conservation Fund provides financing for small-to-medium green businesses that create jobs in economically underserved areas
- The federal government also offers a variety of loans and grants for eco-friendly businesses, including some from the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Science Foundation
Environmental nonprofit Green America offers a green business certification program, which can show consumers and businesses that your operation meets high standards of eco-friendliness. Obtaining this certification could help attract customers who want to spend at companies that help the environment.
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