Kickstarting an eco-conscious business is a long-term commitment to a sustainable future.
Consumer demand for eco-friendly goods and services is booming and has quadrupled in the early part of the last decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2018, an international survey from Accenture Strategy found 62 percent of customers want brands to take a stand on issues, including sustainability and fair employment.
“To stand out from the crowd, understand the significance of your unique product and how it benefits the earth or conserves resources,” says Mary Bemis, an environmental entrepreneur and a member of the Green Spa Network in Atlanta. “Businesses that establish eco-friendly values have greater opportunities to grow market share and build loyalty among educated consumers.”
What are some promising going green business opportunities you could pursue? Let’s break it down.
11 Innovative and Eco-Friendly Business Ideas
1. Composting Company
Between 2007 and 2014, Americans wasted more than 150,000 pounds of food every day, according to researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Composting takes uneaten food and essentially turns it into nutrient-dense soil boosters. A composting company can collect food waste that businesses or households have saved and put it to good use in gardens, nurseries and local farms.
2. Organic Catering and Delivery
As the population becomes more aware of the benefits of organic farming, the demand for environmentally friendly business ideas continues to rise. Organic catering prepares and delivers healthy food daily or weekly from local sources to people or small businesses who need them.
3. Smoothie Bar
Juice and smoothie bars are part of a larger trend in quick, grab-and-go green drinks which cater to health-focused consumers in gyms, natural food stores and nutrition shops. (Plus, composters would love to get their hands on the scraps you have left over.)
4. Recycling Reinventions
Some years ago, one of the most innovative green business ideas was a vending machine in Europe that allowed people to recycle empty bottles. Instead of getting a coin back, the deposit went directly to feeding stray dogs from the very same vending machine. Not only did the thoughtful practice provide food to homeless dogs, it encouraged people to recycle.
5. Nontoxic Textiles
The fabrics we live with contain a ton of chemicals—from formaldehyde to PBDEs and other fire retardants. They pose a risk to our health and the environment. Many designers are now making clothing from sustainable fabrics, and bypassing chemicals. The same goes for manufacturers, making this a lucrative eco-friendly business to consider.
6. Old Clothes, New Business
How green is it to dress in vintage clothes? Very. Much like upcycling furniture, getting more wear-and-tear from gently used clothing can breathe new life into faded fabrics — and the environment — by displacing the need to make new virgin fibers.
As a sustainable business concept, a vintage or second-hand clothes shop could be a brick-and-mortar operation, or—depending on your ambition and skill—an app along the lines of ThredUp and Poshmark.
7. Eco-friendly Cleaning Products
Conventional cleansers are filled with artificial fragrances and toxic chemicals. Instead, an eco-friendly small business can produce and distribute a green product for a more sustainable scrub.
8. Green App Developer
Creating a green mobile app or website can be one of the best eco-friendly technology business ideas around. Depending on your team’s capabilities, you can produce something that tracks habits and encourages measures toward a green lifestyle, or one that helps consumers find eco-friendly manufacturing businesses, food suppliers and other green providers.
9. Solar Panel Installer
Businesses are looking to reduce reliance on conventional energy sources, so solar panel installation companies are becoming busier and more efficient as sustainable energy business ideas grow in popularity. In addition, there’s a greater demand for clean energy and how solar energy will be stored in the future.
10. Electric Car Dealership
Look around at the next stoplight—electric cars are humming all around you. Explore how you might get enough capital to open a dealership that works exclusively with electric or hybrid car brands. Manufacturing or distributing charging stations for electric vehicles are also becoming a popular eco-friendly business.
11. A Day Spa or Salon
Beauty products are notoriously filled with chemicals and other harmful materials. Start a beauty salon or day spa that uses 100% natural and botanical products, says Bemis, who jumped on this eco-friendly business idea and founded Organic Spa Magazine, a website and publication focusing on small sustainable spas.
Youthful markets are willing to pay more for green products and holistic services that come from companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact.
“Millennials are always on the lookout for natural, plant-based ingredients that may use recycled materials for packaging, too,” says Bemis. Socially conscious businesses such as The Honest Company—pioneered by A-list actress Jessica Alba—are focused on sourcing natural home and cosmetic ingredients from free-trade markets.