Green Economy
Five Green Trends for Small Business

By Glenn Croston
August 20, 2008

When you can make money and make a difference, everyone wins.

Going green is not going away, but the various trends within the green
business movement will change direction, creating opportunities for new
products and new businesses. Looking forward, here are five green trends
that entrepreneurs can capitalize on to make money while making a difference.

Some car brokers deal in used cars one at a time, building deals between
private buyers and sellers, as well as helping with financing, if
necessary. An online green-car dealership provides access to a variety of
cars, while avoiding the investment and risk of a car lot with brick,
mortar, and asphalt.

Opportunities in green cars include:

Opening a dealership for one of the emerging new producers in
technologies such as electric cars

Opening a used-car dealership specializing in high-mileage cars

Commercializing a new car technology

Brokering sales of green cars between individual buyers and sellers

Low-Carbon Groceries

The Market Need: Consumers are starting to think about the impact of
their food and groceries on the environment, but have scant information to
guide their shopping

The Mission: Build and provide systems for tracking food’s journey and its
carbon footprint

Knowledge to Start: Carbon auditing, supply chains, marketing

Capital Required: $10,000 to $99,000

Timing to Start: Years

Special Challenges: Carbon labeling is not yet broadly adopted
When it comes to being green, food is so simple and yet so complicated.
How green is your food? The answer depends on what green means to you.
Does green food have to be grown using organic methods? What about the
impact of our food on climate change? The greenest food includes
consideration of how it is grown, and the environmental impact of its
journey to the local market and your plate.

To make smart, green shopping decisions, consumers need information right
on the label. Already in the United Kingdom, products are starting to have
transportation labeling, with a picture of a plane or a boat. The trend is
likely to spread to the United States and improve by labeling products
with their actual carbon footprint.

Opportunities for low-carbon groceries include:

Creating low-carbon products and brands
Providing tracking and auditing of carbon footprint for products
Importing products with a smaller carbon footprint, even after
accounting for transportation
Looking for low-carbon products being developed in Europe or elsewhere
to see what ideas can be imported into the United States

Green Shopping Bags

The Market Need: Billions of plastic shopping bags are thrown away each year

The Mission: Replace disposable plastic shopping bags with renewable, reusable bags

Knowledge to Start: Materials, manufacturing

Capital Required: Under $10,000 (for homemade bags)

Timing to Start: Weeks to months

Special Challenges: Finding a niche among competition

Consumers and governments are driving a rapidly growing movement away from
disposable plastic bags to more eco-friendly alternatives. Reusable bags
that don’t get thrown away probably are the greenest option for shopping
bags. If you already own a store, selling bags with your logo on the side
might be a savvy green business move, and giving them away might even pay
off. With that bag, you buy increased brand recognition for your company,
you associate your brand with being green, and you may create increased loyalty.

At first, people might worry about how they look carrying their own bags.

Cool designer bags will help overcome this concern. One of the neat things
about bags is that they are so simple and yet people are endlessly
creative with them. The opportunity is to create not just bags, but green
fashion statements. Some bags even are made from recycled material, for an
extra boost of greenness. Maybe that’s another use for old T-shirts. What
if, from the start, green grocery bags were made to be returned in some
other form, a cradle-to-cradle shopping bag?

Opportunities for green shopping bags include:

Producing low-cost compostable shopping bags
Creating reusable logo bags for stores to give away
Designing novel bags for shopping
Developing fold-up bags that are easy to take with you
Producing homemade bags from recycled material

Environmental Microfinance

The Market Need: Microenterprises in the developing world can have a
significant environmental impact

The Mission: Support development of environmentally sound microenterprises

Knowledge to Start: Finance, sustainability

Capital Required: $10,000 to $99,000

Timing to Start: Months to years

Special Challenges: Influencing the direction of large numbers of microenterprises

Surprisingly small amounts of money can make a substantial difference in
people’s lives. With loans as small as $100, people in the developing
world can start their own business and move out of poverty. By supporting
environmentally sound microbusinesses, green microfinance is mobilizing a
grassroots green revolution in the developing world while also spurring
green business in the developed world.

Microfinance works, and the rate of repayment on microfinance loans is
high. Grameen Bank in Bangladesh and its founder Professor Muhammad Yunus
received the Nobel Prize in 2006 for work with microfinance, validating
that it can change the lives of the entrepreneurial poor.

Opportunities for green microfinance include:

Forming nonprofit organizations in the developed world that support
microfinance efforts

Consulting and raising money to support the growth of green microfinance
institutions in the developing world

Forming microfinance organizations that support environmentally-sound
business practices in the developing world

Green Building Certification

The Market Need: As the number of “green” buildings grows, their true
effect on the environment needs to be measured

The Mission: Rate green homes and buildings

Knowledge to Start: LEED professional accreditation, or knowledge of
other green rating systems

Capital Required: Under $10,000

Timing to Start: Months to years

Special Challenges: There are still relatively few green buildings,
although the number is growing quickly

What makes a building green? Green is a big word these days and sometimes
green is in the eye of the beholder. What seems green to one person can
appear downright gray to someone else. To ensure buildings are as green as
people say they are, independent verification and certification of homes
and buildings are needed.

To provide this independent certification green-building groups have
developed rating systems. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental
Design) is the leading system for the certification of green buildings in
the United States, broadly adopted as the standard by the burgeoning
green-building community.

Opportunities in green building certification include:

Creating a business helping green builders through the LEED
certification process

Developing a business commissioning green buildings

Training teams to maintain green commercial and industrial buildings
Performing inspections and creating green reports for homes when they
are sold

Glenn Croston, Ph.D., is a veteran scientist, green entrepreneur and the
author of 75 Green Businesses You Can Start to Make Money and Make a
Difference, available from Entrepreneur Press. He has written five biology
and chemistry books and is involved in developing entrepreneurial
businesses with a focus on green research. He lives an eco-friendly life
in both his business and at home. Visit startingupgreen.com for more
information on how you can become a green entrepreneur.


Promoting Green Building Design, Construction and Operation, Sustainable Living,
Clean Technology, Renewable Energy Resources and Energy Independence