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.)