As a famous anthropomorphized amphibian once said, "It's not easy being green." It's true that sustainable business practices sometimes can be costly and time-consuming, but in an age when consumers are paying attention to corporate social responsibility, many people want to know that the brands they patronize are taking care of the planet.
While many organizations do their part by increasing recycling efforts, sourcing local materials and using energy-efficient equipment, some have taken their eco-friendly efforts to the next level by basing their entire business model on it. Here are nine types of eco-friendly businesses that have found success in the "green revolution."
Buying secondhand items for your home doesn't just save you money; it also helps the environment. AptDeco is an online marketplace that sells preowned home furnishings, giving a second life to gently used, high-quality items that would otherwise end up in a landfill. It also eliminates the waste of the manufacturing process and materials required to create a new piece. [Green Business Ideas for Eco-Friendly Entrepreneurs]
Sustainable building materials
You might not think of building materials as being very sustainable. With its eco-friendly products, Axion hopes to change the way companies think about rebuilding America's infrastructure. The company's railroad ties and pilings are made from recycled plastic from consumer and industrial uses, rather than nonsustainable materials like steel and concrete. Axion is currently working with major partners, like Long Island Rail Road, to improve infrastructure safely and sustainably in the United States.
Waste collection is one of the most inefficient, environmentally harmful industries in the world. In the United States alone, garbage trucks consume more than 1 billion gallons (3.7 billion liters) of diesel fuel each year, according to InformInc. Bigbelly Solar was founded in 2003 with a simple mission: to eliminate the waste in waste collection. By using a solar-powered trash compacting system, the company reduces the frequency of trash collection vehicle trips, leading to lower emissions and fuel usage. The compactors also reduce odors and contain litter, eliminating the common overflowing problem that accompanies traditional public trash receptacles.
Consumers who want to bring the trash compacting process into their own homes can check out the Trash Krusher, which the company says fits perfectly in a kitchen. It can help you minimize your use of plastic garbage bags, which can take up to 1,000 years to decompose in a landfill.
Consumer rewards programs are popular among retailers, and e-commerce site EcoPlum is no exception. With every purchase, customers earn "EcoChipz," which are redeemable for either rewards or a donation to environmental causes. Each product sold also carries a third-party green certification or an equivalent eco label. In addition to selling sustainably sourced products, EcoPlum produces educational content, such as monthly columns by industry experts, local green business listings, recycling information, eco-tips, and book and video recommendations.
Another retailer selling eco-friendly items is Eco Carmel, a Carmel, California-based home and garden store that serves as a local hub for products, services and advice on green living. Owner Kristi Reimers sells eco-friendly home products ranging from nontoxic paint to cutting boards made from sustainably grown wood. Reimers also uses her knowledge of eco-friendly materials to help local businesses and homeowners find ways to incorporate renewable or recycled resources into their remodeling projects.
Ingredient analysis apps
With the growing number of products touted as eco-friendly, it can be difficult to know which ones are genuinely good for the environment. GoodGuide, a free website and app developed by environmental and labor policy professor Dara O'Rourke, lets consumers see scientific ratings of common household products. When consumers use the app to scan the bar code on a jar of pasta sauce or a bottle of dish detergent, for example, the app tells them if the product meets certain standards for safe ingredients, environmental sustainability and carbon emissions reductions. Similarly, the OpenLabel app crowdsources information on brand-name household items, helping to educate consumers about the ingredients in the products they buy.
Reusable food storage
Plastic household products, especially food storage containers, make up a huge portion of landfill waste. In 2007, eco-conscious entrepreneur Jacqueline Linder founded LunchBots to help reduce her family's use of plastic. The company sells reusable stainless-steel food containers that can replace the typical disposable products that many families use when packing meals to go.
Sustainable/organic ingredient restaurants
Some restaurant kitchens may use low-quality ingredients, but eco-friendly restaurateurs know that sustainable, organic menu items are better for both their customers' health and the environment. Elevation Burger, for example, serves antibiotic-free, organic, grass-fed-beef hamburgers in more than 10 U.S. states, Mexico and the Middle East. The company takes sustainability seriously and is always finding ways to develop other green business processes through energy consumption and building practices.
Sushi Maki, another chain restaurant, supports sustainable fisheries by serving Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)-certified Chilean sea bass, scallops and crab. This means the restaurant buys only from fisheries and vendors that adhere to strict standards that protect fish supplies and the environment.
Organic grocery delivery
Going green at the dinner table often means choosing to eat organic foods. But not everyone has easy access to organic foods, and that's where organic delivery services come in handy. Web-based delivery businesses like Door to Door Organics in Ottsville, Pennsylvania, and Planet Organics in San Francisco bring organic foods directly to you. These companies buy organic products directly from local farmers and food manufacturers, and deliver them either to customers' doors or a centralized location where it can be picked up by customers.
If you'd prefer to grow your own organic produce, there are businesses out there that can help you get your garden up to its full potential. Uncle Jim's Worm Farm, for example, will help you create your own compost by sending you composting worms and other tools necessary for creating organic fertilizers. The Composting Network, a Louisiana-based organic-waste recycling company, also delivers worms, as well as bags of soil and compost, to its customers.
Additional reporting by Business News Daily contributors Stephanie Taylor Christensen and Elizabeth Palermo.