Once upon a time, when Earth Day was new and being in business meant making a buck at any cost, "green" businesses were an anomaly. Today, for many businesses, being green is just business as usual.
As these five small businesses testify, making environmentally responsible decisions is not always easy, but building a business based on economic and environmental sustainability is usually worth it in the end.
Hans Hess, founder and CEO of Elevation Burger, wanted to create a company that sold antibiotic-free hamburgers that tasted good and were healthy.
With that commitment to quality in mind, Hess' mission evolved into Elevation Burger. The Virginia-based company now has locations across seven states, including Florida, New Jersey, Maryland, New York, Texas and Pennsylvania.
In addition to serving grass-fed organic beef, the company takes sustainability seriously and is always finding ways to develop other green business processes through energy consumption and building practices.
Admittedly, Elevation Burger's green efforts are a continual work in progress, Hess said.
"If every menu item was organic, unfortunately, no one would buy it — because it would be really expensive. But that is slowly changing. We hope, over many years, to make more and more of the menu organic and sustainable ," he said.
The lesson for Hess is that change toward sustainable and green practices doesn’t happen overnight, but every effort is a step in the right direction.
"Being in business means you solve complex business problems and make hard decisions every day," Hess said. "There's not a bigger challenge than rethinking and re-making the way we produce and sell food, or any other product, in a way that will leave a better place for our kids."