Today, consumers are just as interested in corporate social responsibility (CSR) as they are in a company's products and services. This is especially good news for eco-minded entrepreneurs.
We've outlined 19 eco-friendly business ideas for making money and saving the planet at the same time.
Editor's note: Looking for the right business franchise idea for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.
Ink refill business
Starting an ink-refill business can not only be a highly profitable decision, it can be an environmentally conscious one, too. You might question whether refilling ink cartridges truly helps the environment considering the amount of paper that is wasted each year. However, by reusing old ink cartridges, there is less non-biodegradable waste accumulating in landfills. Paper is still relevant and necessary in the business world, but empty ink containers are not.
If you love to write, start your own environmentally minded publication. Your actions can make a big difference in the world. By debunking popular myths and sharing the truth about the world we live in, you can help consumers be more accountable for their actions.
Green finance focuses on supporting local, community-level projects, with an emphasis on sustainable, ecologically friendly agriculture. Green finance is also typically concerned with providing educational opportunities, funding for artistic endeavors and projects that support local ecology.
As opposed to more conventional companies in the world of finance, green finance is preoccupied with social profitability. While monetary profit remains important, the goal of green finance is to support beneficial projects that provide value to the local community and ecology. In fact, green financial institutions can fill a void to realize a positive project that otherwise would not exist that truly benefits the community.
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 various environmental causes. Each product sold also carries a third-party green certification or an equivalent eco-label.
Besides 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. If you're considering opening a retail store, consider partnering with a company that has similar motives and values as you and your customers.
Sustainable construction materials
You might not think of construction as very sustainable, but some companies now provide recycled materials for use in projects like infrastructure repair.
Axion, for example, with its eco-friendly products, 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 non-sustainable 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.
A great way for eco-friendly foodies to share their passion for both food and the environment is to start an organic catering company. By catering local events and business luncheons with foods containing organic and locally grown ingredients, free-range meats, and vegan, gluten-free, and paleo meal options, you'll appeal to nature lovers and health and wellness enthusiasts alike.
Be sure, though, to minimize the impact to the environment by avoiding plastic and paper goods as much as possible and composting food waste.
Eco-friendly beauty salon
If cosmetology is your passion, start a beauty business that's Mother Nature-approved. Organic and vegan hair and beauty products are popping up everywhere. A way to make this trend work for you is to open an eco-friendly beauty salon. You can open a hair salon that uses all-natural shampoos and conditioners or a nail salon that uses environmentally friendly and vegan polishes and spa treatments.
Professional landscaping may make your lawn and garden look nice, but all of that maintenance isn't necessarily great for the environment. With some eco-friendly advice and know-how, you can help homeowners make their yards literally and figuratively greener. SheKnows recommends synthetic turf, drought-resistant plants and strategically placed trees for a lawn that saves water, energy and money.
Sustainable event planning
Whether they're big or small, meetings and events can generate large amounts of waste and consume valuable resources. Green event planners use their expertise and event-planning skills to find eco-friendly venues, materials and accommodations.
Sustainable event management benefits more than just the planet. According to the United Nations Environment Programme's Sustainable Event Guide, there are financial advantages, plus it generates a positive image for event organizers, vendors, and stakeholders while raising awareness and inspiring change in the community.
Bicycle repair and refurbishing
Biking short distances instead of driving is better for both the environment and your health. Like most modes of transportation, bicycles occasionally need a tune-up.
You could be the expert cyclists come to when their bikes need repairing or maintenance. If you have some extra space, you could purchase inexpensive older bikes, fix them up and then sell them for a profit.
Handmade all-natural/organic products
Soaps, cosmetics and cleaning products are just a few of the household products that can be made using common organic materials. <p>
Sure, anyone can find a recipe for a sugar scrub or vinegar-based cleaning solution and do it themselves, but if you package and sell them in sets, your customers conveniently have those all-natural products at their fingertips. Local markets and events are a good place to sell, or you could start an online store.
Are you an expert on green living? Start an eco-consulting service. Consultants evaluate homes and offices, and offer solutions to make them more environmentally friendly.
You could advise clients on switching their home appliances to more energy efficient machines or implement a recycling program. To further boost your credibility, become a certified eco-consultant.
Farmers market vendor
Thanks to the ongoing organic movement, those with a green thumb have a golden opportunity to earn money by selling non-GMO, pesticide-free produce at their local farmers market.
Selling naturally grown fruits and vegetables gives you a distinct advantage over competing growers who use conventional methods. You may have to be approved and/or get certified by your local board of health first before you can begin selling.
Green housekeeping services
For working parents with long hours, cleaning the house can quickly fall to the bottom of the to-do list. Market yourself as the green solution to their housekeeping woes by offering services that range from light dusting to heavy-duty chores like cleaning the kitchen and bathroom, using only approved all-natural and eco-friendly cleaning products.
Charge an hourly rate or create your own service packages for a flat fee. Remember, your clients are giving you access to their homes. Build a trustworthy reputation with people you know first before advertising to strangers.
Don't throw out your old, broken furniture. With basic templates and access to power tools, you can break down and reassemble chairs, tables and dressers into new pieces that you can paint and sell. Shelving and storage units are easy to make from wood scraps, and depending on the item, you might even be able to fully restore a unique and valuable piece of furniture.
Alternatively, you could reupholster old chairs and couches, giving them a new life. Buying secondhand doesn't just save money, it also helps the environment.
Want to run a business with a solid brand and customer base already in place? Investing in a franchise might be the answer. While franchising might call to mind fast-food joints and hotel chains, there are many eco-friendly franchise businesses. Visit this green franchise directory for a list of opportunities.
New things are typically expensive, and pretty soon, those costs add up. For example, a new book could cost $15 to $30, while a used book usually costs only a couple of dollars.
Opening a secondhand store not only saves your customers money, it's better for the environment. Instead of tossing a perfectly good item into the trash, encourage consumers to donate their used items to you so another person can get value out of that item. You can sell used clothes, coats, books, kitchen appliances and furniture.
Between books, blogs and social media posts, it's easier than ever to communicate via written word. Audiences are ready to consume content from their favorite brands and celebrities, but actually crafting that content can be tricky, so many companies are turning to ghostwriters to help put their thoughts down on paper.
"Because of technology and the internet, publishing and sharing written material is easier and cheaper than ever," ghostwriter Melinda Copp told Business News Daily. "All those words have to be written by someone."
Beyond online writing, more business leaders are authoring books, with the aid of ghostwriters, to build their credibility.
"Some of my clients have leveraged their books to generate more and better speaking opportunities, more frequent appearances on business shows, and opportunities to work with better clients," said ghostwriter Jeff Haden. "Great content can help build a great foundation for a business or personal brand."
Whether it's cutting energy costs or reducing their carbon footprint, the pressure for businesses to adopt green practices is high – and it's only going to grow.
Business sustainability consultant Barbara Englehart said there are numerous benefits for companies that go green, including reduced costs, risks and liabilities, and increased employee retention, productivity and moral.
"This is all quite new in the business world, and companies need help," Englehart told Business News Daily. "They weren't teaching sustainability in business schools five or 10 years ago."