15 Sustainable Small Business Ideas For The Conscious Entrepreneur
There is a new green revolution in the entrepreneurship community. Every new generation becomes more and more aware of how the environment is impacted negatively because of unmindful business practices, and there are plenty of change-makers who are looking to change the status quo. If you're an eco-conscious entrepreneur who is searching for your next big project, some of these ideas might serve as inspiration for your venture.
What is a Green Business?
A green business or a sustainable business is an enterprise that is mindful of its biggest practices and actively seeks to minimize its negative impact or amplify the positive impact generated by it. Some fundamental descriptors make a business sustainable. Most sustainable businesses seek to achieve the Triple Bottom Line or 3BL - to optimize their performance and impact from a social, environmental, and financial standpoint.
1. Start an Online (or Brick and Mortar) Plant Store For Your Neighbourhood
If you consider yourself a green thumb, or simply just have a love for plants, running an online plant store can be an extremely lucrative and fulfilling business opportunity. In the US alone, the market for plants and flowers grew to 15.34 billion US dollars in 2020, and after the pandemic, more and more people have invested in plants to make their homes a more green and welcoming space.
Running a local plant store with an online presence can be a great way to set up a local business with the opportunity to scale in the future. The best part is, you can start selling from the confines of your own home as you slowly build your business!
2. Run a Hydroponics Farm
Climate Change has become a hot topic in social and political spaces, and one of the main contributors that adversely impact our environment is our inconsistent and often harmful farming techniques. Globally, we are seeing a shift in consumer mindsets as people become more and more conscious of how their food is produced and sourced, as well as how the logistics of transportation impact the surrounding environment.
Hydroponic farming is an upcoming and sustainable farming practice. The most definitive characteristic of this technique is that it is the process of farming without using soil. Plants are often grown vertically, use water as their source of nutrients, and are housed in climate-controlled greenhouses. The great part about running hydroponics farms is that you don't need a lot of room to get started!
3. Start a Homestay or EcoBnB
With the rise of Airbnb and the work from home movement, homestays are becoming all the rage. If you have an old property or land that you can manage to rent out, eco home-stays are a great business opportunity. Alternative eco-conscious travelers are looking for experiences and are willing to pay extra money for them. You could refurbish an old property (which is by far the best way to be sustainable), and educate your visitors about local traditions and practices. You could locally source ingredients for your in-house kitchen and solar power the entire place. These are just a couple of ideas to get you started, but when it comes to making your homestay experience truly eco-friendly, the sky is the limit!
4. Conduct Bicycle Tours in Your City or Offer Rental Services
Biking is a great eco-friendly way to see a city, and more and more tourists and travelers are turning towards this mode of transportation. There are plenty of ways to start a business around this. If you're a social person who likes to meet new people and show them around, you could offer guided bike tours of your city. Alternatively, you could buy a bunch of bicycles as an investment and then rent them out to tourists and visitors for an ongoing source of income without much effort.
5. Furniture Flipping
Furniture flipping is an incredibly low-waste, rewarding, and creative business idea. Moreover, people make a lot of money flipping furniture pieces on the side. If you have an eye for design and love a good fixer-upper, then furniture flipping is the perfect side hustle for you. Thrift stores and garage sales are really good places to find flip-worthy furniture. Oftentimes, people will also leave their unused furniture to be picked up on the street. Keep an eye out for these because you can find some great pieces that could have great turn-around potential.
There are plenty of places you can sell your flipped furniture, but Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace are two great places to try and find buyers and sellers in your neighborhood!
6. Start A Composting Business
Composting is a great environmentally friendly business practice that has the potential to make an income. The raw material created from composting is in high demand for farmers and plant growers. The best part about this business idea is that the startup costs are minimal while being incredibly beneficial for the environment.
A simple business plan would involve collecting compostable waste from households around your neighborhood. You could also establish a convenient drop-off location. Once you have compostable waste, this will serve as the raw material to go into your compost pit. After a while, you can sell the fertilizer generated from composting, in and around your neighborhood.
7. Run an Online Thrift Store on Depop or Instagram!
The rise in acceptance and promotion of thrifting and "slow fashion" is definitely something you should be aware of as a budding ecopreneur. While Depop is the frontrunner in the peer-to-peer clothing marketplace, Instagram has seen its own breed of thrift flippers and designers crop up.
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8. Run a Sustainable Fashion Clothing Line (Without The Marketing Gimmicks!)
Fast fashion is one of the biggest contributors to environmental pollution and waste generation. As a global industry, Fashion employs billions of people and is worth $2.5 trillion! Needless to say, we need to hold our fashion brands more accountable for the kind of practices they employ as well as the material they use.
While the initial startup costs in this kind of business model can be a bit high, there are plenty of different ways to start your own fashion brand to help change the fashion industry. There are plenty of ways you could do this,
- Source sustainable and locally produced materials like linen, jute, and hemp to produce eco-friendly garments
- For synthetic fibers, you can use recycled plastic bottles and convert them to clothing items or use vegan plant-based fabrics
- Be mindful of where your material is being sourced from, and where possible, buy and sell locally
9. Start a Blog And Become an Environment Advocate
Advocacy is a very important part of making sure we do our best to save our planet. If you have the knowledge and are willing to put yourself front and center to share that knowledge with other people, then starting your own blog or YouTube channel can be a great way to create awareness around the cause.
Blogs and YouTube channels can be monetized once you have an audience, and you can get paid for helping shape people's opinions about sustainability and eco-friendly practices.
10. Start A Solar Panel Installation Business
This will require some amount of expertise, but if you have the right resources then you can learn how to install solar panels and use this skill to create a small business in your neighborhood. More and more people have started to rely on solar energy to fulfill their electricity needs and are building solar energy systems on their own rooftops. You can use your expertise to build a consulting and installation service to help homeowners in your neighborhood be greener.
11. Green Finance Funds
If you have the money for it, putting money in other people's green ideas can be a great green investment. For any business, making a monetary profit is definitely a priority, which is why it is important to choose projects that you think have the potential to take off. By investing in local green businesses, not only do you support small businesses, but you also make a positive impact on the environment.
12. Sustainable Event Planning
Event planning, and events, in general, can be really polluting, irrespective of their size. From the tons of disposable glasses, plates, and cups, to the waste generated from temporary construction, the events industry needs severe reform.
Event planners can use their skills and expertise to become more eco-friendly. The key is to educate yourself about best practices and find the right suppliers and locations to host a sustainable event.
13. Eco-friendly Cleaning Agency
For most people, cleaning is a chore, and there is a whole industry built around this simple task. You can start your own cleaning agency that uses eco-friendly products to minimize the impact of harsh chemicals on aquatic life (which is a big problem associated with most cleaners).
Consumers today are becoming more and more conscious of how their actions and buying habits impact the environment. By positioning yourself as an eco-friendly housekeeping service, you are sure to gain a significant portion of the market share.
14. Start A Green Laundromat
In bigger cities, laundromats have been an age-old business model that provides a very solid service. Is there a way of making this time-tested business model more eco-friendly? There sure is. The key to starting a sustainable laundromat is in the equipment. Modern designs have made dryers and washing machines be more energy efficient by using over 30% less water. While these machines might cost a bit more than older versions, they will make up for the cost by their efficiency and their ability to attract the eco-conscious consumer.
You can also provide free eco-friendly detergent to your customers. Moreover, running your laundromat on renewable energy will be the icing on the cake!
15. Eco-Friendly Packaging Retailer
Small businesses and startups are all the rage these days, and a lot of small business owners are selling their wares on platforms such as Etsy and Shopify.
These small business owners are much more conscious of how they package their items and tend to use eco-friendly packaging and materials. You can start a B2B company that supplies these eco-friendly packaging materials to businesses around the world.
There are so many great business ideas to choose from that leave behind a net positive impact on the environment. Even if you currently run or own a business, or have a completely different business idea, there are many small tweaks and changes you can make in your product as well as your business practices to leave the world a healthier place.