10 Green Businesses for Boomers
As the economy gets moving again, entrepreneurs are leading the recovery with innovative green businesses. Going green is not a fad but good business, helping us all do more with our resources and money, as well as helping the world. Here are 10 of the best and biggest opportunities to get lean, green and clean -- for yourself, your kids and your grandkids.
1. Energy-Efficiency Auditors and Contractors
Our buildings waste billions of dollars of energy, leaving a huge opportunity for energy-efficiency auditors and contractors to make much-needed improvements. Auditors examine buildings for ways to save money, perhaps by fixing windows or insulation, and contractors carry out this work, boosted by tax credits and other incentives. You can create an efficiency business that builds on experience in construction or brings in new ideas from other fields. For example, Jose Torre-Bueno, chief technology officer at Empowered Energy Solutions, has developed an innovative method for optimizing profits on efficiency projects. "I've worked in cancer diagnostics, and I feel that my work in energy efficiency has even more potential to contribute to the greater good by saving both our environment and our economy," he says.
2. Direct Sales
For many years, opportunities in direct sales have helped people earn second incomes with the convenience of working from home. Now there are great, green direct sales opportunities with companies such as Green Irene and Zola Goods and with low costs to get started. You can make money and make a difference. Beth Remmes, founder of Zola Goods, says that people over 40 often are well-connected in their communities and have credibility that benefits their businesses. Rosamaria Caballero, co-founder of Green Irene, notes that many eco-consultants are motivated by more than making money and "strongly desire to be a force for positive green change in their local communities."
3. Using Waste as a Resource
One of the most abundant and cheapest resources we have is garbage. Tom Szaky of Terracycle notes that garbage is one of the few resources we pay people to take away from us, and he's created a rapidly growing business using waste such as juice pouches and potato chip bags to make lunch boxes, picture frames, placemats and aprons. In Cradle to Cradle, authors William McDonough and Michael Braungart call garbage food and envision an economy that works like the environment, as a closed loop with nothing going to waste. Look at your waste stream and envision new products that can be made from millions of milk cartons, yogurt cups or electronic appliances. Use trash to make furniture, clothing, shopping bags or garden tools.
4. Greening Supply Chains
An efficient supply chain is important for success, and using innovative shipping products such as ExpandOS can reduce waste and save money at the same time. ExpandOS are small, folded paper structures that interlock together in a box to form strong, light packaging that reduces breakage, as well as being greener. Look for opportunities to build sustainability into the entire supply chain. One way to go: Create an efficient green shipping service using eco-friendly packaging products and hybrid vehicles for local and regional deliveries.
5. Taking Green Retail Online
Going online with an internet store is a popular retail strategy, and the trend includes green stores. People often think this is as easy as reserving a domain like GreenChewingGum.com and kicking back to watch sales pile in but, like any store, a web store takes time and effort to put together and attract customers. One option: Buy an OnlyGreen4Me.com Eco-Store to start an e-commerce web store preloaded with thousands of green products. Company founder Pete Green has discovered that experienced businesspeople are well-suited for this opportunity when they have a well-established network and can persuade purchasers to give sustainable products a try.
6. Training and Education
Trained workers will be needed at many levels for the rapid growth ahead in renewable energy, energy efficiency and green building. Ted Reiff has worked for 17 years in building materials salvage as co-founder of the The ReUse People, and he recently started an extensive training program to pave the way for growth in this field. "I finally realized that training others is a better and faster way to accomplish our mission," Reiff says. Look for opportunities in your community to gain expertise, and then retrain people for green jobs by delivering online courses, study materials and on-the-job training.
7. Solar Installation Businesses
Governments are providing large incentives for installing solar systems, offering tax breaks that reduce installation costs to consumers by as much as half and making solar cost-effective in areas with high utility rates. Inventive technologies and financing options are boosting solar businesses as the economy recovers. And with solar a tiny fraction of the overall power mix, there's still a great deal of room to grow. Look for opportunities not just for companies that install rooftop panels, but also for all the associated businesses that monitor solar power, finance installation, market solar technology, generate leads, provide supplies, and maintain systems.
8. Joining the Conserver Economy
The recession has forced homeowners and businesses to be more resourceful, to squeeze all they can from every dollar. This may be a problem for the consumer economy, but it's good news for businesses that are part of the growing "conserver economy" and can help others do more with less. PaperBackSwap helps people save money by trading books rather than buying new ones. Founder Richard Pickering notes that PaperBackSwap has grown during the recession -- even while other businesses have faltered -- with more than 4 million books available. Identify other businesses that can be part of this trend to swap, rent or sell used sporting equipment, bicycles, garden tools or kitchen appliances -- and make money by offering a premium service.
9. Green Franchises
There's a greener version of every business, and for those with resources and experience, the easiest way to get started is often a franchise. You can buy a franchise for a green pizza restaurant (Pizza Fusion), or businesses in solar installation (Solar Universe), energy-efficiency auditing (Pro Energy Consultants), recycling (Free Green Can), green real estate (Green Key), or green lawn care (Clean Air Lawn Care).
10. Green Business Consulting
Although going green can save businesses money and open new doors for them, it's not always easy to move toward sustainability. You can build a business as a sustainability consultant, helping small and midsize businesses adopt greener practices. The first step is getting training from groups such as the Green Business League, Simcoe Consulting and the Earth Savers Institute. The second step is finding clients, and the third step is delivering solid financial results. Start with small steps, such as improving energy efficiency, to produce measurable results and savings.