Do you dream of starting a business that equally protects the environment? Practicing sustainability does not have to be restricted to your lifestyle choices outside work. As a sustainable business owner, you can contribute to change by offering your customers alternatives that help them live greener. In need of some sustainable business ideas to inspire you? Read on,
Green businesses or sustainable businesses focus on creating a positive impact on the environment and within their communities. They achieve this by sourcing sustainable raw materials from local markets, energy efficiency, recycling, and other green practices.
Beyond saving the world, sustainable businesses can also prove very profitable. A survey taken in 2019 reveals that 68% of 1000 US consumers are willing to pay more for eco-friendly products4. This is excellent news for eco-minded or social entrepreneurs.
As more consumers choose to buy green, what kind of sustainable business can you start as more consumers choose to buy green? In this article, we are here to help you make that decision. Read on as we dive into green, eco-friendly, and sustainable business ideas that can help save our planet while providing profit opportunities.
A green business or a sustainable business prioritizes sustainability and seeks to conserve natural resources. Sustainable companies also work to reduce their carbon footprint and negative environmental impact.
A green business aims to be energy-efficient, using less water, raw materials, and energy to produce eco-friendly products and services or support those that do.
A green business seeks to achieve minimal strain on natural resources and impact on climate change. Some eco-friendly companies reuse waste generated from production to make new zero-waste products. For example, they are making eco-friendly flip-flops from old tires.
A business with green ethics could be something as obvious as a solar panel installation that seeks to promote renewable energy and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. It could also prioritize using sustainable materials to create sustainable products and reduce the negative environmental impact of drawing on finite resources throughout production and the supply chain.
As an eco-conscious entrepreneur, your business model will run differently from those pursuing a traditional business model. While the traditional business model will focus on budgets, design processes, product distribution, and so on, the green business model will balance environmental impact and profit.
Related read: What does it mean to go green?
In today’s business world, consumers do not just want to purchase a product because of its price and quality but also because of its impact on the environment. Incredibly, research reveals that just 90 companies are responsible for two-thirds of historical greenhouse gas emissions1. By starting a green business, you can do your bit to make the world a more eco-friendly zone while contributing to a growing market and showing the big-ticket polluters that a better way is more than achievable.
With minor lighting, water, heating, and energy consumption adjustments, a sustainable company seeks to save on previously wasted resources, which can translate directly into cost reduction - both cash and environmental costs. As such, a sustainable business increases productivity while reducing production costs. Furthermore, a sustainable business may access a broader range of funding options, including grants and loans available to boost green small businesses.
Starting a sustainable business can also improve your employees’ physical and mental health. With little changes to the factories and offices, employees can enjoy better physical health both in and out of the workplace. Also, if employees feel like they are making an impact on the environment and the planet, it can provide a sense of purpose, improving morale and productivity.
Green business is good for the environment and people. As you start a sustainable business, you can contribute to repairing and protecting the planet. Let's dive into a few handfuls of green business ideas you can start today. None of these are exhaustive; sometimes, the best ideas come from a walk in the park and conjuring up something entirely new!
The world suffers from billions of tons of textile waste. The effects of fast fashion on the planet include climate change and harmful carbon emissions. Fast fashion is a business model that demands lots of cheap garments made of single-fiber materials that we cannot recycle.
You can consider selling sustainable fashion if you love fashion and the planet. You can open a resale shop in-store or online and bring some old clothing to life. For more info, check out our guide on how to start an online thrift store business. Or perhaps you can go boots and all in and create your own sustainable clothing brand.
If you have sewing skills, you can use recycled materials to make upcycled clothing that you can sell.
Do you have a green thumb? You could start a plant delivery business that sources plants and delivers them to individuals and businesses to improve indoor air quality. Or, you can open a nursery within your local community and specialize in flowers, ornamental house plants, and landscape plants.
You may also partner with local businesses to sell your plants or even sell them to households in your community.
It is essential to plan for shipping and delivery services. You need to package your plants and ensure they survive delivery without damage.
You also need to think about the environmental cost of shipping. To do this, you can consider offsetting by planting trees or delivering by bike if you live in a built-up area with sufficient customers. This eco-friendly business idea is a great way to improve the environment while connecting with your community.
Organic food isn't only good for human health but also good for the economy. Growing your own food is a sustainable business idea that can bring you good profit. Consumers are willing to support buying local food via farmers and producers. You could start a sustainable garden and sell the food products at the local farmers market. You can sell foods like spices and sauces to ensure you make a profit all year round.
Selling local food reduces waste from grocery shopping, packaging, transportation, and overall large-scale production.
Most beauty products contain harmful chemicals and harsh additives, including alcohol, sulfates, fragrances, etc., which can damage the skin in the long run. Also, the production process of these beauty products contributes to waste and damage to the environment. This is why many consumers have switched to more natural, organic, and zero-waste makeup and beauty products.
You can contribute to making organic beauty products that provide healthy skin and a healthy environment. You can turn that DIY beauty care hobby into an eco-friendly business. This will remove the damaging effects of producing beauty products on the environment and boost sustainability.
You can make printing on a piece of paper greener by offering ink-refill services. Ink refilling is not only environmentally conscious but is also a profitable business.
Using paper is necessary. However, you can reduce the number of ink containers in landfills by reusing old ink cartridges. This can save tonnes of non-biodegradable waste and prevent them from accumulating in landfills.
You can start by investigating the competition to spot gaps in the market you can take advantage of. To win market share, offer excellent customer service and ensure your prices are competitive.
Food waste is a dominant environmental, social, and economic challenge. Approximately 1.3 billion tonnes of food produced worldwide is wasted annually. With so much food waste, we also waste resources used for production.
When food waste ends up in landfills, it releases carbon dioxide and methane, which contributes significantly to harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
Starting a composting business is a green idea that can reduce the effects of food waste on the planet and bring in some decent profit.
A composting business can collect food waste from families and other local companies and compost them locally. You can provide a service to pick up compost materials. You can then resell the finished compost product to retailers and local gardeners within your community.
Most toys are made from plastics and other unsustainable materials. Plastics are both harmful to the environment and human health.
Making eco-friendly kid's gifts and toys from sustainable materials is an eco-friendly business that can also bring out your creative side.
Inspiration for eco-friendly options includes returning to natural, sustainable wood, re-versioning nonsustainable favorites using sustainable materials, or getting creative and coming up with something new.
You can start making toys using eco-conscious materials and non-toxic paint and sell them in a local store in your community or set up an online store.
Do you have some knowledge of eco-friendly living? Or sustainable living skills you can share? Perhaps you are a green living expert passionate about promoting sustainable ways of living. You can turn that knowledge into a business that charges for your expertise and helps spread broader eco-friendly living, values, and learning.
You can offer consultancy services to homes, offices, and organizations, offering sustainable solutions on how they can become more environmentally friendly.
For example, you can advise clients on reducing their carbon footprint and sustainable energy consumption during production. You can also help a company implement a recycling program to reduce waste, save electricity, or reduce paper waste in the office. Consider getting a certification to boost your credibility.
Birthday parties, weddings, festivals, and other events generate significant waste. Most of these events use paper plates, beer cans, plastics, and other non-biodegradable materials that end up as waste in landfills.
Starting a sustainable event planning business is one way to help reduce waste and create a business. You can offer customers a smaller carbon footprint for events and get in touch with eco-friendly suppliers to source greener materials.
Your business can stock up with essentials like reusable cups and cutlery from a local or online zero-waste store and avoid the need for all the single-use stuff. You might even find a way to introduce an element of education to help grow awareness for zero waste or other environmental themes.
Consider starting a solar panel installation business when exploring eco-friendly business ideas in the trades. Solar energy is a type of renewable energy, and helping households swap to renewable energy sources reduces C02 emissions and our dependence on fossil fuels.
If you are experienced with electrical installation, you can add the installation of solar panels to your portfolio. You can install solar panels in homes, offices, and environmental organizations.
Energy-saving panels can also help consumers save money on electricity bills. You can also go for certifications that will aid your credibility or consider joining an existing scheme as an apprentice or train up to get you on the way.
Making, selling, and shipping new books contributes significantly to carbon emissions that are harmful to our environment. One of the simpler green business ideas you can start is to sell used books.
Not only will you be doing our planet a favor, but you will also be encouraging the growth of a reading and learning culture. You can open a used bookstore, whether physical or online, and sell used books.
One of the green business ideas that can bring you a decent amount of profit while protecting the environment is selling eco-friendly pet products.
American consumers spend billions on their pets every year. This is coupled with a large amount of waste. You can contribute to environmental preservation by selling sustainable products made from upcycled fabrics, bamboo, natural homemade tears, and so on to eco-conscious consumers.
Another related idea is producing and selling your own organic pet food brand, naturally made from more sustainable ingredients than the mass-produced supermarket varieties.
Many hair salons use toxic chemicals and other disposables, including plastics and paper.
With thousands of plastics thrown out from hair salons, setting up an environmentally friendly salon goes a long way to reducing waste.
You can open a beauty salon that focuses on using refillable green products, eco-friendly hair treatment products, zero waste, all-natural shampoos, and spa treatments. You’ll also need to consider ways to use energy and water sustainably.
Revenue in the Smart Home Appliances sector is expected to show an annual growth rate of 14.69% in 2026. Also, the number of active households is projected to grow to 339.6 million users in the same year5. With this success, it means that thousands of consumers will prioritize smart tech and will be in search of smart home technicians for proper advice and installation.
Knowing this, you can start a green business as a home technician and help consumers install energy-efficient home appliances, from smart lights, thermostats, sprinklers, etc. You can also sell energy-efficient lighting, such as LED bulbs, and help homes make the switch.
Simply helping households swap to energy-efficient lighting can help your customers save energy and money while creating a worthwhile, sustainable business at the same time.
Today, consumers are moving towards sustainable living and are more interested in eating local organically grown foods. Consumers are also moving fast towards vegetarian and vegan meals and eating less meat to help the environment.
Suppose you love to provide satisfaction to consumers through delicious meals or the idea of chemical-free healthy meals. In that case, one of the best green business ideas you can start is to provide organic catering services to consumers. You can start providing catering services at local events in your community and begin to expand to other locations.
Many cleaning products contain toxic chemicals that can be hazardous to families. These cleaning products also come in plastic bottles, which end up as trash in landfills.
Another great eco-friendly business idea you can start is a green cleaning business. Many families are looking to provide a safe, clean, and eco-friendly environment.
You can start your own cleaning company, using only zero-waste cleaning products and implementing sustainable practices in your company. Sustainable cleaning products make a great option to sell to families within your local community. You can use a subscription-based model where your customers can order a refill - some innovators are even delivering refills by bicycles in built-up areas.
Millions of plastic shopping bags are used for grocery shopping in the United States. We all know that plastics have a negative environmental impact, including climate change.
You can save the planet while earning a profit by making reusable shopping bags made from recycled materials. To give your bags an edge, you want to add special features, including pockets and waterproof eco-friendly fabrics that are durable and stylish. You can sell them at local markets or online on Etsy or similar.
Cycling is much more planet-friendly than driving. It has a smaller carbon footprint than driving and even walking.
With this knowledge, you can repair old bicycles, give them a makeover and sell them on, or service existing ones to extend their life. This encourages more people to buy bikes, reduces carbon emissions, and promotes healthy living.
To create modern, stylish, and eco-friendly furniture for consumers, you may consider refurbishing some old furniture. Sadly, thousands of tons of furniture end up in landfills, contributing to waste.
You can start up a furniture refurbishing business to keep old furniture out of landfills. You will need to set up a workshop, get some tools, and even buy some old pieces of furniture to do up. However, in the long run, an in-demand sustainable furniture brand could do really quite nicely in the long run.
Do you love creating content on eco-friendly living? This could be a great business opportunity for you. To promote a green lifestyle, we need to create awareness of how people can start the journey constantly.
You can set up a publishing company with a group of sustainability experts and create and publish content. You can create e-books and magazines on eco-friendly practices and sell them. Check out our list of zero-waste influencers for some inspiration about what others are doing in this space.
Perhaps you're not exactly interested in starting your own green business, but you want to make some impact - and money. You can start investing in green projects. You can turn to green finance. This focuses on supporting local community projects that benefit the community and environment. Green finance also provides educational opportunities and funding projects supporting local ecology.
You can invest in various environmental causes like climate change and plastic pollution. You are sure to have lots of businesses interested in partnering with you. Furthermore, depending on available funds, you could even partner up and become a green venture capitalist.
Construction can be sustainable. You can run a construction company that makes all the difference on the planet. You can use recyclable materials and employ sustainable methods or champion natural building, both of which reduce waste. Use energy-efficient materials and ensure your construction company has an eco-friendly structure from top to bottom.
Many working-class parents and even individuals may be too busy to clean their homes. You can market yourself as a green housekeeper offering services like cleaning the bathroom and kitchen, sweeping, and dusting.
We know that many cleaning products contain toxic chemicals that are hazardous to humans and the environment. You can market yourself as a housekeeper using eco-friendly alternatives. Since you will need to go to your client’s homes, you also want to build a trustworthy reputation.
Many companies use technological hardware for the day-to-day running of their business. With constant use, they get worn out and thrown in landfills. E-waste can take many years to decompose and releases toxic chemicals into the environment.
Manufacturers produce a massive 50 million tons of electronic waste every year3, and sadly, only 20% is recycled.
You can help reduce electronic waste by giving them a second life. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advises electrical recyclers to get a certification to stand out.
In today's world of technological advancement, creating apps has become much easier. Our final green business idea is designing an app that helps individuals and environmentally conscious businesses adopt a greener lifestyle. What's great is that the green tech and sustainability market is expanding and is projected to grow to $51.09 billion by 20292.
You can create apps that help reduce food waste, offer tips on the best environmental practices, or design apps that signpost recycling services and options for composting food waste. Whatever your preferred niche, get creative with your app and provide valuable services that help you stand out and your customers achieve a more sustainable lifestyle.
Now that you have more ideas about the different types of eco-friendly businesses you can start, let’s go through a few simple steps to help you get started:
As with starting any business, the first thing you need to do is determine what your product or service will be. Research the market and look for existing gaps that you can fill. Investigate the competition and find out how to make your product or service. Finding a unique selling point will generate more demand for your eco-friendly product or service and help you differentiate yourself from the competition.
Once you know what your product or service will be, the next step is to put it into writing. A business plan typically outlines the objectives of a business and how it plans to achieve them. A plan outlining various business aspects will help you gather and structure your thoughts and clarify a roadmap to push forward.
The plan should include details like your company’s analysis, competitor analysis, marketing plan, financial plan, and so on. Further, it should include your plans for environmental sustainability.
The next step is to register your business. Determine what type of legal structure your business will operate on. Will you be running a non-profit organization? Will it be a partnership or a limited liability company? You also need to figure out how you want to finance your business. Will you be using your savings? Will you need to take out a small business loan or apply for a grant?
Before launching your business, consider what you need to achieve to prepare. You may need to acquire certified green raw materials/products, hire employees, or partner with experts in your field. You may also need to create a working model or initial prototypes to sell your products or services to customers. Create a marketing and advertising plan, start selling your products, and reach out to potential customers.
Consumers want to be sure you are credible and legitimately green. Consider getting as many certifications as you can. Some of these certifications include:
You can look out for as many certification programs that match your products or services.
Now more than ever, our planet needs environment-conscious business owners and consumers. Starting or becoming a sustainable business will not only protect the earth but will also increase your revenue. You can go through our list of eco-friendly companies above for ideas that can make a difference in the business world.
Ekwurzel, B., Boneham, J., Dalton, M.W. (2017) The rise in global atmospheric CO2, surface temperature, and sea level from emissions traced to major carbon producers.
Fortune Business Insights (April 2022) Green Technology and Sustainability Market Size, Share & COVID-19 Impact Analysis
World Economic Forum (January 2019) A New Circular Vision for Electronics - Time for a Global Reboot
CGS 2019 U.S. Consumer Sustainability Survey
Statista (November 2021) Smart Appliances
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.