Not only can a sustainable business with an eco-conscious focus do its part to combat climate change, but it also happens to be what savvy consumers are looking for these days.
A recent study says 87 percent of Americans will purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they cared about, and 63 percent are hopeful that businesses will take the lead to drive social and environmental change.
With that in mind, these sustainable business ideas are great if you want to shrink your carbon footprint, create jobs, and of course, make money.
Here are the best sustainable business ideas
We’ve done the research and put together a list of the best green business ideas out there backed by extensive research and consumer behavior trends. Take a look below.
1. Green financial planning
Also known as sustainable financial planners, sustainable wealth advisors, and even socially responsible investment advisors —green financial planners help their clients pick a portfolio of investments that cater to their Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) goals.
In other words, they help clients manage their money and choose investments that align with their beliefs. For instance, by avoiding companies tied to fossil fuels.
As a knowledge-based service, this is one of the green business ideas that has minimal start-up costs. That being said, it’s important to know that it’s a government-regulated field with specific requirements including registration with the SEC or your state regulator.
2. Consignment store for luxury goods
Merchants have sold upscale secondhand clothes and accessories since the Renaissance era, and today it’s a flourishing sustainable business idea. In fact, the secondhand clothing market in the U.S. is projected to more than triple in value in the next 10 years.
As a consignment retailer, you agree to give a percentage of an item’s sale to the seller (i.e., the owner of the Chanel bag) after you sell it for them. And the eco-friendly upside is that, unlike traditional retail stores, you don’t need to purchase inventory.
By 2025, global e-commerce is poised to explode further, by over a trillion dollars. And all that online shipping will require branded packaging, not to mention the packaging needs of your local brick-and-mortar retailers.
The EPA says discarded packaging makes up a major part of solid waste. Increasingly, plastic bags are banned at the state-law level. So as more companies of all sizes look for sustainable, biodegradable, and eco-friendly ways to send their products to consumers, an eco-packaging company is a prescient green business opportunity.
4. Organic spa or salon
Consumers are increasingly reaching for beauty products that limit their environmental impact, according to a trend report from Whole Foods Market. A beauty salon or spa that offers only clean beauty products and uses sustainable practices will definitely appeal to this growing market.
Also called “natural” or “all-natural” spas and salons, these beauty businesses can be based in a retail space or set up as a mobile service, and they can be as broad or niche as you’d like. You could offer traditional spa services like massage, facials, and body treatments. Or focus more on the salon side of things, specializing in hair, makeup, and mani-pedis.
5. Green garden planning and landscaping
As noted landscape designer Ten Eyck said recently, “With the pandemic and climate change looming, interacting with and prioritizing native plants at home is becoming more important to people and the planet.”
But most of us don’t know which plants will flourish where, and which will attract our local bees and migrating birds.
Green garden planning and landscaping are timely sustainable business ideas. Whether it’s helping clients plan a drought-resistant garden of native plants, or cleaning up and maintaining their gardens using sustainable practices that take up less of a carbon footprint, this is a much-needed service.
Read our guide on how to start a landscaping business here!
6. Upcycled furniture seller
Much in the same way that houses get flipped on HGTV, there’s now a robust market for flipping and upcycling furniture. On TikTok, upcycler Christina Clericuzio transforms old dressers and nightstands into pricey, Anthropologie look-alikes and sells them for hefty profits.
By contrast, Clinton Avery Tharpe merely refreshes discarded old chairs and sofas by removing their dated skirts and cleaning them. Add some new photos with great lighting and bam! These upcycled beauties sell in a flash.
The sustainability and profitability of upcycling furniture are undeniable. People toss their old furniture curbside, and they head for the landfill. As an upcycler, you rescue these items, give them a second life, and resell them for profit.
7. Eco-friendly cleaning
Stepping into a freshly cleaned house where every surface is sparkling (and nothing smells of harsh cleansers) is one of life’s small pleasures. As the owner of an eco-friendly cleaning business, you can thrill clients in private homes or businesses (or both) by using only green cleaning products.
Start-up costs for a green cleaning service are small, helped by the fact that it’s a de facto mobile service. Industry publication Cleaning Business Today suggests you obtain local green certification where possible to lend your new business credibility and trust.
Read our guide to starting a cleaning business!
8. Organic catering
According to a Pew research study, a majority of Americans believe there are health benefits in organic foods. Delicious cuisine with a lower carbon footprint will be a hit with the health- and-environmentally-conscious among us who need catering for an upcoming event.
In organic food catering, also called natural food catering, there are many subgenres to explore that could be missing from your local area. Vegan cooking, comfort foods that cater to those with food restrictions, or crowd-pleasers for kids’ birthday parties are but a few such niches.
9. Tech refurbishing
Every day, we throw out 130,000 computers in the U.S. alone. As for cell phones, we purchase around 100 million of those yearly but recycle only 20 percent of them. These are troubling figures, but they also represent a sustainable business idea: technology refurbishing.
The model behind opening a tech refurbishment business is simple: take secondhand computers and laptops, as well as used-but-still-good smartphones, and repair and resell them.
You could also choose to specialize solely in computer repair: despite the ascendency of the smartphone, home computers aren’t going anywhere.
10. Sustainable event planning
If you loved planning your wedding, or maybe arranging the big events at your former job, then operating a sustainable event planning company might be the perfect fit for you.
Why do sustainable events matter? According to EventMB, an online event management publication, the average conference attendee creates a shocking four pounds of waste each day.
Sustainable event planning focuses not only on the typical event planning pillars like budgets and floorplans but also on reducing waste and identifying green venues. And it helps clients with their goals and policies toward sustainability, too. It’s gratifying work, and great for the planet.
Tips for branding a sustainable business
You’ll want to create a brand identity that properly communicates your environmentally conscious values to potential customers. Here are a few tips:
- Opt for a fresh, and clean color palette using color combinations like white and green, orange and yellow, and other colors found in nature
- Be selective with your branded assets so as not to create too much waste
- Minimal logos are a great option for reflecting the calm we often feel in nature
- Use a logo symbol that tells people a little bit about your green business
So many sustainable business ideas to choose from!
As a green entrepreneur, finding the right sustainable business ideas represents many admirable goals—creating jobs and making a difference in the world.
Helen Racanelli is a freelance journalist and contributor to the Good News Blog by Goodside. Her work has also appeared in Toronto Star, Chatelaine, Today’s Parent and CBC News. She is a fashion history buff, and also an adherent of the growing Slow Fashion movement, which aims for mindful, sustainable choices when buying apparel.