Lately, it seems like everyone is starting a side business. The benefits are obvious: you can pursue your passions and earn extra cash without giving up the security of a full-time job. But all this competition makes it harder to succeed. To stand out, you need something that sets you apart from the crowd.
A green business can be just that. These eco-friendly businesses focus on sustainability both in the products they provide and in the way they do business. They reduce waste, promote renewable energy, and minimize their carbon footprint.
This is a feature customers want. More than one-third of all consumers, especially younger ones, are willing to pay around 25% more for green products and services. By making your business eco-friendly, you can both boost your profits and help the earth — a win-win.
Green Small-Business Ideas
There are many kinds of sustainable businesses. Some make eco-friendly products. Others provide services to help people live sustainably. And some are regular businesses that aim to reduce their environmental impact through practices like energy efficiency, recycling, and reuse.
In short, would-be entrepreneurs can put a green spin on just about any business startup idea that appeals to them. If you’re interested in starting an eco-friendly side business, here are 20 green business ideas to consider.
1. Sustainable Landscaping
Traditional landscaping services aren’t very kind to the earth. They pollute the land and water with harmful pesticides and fertilizers. Their gas-powered tools spew out air pollution and carbon emissions. And the plants they recommend are often heavy users of water and not native to the area.
As a green landscaper, you can provide a cleaner service for eco-conscious homeowners. Eco-friendly landscapers replace manicured lawns with native plants and other hardy species that can stay healthy with less water, pesticide, and fertilizer.
They also limit air pollution by using battery-powered lawn mowers and other garden tools. And they replace harmful chemicals with natural compost and pest control methods. Check out the Ecological Landscape Alliance to learn more.
Speaking of compost, many individuals and businesses would love to use this natural method to waste into healthy, natural fertilizer. But sadly, they lack either the space or the time to make compost at home or on their premises.
What’s a difficulty for them could be a business opportunity for you. Offer your services to collect food waste or yard waste and add it to your home composter. You can earn money both for picking up the waste and for selling the finished compost to local gardeners.
3. Eco-Friendly Trash Disposal
Food waste isn’t the only waste people have trouble getting rid of in a sustainable way. Large items like furniture and appliances can also pose a problem. Local trash pickup doesn’t always take these large items. As a result, they often end up dumped on roadsides or in streams.
If you own a truck, you can reduce this mess and make money at the same time. Offer to pick up unwanted items and haul them away for a fee. Your clients could include local businesses and neighbors who are moving or remodeling their homes.
If the items you pick up are still usable, you can sell or donate them. Recycle anything that can be recycled, and dispose properly of hazardous waste. Everything else can go to the landfill for proper disposal, rather than ending up as litter.
4. Green Cleaning Business
Busy people are often happy to spend money on a cleaning service. If you want to start one, make it stand out from the competition by using only eco-friendly cleaning products.
Green cleaning products are free from toxic chemicals that can harm people and pets. They often contain natural ingredients. And they contain less plastic packaging than conventional cleaners. You can make your own or buy products that carry the Green Seal label.
Your green cleaning business can clean homes, businesses, or both. Making it green will allow you to charge $5 to $10 more per hour than other cleaning companies.
5. Solar Panel Installation
Did you know installing solar panels is one of the fastest-growing careers in the U.S.? More and more homeowners and businesses are turning to solar energy as a way to fight climate change and save on utility bills at the same time.
Getting started in this field requires training. You can take courses at a technical school or community college or apprentice with an experienced installer. It takes between a month and a year to learn the job. Also, some states require a license for solar installers.
But once you learn the ropes, this can be a lucrative field. Installers can earn over $22 per hour with no formal education beyond high school.
6. Secondhand or Consignment Shop
Eco-conscious consumers love to shop secondhand. Buying their clothes at thrift shops and consignment stores saves them money, keeps waste out of the landfill, and reduces the environmental costs of fast fashion. It’s a win-win-win.
To cater to these green shoppers, open a secondhand shop. You can get started with just the unworn clothes in your own closet and those of your friends and family. Yard sales, Freecycle, and bulk clothing lots on eBay are also good sources of stock.
Clothes aren’t the only thing you can sell secondhand. Consider expanding your inventory to include used furniture, toys, tools, or fitness gear. These are all items people often discard in like-new condition, which is what buyers prefer.
7. Used Bookstore
For a book lover, a used bookstore is like a little piece of heaven. The prices are much better than Amazon’s, and it’s great fun to hunt for hidden treasures on the shelves.
Owning a used bookstore can be even more fun than shopping in one. You’re surrounded by books and by fellow readers, and you actually make money doing it. Plus you have the satisfaction of keeping literature out of the landfill.
The biggest cost of running a used bookstore isn’t the books. You can pick them up cheap at library sales, yard sales, and thrift shops. It’s the rent that’s costly. However, you can avoid this expense by selling your books online through sites like Amazon, eBay, or AbeBooks.
8. Repair or Refurbish Electronics
Many people today could never get by without their smartphones, computers, and other tech toys. That’s why it’s so frustrating when they break. If you’re tech-savvy, you could do your neighbors a good turn — and make some money — by fixing them.
There are two ways to make a business from gadget repair. You can fix things for a fee, or you can collect people’s broken devices and fix them up for resale. Many people would rather give a non-working gadget to someone who can repair it than deal with the hassle of recycling it.
Of course, there are bound to be some devices you can’t fix. But in those cases, you can at least ensure this hazardous e-waste gets properly recycled.
9. Repair Bicycles
Riding a bike produces lower carbon emissions than just about any other form of transportation. But bicycle parts wear out over time and need repair, and not all riders have the skills to fix their own bikes. This creates a business opportunity for someone who does.
Bike repair is an easy business to start up. You can work out of your garage, doing tune-ups and replacing parts. As a sideline, you can sell bicycle parts online. If you have the space, you can also make money buying old bikes and fixing them up to sell.
10. Refurbish Furniture
Americans discard over 12 millions tons of furniture each year, and over 80% of it ends up in landfills. Yet many of these old chairs and tables are still in usable condition. All they need is a fresh coat of paint or new upholstery to make them look like new.
All you need to get started refurbishing furniture is some basic skills, a good set of tools, and a place to work. You can pick up discarded pieces off the curb or hunt them down at yard sales and junkyards. Fix them up, then sell them at flea markets or online.
For a bigger challenge, try making upcycled furniture. Break down damaged chairs, tables, and dressers and reassemble them into new pieces. For instance, a chair with a broken back could become an end table. An old coffee table with a broken leg could become a headboard.
11. Sustainable Farming
Locally grown, organic produce is popular with eco-conscious buyers. If you have a home vegetable garden, you can make money selling your wares. It will probably cost only a couple of hundred dollars to set up a booth at your local farmers market. You can also sell to restaurants or start a subscription service among your neighbors.
For the best profits, focus on crops that are worth more per pound. Mushrooms are popular for medicinal as well as culinary use. Fresh herbs and microgreens are also high-value crops. You can also make money from your green thumb by selling live plants.
To keep your business going throughout the year, sell products made from your home-grown produce. Examples include pickles, sauces, spice mixes, teas, essential oils, and herbal sachets.
12. Make & Sell Green Products
Fresh produce isn’t the only thing you can sell to your neighbors. You can find buyers for all kinds of green and organic products you make at home from sustainable materials. Examples include:
- Personal care and beauty products, such as soap, shampoo, lotion, or body scrub
- Natural, nontoxic cleaning products for every room in the house
- Soy or beeswax candles
- Pet products like shampoos, treats, and toys
- Eco-friendly kids’ toys made from natural and nontoxic materials rather than cheap plastic
- Reusable alternatives to disposable items and kitchen products, such as wax cloth wraps, shopping bags, or produce bags
- Craft items such as clothing, jewelry, or artwork made from upcycled materials
You can sell your wares at the farmers’ market, at local craft fairs, or through Etsy and other online markets.
If you have enough room on your property, a beehive could be a good business investment. Bees are useful pollinators, and they produce all kinds of products you can sell.
For starters, raw honey and honeycomb can fetch higher prices than mass-produced honey sold in stores. The honey and beeswax also serve as materials for a variety of homemade goods, such as beauty products, soaps, and candles.
14. Sustainable Event Planning
Big events, such as weddings and business conferences, can have a hefty environmental footprint. Between food, decor, and transportation, they produce a lot of waste and carbon emissions.
Eco-conscious event planners help customers avoid these problems. They plan events with eco-friendly venues, food, and other materials. They can use digital invitations or event apps to reduce paper use and even help participants buy carbon offsets for their travel.
To get started as a sustainable event planner, first pick a specialty. Decide if you’d like to plan weddings, private parties, or corporate engagements. Then get to work learning all about that type of event and ways to make it greener.
15. Green Content Production
One of the best things you can do for the environment is get other people involved. Through a blog, podcast, or YouTube channel, you can spread the word about environmental issues. For instance, you can teach people about:
- How to reduce their carbon footprint
- How to lead a zero-waste lifestyle
- Choosing eco-friendly beauty or home products
- Lobbying Congress and corporations on environmental issues
You can make money from your content through advertising, affiliate marketing, or sponsorships from green businesses. And you can use it to support other money-making ventures, like writing and selling e-books or public speaking.
16. Organic Catering or Meal Service
An essential part of all those green events is eco-friendly catering. Green caterers use locally grown and organic ingredients. They offer vegetarian and vegan options and free-range meats. And they minimize waste by composting scraps and using reusable dishes and table linens.
Another way to share organic food is through a meal delivery service. By delivering fresh ingredients to people’s doors, you can reduce the need for excess packaging and transportation. Seasonal, local, and organic ingredients can also make your service greener.
17. Eco-Friendly Bed & Breakfast
If you have a big home in a tourist-friendly area, you can make money by running a bed and breakfast. And if you market your B&B as eco-friendly, you can set it apart from the competition and attract eco-conscious travelers.
There are many ways to make your B&B sustainable. You can:
- Provide facilities for recycling and composting all kinds of waste
- Use water-saving fixtures in the bathrooms and reuse towels
- Serve locally grown and organic food, including vegetarian and vegan options
- Furnish rooms with sustainably made furniture and decor
- Heat, cool, and power your home with renewable energy.
- Offer eco-friendly tours of local outdoor spaces
18. Eco-Travel Planning
Traditional vacations can have big environmental costs. These include carbon emissions from transportation, waste from disposable products, and damage to wilderness areas. A growing number of travelers are looking for greener options.
As an eco-travel planner, you can guide them to lower-carbon transportation, eco-friendly hotels, and activities that don’t damage the natural environment. And you can help them offset the carbon footprint of the whole trip.
Eco-travel destinations can include wilderness areas, urban settings, and tropical islands. To learn more, check out the guidelines from the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. It offers training programs to help you get started in this field.
19. Bicycle Tours
Instead of helping travelers plan eco-friendly adventures, why not take them on one yourself? Lead bike tours around your area, helping travelers explore local destinations while keeping their carbon emissions to a minimum.
Your bike tour business can focus on any landscape that appeals to you. You can lead travelers through city streets, along quiet country lanes, or down rugged mountain trails. Just make sure you provide the right type of bicycle for the adventures you have in mind.
Modern fast fashion is incredibly destructive to the environment. The best way to fight back against it is to have fewer clothes and wear them longer. A good tailor can help with that by repairing worn garments so they don’t need replacement as often.
As a tailor, you can make clients’ wardrobes more sustainable in other ways too. You can alter secondhand clothing finds to fit them better. And you can create custom-made, high-quality clothes that will last them a long time, using sustainable materials and methods.
There are many reasons to make your side business a green business. It improves your appeal for younger and more eco-conscious shoppers. It can help strengthen your community. And it’s a way to do your part against environmental problems like climate change and plastic waste.
To turn your eco-friendly business idea into a reality, start by looking for a need that you can fill. Once you have an idea, develop a business plan. It should include details like the supplies you need, your funding sources, and your plans for pricing products and marketing your business.
From there, you can move on to the details of registering and funding your business, getting necessary licenses, and setting up shop.