"We tend to think that water doesn't cost anything so we don't have to protect it," says Steve Maxwell, managing director at TechKnowledgey Strategic Group, a water industry management consulting firm. "The truth is that the planet has a fixed amount of water, while the population and industry continue to explode." As that fixed resource grows scarce, the need for conservation measures increases.One fruitful area is irrigation, says Maxwell, who points to:
• Water reuse and reclamation programs for city parks and golf courses
• Smart irrigation systems, whose automation increases efficiency
• Consulting firms that help organizations implement and monitor efficient lawn-care technologies
ECOBLUE CUBE: Likemany great thinkers before them, green entrepreneurs are finding inspiration in the loo. That's because the bathroom--where the toilet uses 27 percent of household water-- is the largest consumer of indoor water. In 2005, Damian Cox, 45, founder and CEO of Tucson, Arizona-based Ecoblue, introduced the Ecoblue Cube to the United States. The odor-eating cube--whose bacteria dissolves buildup--converts any urinal into a virtually flush-free affair. (One flush daily will suffice.) Reporting sales of $100,000 in the past 12months, Cox is currently expanding distribution to Canada,Mexico and South America. "Rather than create expensive technologies to generate new water, the best approach is to conserve the assets we already have," he says. "That way themoney is better spent and it creates incredible opportunities for entrepreneurs and inventors."
In 2007, themost pressing environmental concern for consumers was global warming. This year, energy and resource issues topped worry lists, according to the "2008 ImagePower Green Brands Survey."New Energy Finance reports that investors are also paying attention: Clean energy investment in 2007 reached $148.4 billion, up 60 percent from 2006.
GOGREENSOLAR.COM: "We believe that grid parity--where solar costsmeet the costs of buying energy fromthe electric company--will happen sooner rather than later,"saysDeepPatel, founderofLosAngelesbased online clean energy technologies retailer GoGreenSolar.com.Patel advises:
• Clean energy is regional: Think solar in sunny climates like California, geothermal in Nevada and wind in blustery states like Oklahoma.
• Big corporations will tend to hire established, renewable energy companies. "But no one's paying as much attention to smaller businesses and homeowners that want to go solar," says Patel. "For entrepreneurs, that represents the biggest untappedmarket."
• Consumers want help "taking a staged approach to going solar."AtGoGreenSolar, a "Plug N Play Solar Power Kit" starts consumers off with two solar panels they can build onto later. Patel's prediction: More suchmodular solutions will become available next year.
Will the organic foods category perish in a sour economy? Not according toHolly Givens, public affairs advisor for the Organic Trade Association. "The gap between organic and nonorganic prices is closing," she says. "So when consumers do their comparison shopping, they often see a difference of a few pennies--and they're deciding it's worth it."
OSCAR & BELLE: In nonfood organics, apparel presents opportunities by the yard.When Anna Gustafson, 28, founded her Minneapolis-based green apparel line for babies, Oscar & Belle, in 2007, she knew organic cotton's higher price tag wouldn't appeal to every newmom. "I found the additional cost wasmore palatable when it came to gift giving," says Gustafson.Her clothing, available in 35 stores and online (oscarandbelle.com), runs fromsize newborn to 2T, and Gustafson projects sales of $200,000 this year. Gustafson's advice to those aspiring to break into organic clothing: "It's not enough to offer clothing that's green if it's not well-designed. The bottomline? You have to create beautiful things."
FOR A GREENER WORKPLACE:
Minimize paper waste and recycle what you use. Do an energy audit.Allow for telecommuting. Provide incentives for employees to use public transportation. Reduce business travel. Buy recycled products. Rent or lease equipment.
GOING GREEN GAINS FAVOR:
When consumers know a business is mindful of the environment:
• Just over 54 percent say they'll bemore likely to buy its products or services. • 31 percent say it makes them more likely to buy stock in the company. (Source: Natural Marketing Institute)
BUT BEWARE THE BACKLASH:
Green fatigue is on the rise: Of those who recall seeing green advertising (and a solid majority do), 12.1 percent say they never believe the green claims therein; 65.3 percent say they sometimes do, according to a 2008 survey by Burst Media.
To spread the word without igniting skepticism, consider foregoing traditional advertising, says Steve French, managing partner at the NationalMarketing Institute.Of those people who want to learn about a company's environmental activities, 54 percent of general U.S. consumers (and 60 percent of lifestyle of health and sustainability, or LOHAS,consumers) prefer to get information from a TV, radio or print news story, according to an NMI survey. "Focus on attracting media attention," says French, "whether through hosting or participating in innovative green events or simply by building relationships with media sources."