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Go Green Want to help the planet--and make a profit? Try one of our 10 green business ideas on for size.

By Glenn Croston

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Go Green

Green Bed-and-Breakfast

Knowledge to start: Innkeeping, sustainability
Capital Required: $10,000 to $99,000
Timing to Start: Months
Special Challenges: Investing in renovation, hard work

A typical hotel has a negative impact on the environment. Today, a new type of B&B is springing up: the green B&B. One key step to creating a green B&B is creating a green home in which to base it. Most traditional B&B owners do some renovation when getting started, spending between $35,000 and $50,000 per guest room; green B&B owners should expect similar expenses.

To further "green" your inn, buy green products with minimal packaging; clean with environmentally friendly products; recycle--with recycling bins in the guest rooms, too; and buy and serve local organic and fair-trade foods. Plan a water-wise garden; provide sheets and towels made of all-natural fibers; use compact fluorescent light bulbs; and ask guests to turn off lights and the TV when not in use and to conserve water. A green gift shop is a good way to earn additional money.

Travel agents and online travel resources are keeping tabs on green hotels and B&Bs to target the growing number of customers looking for environmentally friendly travel destinations. Going green gives your B&B a unique quality so it can compete.

Resources: sageblossom.com; Start Your Own Bed & Breakfast (Entrepreneur Press)

Go Green

Green Startup Finance Broker

Knowledge to start: Finance/business experience and connections
Capital Required: Under $10,000
Timing to start: Months
Special Challenges: Finding companies with solid, competitive business plans

Emerging eco-entrepreneurs have vision--but sometimes lack cash. Green finance brokers work with green entrepreneurs to access capital from sources including venture capitalists, banks, angels (wealthy individual investors), grants and philanthropic groups. You can match entrepreneurs with large corporations that have money to invest in the development of new business ideas or create a peer-to-peer system to help individual lenders and borrowers connect directly. At Prosper.com, for example, borrowers make their credit reports available and describe what the loan is for, and lenders bid loans at varying interest rates based on how much risk the lender thinks the borrower presents. To succeed, you need an address book full of connections to people who can provide a wide range of financing options. You need to be creative financially, have business experience and provide feedback to entrepreneurs to sharpen their business plans and pitches. You also will help venture capitalists, angels and others by pre-screening investment opportunities and promoting only those that make sense. In addition to your fees, you might request an equity stake in the companies for which you find financing.
Resources: greenbiz.com; newresourcebank.com

Go Green

Green Advertising Agency

Knowledge to start: Graphic design, communication, media, sustainability
Capital Required: $10,000 to $99,000
Timing to start: Months
Special Challenges: Avoiding greenwashing; securing business in a competitive field

The green market is growing and becoming increasingly diverse as it goes mainstream. Reaching the right group with the right message can be a challenge. At the same time, some consumers are becoming skeptical of companies claiming to be green. Ad businesses delivering messages that can cut through the noise will do well.

New York City ad agency Green Team has clients that include ecotourism destinations, nonprofits and progressive brands. Green Team develops communications in a variety of ways, helps clients form partnerships and performs green audits to make sure client companies are not "greenwashing" themselves but are truly devoted to sustainability. Businesses and others needing ads are often attracted to small, nimble advertising companies. A green ad agency can start as a small, homebased venture, with the internet helping to level the playing field. Local companies are a good a place to start looking for clients. Use a little guerrilla marketing to get your message out.

Resources: greenteamusa.com; lohas.com

Go Green

Ecotourism Travel Guide

Knowledge to start: Ecotourism travel
Capital Required: Under $10,000
Timing to start: Weeks to months
Special Challenges: Gaining firsthand knowledge of ecotourism destinations

According to the International Ecotourism Society, ecotourism--"responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people"--has grown between 20 percent and 34 percent every year since the 1990s. In the United States alone, ecotourism is a $77 billion industry that includes eco-volunteering, adventure sports, wilderness adventure trips, nature travel and education.

Many people seek out green tourism, but it's not easy to use the internet or a brochure to tell which travel destinations genuinely protect nature. This creates the need for a knowledgeable guide who can organize genuinely green trips. With firsthand knowledge from traveling to eco-destinations yourself, you can provide the best experience for your clients.

Don't just sell tickets or book reservations--be an ecotourism guru, investigating every facet of destinations as well as their impact on natural systems and native peoples. Inform people about the difference between greenwashed mass tour-ism and ecotourism that has a genuinely positive environmental impact.

Resources: ecometro.com; greenopia.com

Go Green

Green Home Remodeling

Knowledge to start: Building, redecorating, interior design, sustainable materials
Capital Required: $10,000 to $99,000
Timing to start: Months
Special Challenges: Preconceptions about green building and remodeling

As the popularity of green building grows, remodeling work is going green as well. Helping homeowners increase their energy efficiency is key, but people also want attractive homes without the negative environmental impacts of many building materials. Appearance, cost, time and reliability are always important remodeling factors. Green remodeling also considers how materials are made, where they come from and how they might affect the occupants' health.

Going green helps differentiate your business, carving out a distinct image to compete in challenging economic times. Prove what you can do by starting with small projects and talking to clients about the benefits of a green approach. And of course, word-of-mouth is key.

Green remodelers doing major construction should consult or work with experienced green architects and build a network of subcontractors who work well with green materials. Another opportunity with green remodeling is to find a creative use for materials and fixtures that would otherwise end up at the dump.

Resources: nari.org; organicarchitect.com

Go Green

Green Business Consulting

Knowledge to start: Experience in building business and in sustainability
Capital Required: Under $10,000
Timing to start: Years (of experience)
Special Challenges: Getting the consulting business started

Green business consultants have experience dealing with the risks and opportunities of the green world and can help companies translate their desire to do the right thing into a business reality. Many of the issues businesses face in going green are core strategic issues that cut across industries.

New businesses often need assistance in creating a business plan, financing, marketing and designing products. Large businesses need strategic consulting on how environmental issues affect the direction of the company. You can specialize in improving the energy efficiency of buildings and transportation and helping businesses get access to renewable energy. You can find opportunities for businesses to reduce waste and use resources more effectively, cutting costs to improve their bottom line. You can specialize in regulatory challenges, helping businesses ensure that they comply. Finally, you can help businesses not just avoid problems but also make the most of the new opportunities that environmental issues create.

Resources: Green to Gold by Daniel C. Esty & Andrew S. Winston; Mid-Course Correction by Ray Anderson

Go Green

Green Cleaning Services

Knowledge to start: Janitorial, cleaning
Capital Required: Under $10,000
Timing to start: Weeks
Special Challenges: Overcoming customers' belief that tough cleaning requires tough chemicals

Cleaning homes and buildings can involve a multitude of chemicals that pose a risk to our health and the environment. With people and businesses working hard to green their lives, there's a growing demand to have buildings cleaned without toxic or irritating chemicals.

While all buildings can benefit from green cleaning services, a particular niche for your business is the growing number of LEED-certified buildings. Constructed using environmentally friendly materials, these buildings require special care. If cleaned in the usual way, the value of greening might easily be wasted.

Green cleaning avoids any chemicals that are skin irritants, toxic or harmful to the environment. Some cleaning services specialize in nothing but green cleaning; others provide it as a premium service. Going 100 percent green helps capture the upper end of the market.

Currently, no special certification is required to be an eco-cleaner, although there are services that provide voluntary certification. Providing services beyond basic cleaning may help your green cleaning service stand out. For example, in addition to green toilet cleaning, how about fixing a leaky toilet to waste less water?

Resources: greencleaninstitute.com; ofee.gov/gp/greenjanitorial.html

Go Green


Knowledge to start: Hair, nails, skin treatments
Capital Required: $10,000 to $99,000
Timing to start: Weeks to months
Special Challenges: Educating customers and workers about the health issues of the beauty industry

From high-end, luxury day spas to small strip mall locations, one thing salons and spas often share is their use of a wide range of chemicals. Green spas and salons are emerging as a growing trend, providing healthy, natural beauty treatments.

There are many nontoxic substitutes available for beauty treatments. Green salons also have green interiors, with furniture made of renewable materials and energy-efficient appliances and lighting.

You can find a niche in the high-end eco-salon market or launch a more affordable salon. A green spa can start small, with one person, focused just on nails or hair, for example. Taking over an existing salon and turning it green requires marketing about the change, but existing customers may provide a head start toward success.

Being green requires knowing your products thoroughly, educating workers about the products and informing customers about the difference. Networking with the local green-business community will help you get the word out.

Resources: bewellstaywell.com; ecocolors.net

Go Green

Eco-Friendly Furniture

Knowledge to start: Design, furniture, retail
Capital Required: $10,000 to $99,000
Timing to start: Months
Special Challenges: Building sales can take time

Furniture was once an investment, finely crafted for future generations. Today, furniture is often purchased as a disposable commodity that ends up in a landfill.
Green designers make furniture with sustainably produced and recycled materi-als--often materials that would otherwise end up in landfills. The Peter Danko design studio in Standardsville, Virginia, works with recycled padding and ply-bent wood, which uses only about 15 percent as much wood as solid-wood furniture.

If you are artistic, designing green furniture holds great potential. Materials to work with are all around: Recycled glass can be fashioned into tabletops, old plastics into new chairs.

If designing and producing green furniture doesn't appeal to you, consider selling it. Vivavi in New York City features cool and modern furniture made from eco-friendly and recycled materials.

Resources: cardboarddesign.com; peterdanko.com

Go Green

Low Water-Use Landscaping

Knowledge to start: Landscaping, water conservation
Capital Required: Under $10,000
Timing to start: Months to years
Special Challenges: Developing landscaping skills and knowledge

As more people awaken to the need for water conservation, the opportunity grows to design and install water-conservation landscaping, also called xeriscaping, or to open a nursery specializing in such plants.

Climate modeling predicts that many dry areas of the United States will get hotter and drier still, creating opportunities at many levels, region by region. In areas where xeriscaping has long been encouraged, such as Las Vegas, there already might be nurseries or landscapers specializing in dry-weather plants. In other areas where the practice has not yet taken root, there is opportunity to get in early.

Educate clients about the benefits of xeriscaping: Drought-tolerant plants can save clients between 25 percent and 50 percent on their water bill and are easy to care for, saving time and money.

Resources: debraleebaldwin.com, lvvwd.com

Excerpted from 75 Green Businesses You Can Start to Make Money and Make a Difference, by Glenn Croston, Ph.D. (Entrepreneur Press). This book is available at all major bookstores and online booksellers, as well as at entrepreneurpress.com.

Glenn Croston, founder of Starting Up Green, a sustainable-business practices firm in San Diego, Calif., is the author of 75 Green Businesses and Starting Green.

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