Every single day, people throw away colossal amounts of paper, ink, plastic, metal and other reusable materials. That’s just the way many see the consumer cycle, but these substances need not end up on a landfill. Over the past two decades, “going green” has become much more than a simple quasi-environmentalist mantra, or a slogan for some local youth’s neighborhood cleaning initiative.

The domain of green businesses has become a vast pool of market potential, ready to embrace various new and exciting—but also socially and environmentally beneficial—entrepreneurial ideas. There’s not only big money to be made in the sector of ecology and environment protection, but also a genuine chance to make the world a cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable place for generations to come.

Conquer the basics

Don’t forget that the name of the game still remains the same—business, first and foremost. This means that your new green company needs everything any other freshly established enterprise would need in order to survive on the market:

  • A solid business case—a product or a service aimed at satisfying unmet market needs
  • A business plan—where you want to be and how you plan on getting there
  • A network of dependable, hard-working people—you could fly solo early on, but you want to grow and expand; more helping hands equal higher quality service equals more business volume—the cycle goes on! Also, a network means much more: suppliers, clients, promotion potential, diversification, new experiences and knowledge, just to name a few positive things
  • Starting capital—whatever you choose to do, a certain financial buffer is always welcome

No matter the business, these four categories will be the key pillars of your new venture, so make sure you put all your capacities behind your planning and brainstorming sessions. You should always rebalance and fine-tune things as you progress, depending on which field you’ve chosen to do business in.

Some say everything is easy when you have lots of money. The truth is no amount of money can help a fundamentally poor idea, and vice versa. Often enough, you won’t need to pool vast resources to get started—carefully planning ahead will tell you how much you’ll need to run things relatively smoothly. Most businesses start small, with help from friends and family, or a modest loan.

Analyze your business case

Bear in mind that every good business case needs to answer some straightforward questions:

It’s always prudent to select a few successful examples from the market and then analyze them through the questions above, thereby effectively creating a good benchmark for your own company. Remember, it’s crucial that you provide something which gives people high value they’re willing to pay for.

Shades of green—choose your business

Which types of green businesses exist? The field is indeed quite spacious: from farming organic vegetables and growing flowers, to running a restaurant or a club which engages only small, local, and organic suppliers; from manufacturing products out of completely biodegradable substances, all the way to producing energy from renewable sources.

Recycling various raw materials so that others can reuse them has been around for quite some time now, and it’s growing ever stronger, especially in the field of technology. Electronics are non-biodegradable, meaning they need to be properly handled to prevent environmental pollution, and probably the best known process related to that is printer cartridge recycling.

“Paint” your enterprise

In order to actually classify your new business idea as green, it’s important to adhere to at least one of the following principles:

  • Incorporate a high level of sustainability in business processes
  • Offer eco-friendly products or services as a viable, competitive alternative to non-green products or services
  • Be “greener” than the traditional competition in a given market
  • Commit your enterprise to environmental protection or social responsibility

These categories give your business “green legitimacy” and show your customers that you provide them with measurable value.

To win the customers who are environmentally conscientious, many companies have underlined their dedication to the noble cause of saving the planet. They go above and beyond to show they care about the same issues as their customers do. This tends to be very true for businesses that produce or sell products that could cause pollution. It’s of little wonder you see statements about how ‘environmentally friendly’ a product is in the product description:

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Image via PrintZone

Depending on the nature of your business, the last principle can either be an additional expense, or a natural constituent of your company’s operations (e.g. if you’re a manufacturing company obliged to transport and dispose of certain waste versus being a company which actually recycles and then sells that waste).

Also, be wise and get to know all the legal requirements for running your future operations. It will save you from plenty of bumps down the road.

A few shining examples

The majority of business people look at the existing competition in a certain market and then try to figure out ways to beat it, while a few unorthodox and bold others take a different route—they innovate, create new markets, and redefine the meaning of value. There are some magnificent ideas out there, and here’s how a few of them took shape.

  • The Plastic Bank, a Vancouver-based startup, was developed from a vision of employing people living in poverty to collect abundant plastic waste, which would later be recycled and reshaped for various purposes. One of the possible uses? Plastic palettes for 3D printing. Socially responsible, sustainable, creative, and entrepreneurial.
  • Australian “Cartridges 4 Planet Ark” is an environmentally-certified handler of expended printer cartridges, making sure that plastic, metal, and ink are recycled either into standard materials for new cartridge parts, or into something completely different—tarmac. Yes, they recycle printer cartridges to make tarmac.

Takeaways for the road

“Going green” is indeed the business of the future, but it’s already here today. Regardless of whether you have an original idea, or you’ve simply seen something that you want to do and make a difference for yourself and your environment, just make sure you’ve gone through all the steps and ticked all the boxes on your checklist. Plan ahead, recognize the market need, offer great value, and become a sustainable, ecological, and socially friendly powerhouse.

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Mackenzie Fox
Mackenzie Fox

Mackenzie is an environmentalist with an interest in entrepreneurship and green start-ups. She believes in strong local communities as the foundation of sustainable business. She hopes that small businesses are the solution to poverty and famine in the third world countries., and recycling and renewable sources of energy are the answer to the problems of the industrialized world. She writes about the current socioeconomic issues.