If you love the outdoors and have a concern for the future of our planet, here are environmentally-friendly business ideas to consider for your own “green” venture.
The 21st Century will challenge us to keep our earth clean, green, and beautiful. Fortunately, entrepreneurs are starting “green” enterprises that will help us restore and maintain our world’s health and splendor. If you love the outdoors and have a concern for the future of our planet, here are fifteen environmentally friendly businesses you may want to consider for your own “green” venture.
*Please note: Professional associations are primarily networking organizations and usually do not offer start-up information. Include a business-sized, self-addressed, stamped envelope with any “snail” mail correspondence.
1. Specialized Landscaping
The increasing popularity of gardening has spurred homeowners to hire professionals to create distinctive gardens. Specialized landscapers have the expertise and experience in the horticulture of local vegetation, trees and shrubs to design and install plants exclusive to Victorian, Feng Shui, pet and child-friendly, and other unique gardens.
Success Tips:Promote business by leading workshops, posting temporary business signs at your job sites, writing how-to articles in newspapers’ home and garden editions, exhibiting at gardening shows and encouraging referrals from satisfied customers.
*American Horticultural Society
*Easy-to-Follow Designs for Beautiful Landscapes by Becke Davis, Harriet Cramer, Daria Price Bowman
*How to Start a Home-Based Landscaping Business, 6th ed. by Owen E. Dell
2. Specialty Fruits and Vegetables
The wholesale, retail, and direct sale markets for specialty and foreign fruits and vegetables have increased substantially. Heirloom varieties of peppers and tomatoes, organic crops, herbs, edible flowers, different species of lettuce and greens, and unusual fruits are all in demand. Some cities sponsor urban gardening programs that grow specialty crops for beautification and to promote entrepreneurship.
Success Tips: Talk with owners of restaurants and small grocery stores, gourmet chefs, and local residents to see what specialty or ethnic foods they desire and how they use them. For feedback, provide produce samples to area cooks and people at farmer’s markets. Track specialty food trends by reviewing television cooking shows, gourmet food magazines, and publications’ featured recipes.
*A National Sustainable Agriculture Assistance Program – ATTRA – http://attra.ncat.org/; information, publications
*The Gardener’s A–Z Guide to Growing Organic Food by Tanya L. K. Denckla
*Backyard Market Gardening: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Selling What You Grow by Andrew W. Lee
*How to Start on a Shoestring and Make a Profit with Hydroponics by Bob Safell
*Big Dollars Growing Gourmet Salad Greens by Hilmur L. Saffell
*GrowerTalks – http://www.ballpublishing.com/GrowerTalks/Default.aspx
Experts in topiary train plants such as ivy and herbs to grow over cutouts, chicken wire frames, ceramic forms or other bases to create whimsical animal shapes, letters, and “green” sculptures. They can also prune and trim shrubs, small trees and other plants into a variety of shapes. Topiaries can range in size from those that can fit on windowsills to life-size animal figures.
Success Tips: Enroll in some basic topiary courses and then start with small creations to hone your crafting skills. Research what topiaries are being sold in your area and fashion your own distinctive line. Markets for your plant sculptures can include bazaars, individuals’ homes and gardens, business offices, schools, gift and garden shops, mail order catalogs, and with a business web site. Offer to build or shape topiaries in individuals’ backyards or companies’ lawns for special occasions such as outdoor weddings, anniversaries, and other celebrations; or for commissioned work for zoos, parks, or museums.
*Society of American Florists
*Quick and Easy Topiary and Green Sculpture by Jenny Hendy
4. Exotic Plants**
Many growers of exotic plants — orchids, cacti and other unique plants have turned their hobbiesinto thriving commercial businesses, selling wholesale to gardening centers and florists or directly to customers at shows, seasonal outdoor markets, through mail order, from web sites, or from home-based greenhouses.
**Follow regulations concerning transporting plants or selling endangered species.
Success Tips: Work in a commercial greenhouse to learn propagation techniques, plant care and disease prevention, plus to get experience in operating a horticultural business. Start with a small greenhouse and expand as your reputation for quality plants builds. Join professional associations for networking purposes and to enter their shows to help establish your name in the business.
*American Orchid Society
*Gardener’s Guide to Growing Orchids by Wilma & Brian Rittershausen
*The Cactus & Succulent Society of America
*The Complete Guide to Growing Cacti & Succulents by Miles Anderson, Terry Hewitt
*Secrets to a Successful Greenhouse and Business by Ted. M. Taylor
5. Garden Problem-Solver
Homeowners spend a great deal for flowers, trees, shrubs, and lawns to beautify their properties and will pay for advice to keep their gardens healthy and free from pests and critters. As a consultant, you can price according to your expertise and training and the time it takes to research and remedy gardeners’ concerns.
Success Tips: Publicize your services with workshops and talks at local gardening centers or clubs; with a gardening column; or even a question-answer weekly radio show. Offer basic garden evaluations for a set price and then provide a listing of the fees for additional services to eradicate specific gardening problems.
*The Gardener’s Guide to Plant Diseases, Earth-Safe Remedies by Barbara Pleasant
*Bugs, Slugs & Other Thugs — Controlling Garden Pests Organically by Rhonda Massingham Hart
*Garden Problem Solver by Pippa Greenwood
6. Property, Tree & Shrub Maintenance
Many homeowners are unsure about how to maintain their ornamental shrubs or cannot handle the pruning, removal, and the seasonal clean-up of their shrubs and trees. Professionals in this area have extensive training and education in arboriculture, knowing how to protect their customers’ lawns, shrubs, and trees from disease, insect, and weather-related damage. Clients schedule routine visits for ongoing care.
Success Tips: Besides home- and business owners, potential customers for this service may includedevelopers, planners, landscape architects, insurance companies for tree damage estimates; and municipalities for environmental impact studies, and long-term planning for placement, maintenance and preservation of existing trees and shrubs.
*The Complete Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs: Descriptions, Cultivation Requirements, Pruning, Planting by Ernie Wasson
7. Uniquely-Designed Planters, & Outdoor Lawn & Garden Décor
Gardeners like unusual containers, decorative pots and rustic and vintage items to show-off their plants and landscapes. Search flea markets, garage sales, and thrift shops to find old furniture, wheelbarrows, farming implements, and other discards gardeners could use to decorate their outdoor spaces. If you are an artist or are skilled in wood- or metalworking, pottery, or ceramics, you can also create a line of gardening accessories.
Success Tips: Read gardening publications, visit flower shows, view gardening television shows to stay current with the latest outdoor decorating trends. Contact garden designers, clubs, centers, and hardware stores to see if they are interested in buying and/or selling your items. Market your items at home and garden and craft retail and wholesale shows. Give talks to gardening clubs about container gardening and garden decor. A business web site with photos may reach nation- or worldwide markets.
*Garden Accessories: Designing with Collectibles, Planters, Fountains, & More by Teri Dunn
*The Container Garden: Over 40 Creative Designs for Planters, Pots, Boxes, Baskets and Tubs by Stephanie Donaldson
8. Indoor Plant Maintenance Service
Contract with business owners, institutions, restaurants, and building owners to maintain the health and attractiveness of their indoor plants. Purchase plants from wholesalers or raise them yourself and rent or lease these to customers. Individuals who will be out-of-town for an extended period will also need your plant care services.
Success Tips: Offer free consultations to evaluate clients’ indoor spaces to recommend the ideal plants that will look best and thrive in the areas they designate. You should have a thorough knowledge about common plant care and diseases. Market your services through your local Chamber of Commerce and hand out business cards to contacts in offices and organizations you frequent.
*Interior Planting: A Guide to Plantscapes in Work and Leisure Places by Lynne Lockwood Seignot
9. Specialty Herbs
The popularity of herbs has increased in recent years as research has revealed their natural benefits and multi-purpose uses. Herbs are used in all types of cooking, to enhance gardens with their beauty and scents, for natural pesticides, for dried floral arrangements, for beauty products, and in a variety of additional products like potpourri, pillows and even pet toys. You can grow herbs year-round with just a small greenhouse and a little plot of ground.
Success Tips: Professional herb-growers encourage customers with courses and workshops and sometimes host radio and cable television shows about the cultivation and use of herbs. Grow your own specialty herbs or create unique products to help you compete with larger, commercial and foreign markets.
*Growing Your Herb Business by Bertha Report
*Creating an Herbal Bodycare Business by Sandy Maine
10. Raising Beneficial Insects, Earthworms
Raising beneficial insects and earthworms can provide backyard gardeners and organic farmers with safe, chemically free alternatives to control destructive pests while improving the growth and quality of their fruits and vegetables. Some entrepreneurs also raise butterfly larvae for education groups, rear mealworms for pet stores and birders or engage in traditional bee-keeping for selling honey and beeswax products and leasing their hives for crop pollination.
Success Tips: Contact your local county extension office for information about restrictions concerning the transportation and raising of insects; and for referrals to potential customers. Enroll in entomology courses and then raise some insects or earthworms on a small scale. Promote business by giving entertaining talks to schools and research the potential of selling your insects to gardening catalogs, commercial greenhouses, and/or through a web site.
*Beekeeping as a Business by Richard Jones
*Beneficial Insects — How to Mass-Rear for a Profit by Bob Saffell
*Good Bugs for Your Garden by Allison Mia Starcher
*Profitable Earthworm Farming by Charlie Morgan
11. Recycling Consultant
As the world’s increasing population exhausts natural resources, government agencies and organizations strive to regulate and encourage businesses to be “green” and “environmentally-friendly” in their operations. Recycling consultants specialize in areas where they have had previous experience such as construction, manufacturing, and other industries and know the laws and guidelines of getting rid of that trade’s waste.
Success Tips: Contact your state, county and local municipalities for present recycling programs and regulations. Market your expertise directly to these same agencies as well as to business owners and nonprofit organizations to help them save money through recycling, and possibly act as a broker to assist them in selling by-products and scraps to other sources.
*National Recycling Coalition
*Ecopreneuring: The Complete Guide to Small Business Opportunities from the Environmental Revolution by Steven J. Bennett
*Trash to Cash: How Businesses Can Save Money and Increase Profits by Fran Berman
12. Graffiti Removal
Graffiti vandalism defaces buildings, abandoned homes, and other places in both urban and rural settings. Studies show that speedy and continued graffiti removal results in less reoccurrences. Removal methods may include paint out, chemical removal, and power washing.
Success Tips – Many government agencies award contracts to graffiti-removal businesses that use environmentally safe cleaning and paint products. Market your services to other community business owners, apartment owners, insurance companies and institutions. Follow authorities’ graffiti-reporting procedures and their guidelines for removal and restoration. Your business will receive good publicity as it promotes civic pride when you work with law enforcement agencies, and community groups to eradicate graffiti and its causes.
*Keeping It Clean: Removing Exterior Dirt, Paint Stains and Graffiti from Historic Exterior Masonry by Anne E. Grimmer
13. Water & Soil Testing & Air Pollution Assessment
Businesses need experts to advise them how to prevent environmental incidents and how to adhere to increasingly rigorous governmental regulations. Property owners worry about the quality of their drinking water, soil, and air. Professionals in these areas provide testing and information on the latest technologies and products, solutions for compliance to laws and how to ensure safe working and living spaces for employees and homeowners.
Success Tips – Environmental consultants can be engineers, scientists, health and safety specialists, ecologists, and other authorities in their fields. Customer referrals, direct marketing to homeowners, attending environmental conferences and shows, and having a business web site are all effective marketing methods.
*www.Eco-Web.com/– environmental company
*www.Environmental-Expert.com/ – web information center for environmental professionals
14. Specialized Organic Compost & Potting Soil
Mulches are used in gardens to suppress weeds, conserve soil moisture, reduce soil erosion, and modify the soil temperature and help to enrich and aerate soils. If you have access to grain- or grass-eating animal waste and chemical-free compost and garden litter, you can purchase wholesale quantities of perlite, bone meal and lime to mix your own special soils and then sell to certified organic producers and gardeners who need selected growing media for starting seeds and maintaining their plants.
Success Tips: Contact and work with your local cooperative extension agents for information on soils, compost, and testing. Market your composts and specialty soils to local farms, nurseries, commercial greenhouses, landscapers, florists, and plant shops, gardening clubs and centers. Because many municipalities and landfills are not accepting “green” wastes, you can conduct workshops for gardeners on how to turn their garden and kitchen wastes into valuable compost.
Let It Rot! The Gardener’s Guide to Composting by Stu Campbell
Mulch It!: A Practical Guide To Using Mulch In The Garden And Landscape by Stu Campbell
15. Alternative Energy Consultant for Homeowners & Businesses – Solar, Hydro, Wind
With rising heating oil and gas prices, people look for cost-efficient ways to heat and power their homes and businesses. With an engineering degree and expertise about alternative energy methods and products, you can evaluate facilities’ energy usage and make recommendations for more efficient techniques or optional energy sources. Potential clients include small utility companies, educational institutions, business and property owners, local governments, and builders.
Success Tips: Contact a local office ofThe National Association of State Energy Officials www.naseo.org/,for possible placement on their business referral list.This State Energy Program (SEP) is the only federally funded, state-based program administered by the U.S. Department of Energy that provides resources directly to the States. Promote business with presentations at local business owners associations’ meetings, conferences and home shows.
Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy
Power with Nature: Solar and Wind Energy Demystified by Rex Ewing
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