Archive for May, 2009

How to Find the Green Business Opportunity that Works for You: The RISE Report

Saturday, May 16th, 2009


People often ask me “What green business can I start?”  It’s a simple question, but unfortunately the answer is not always as simple, particularly when we’ve just met and I don’t know someone’s background.  Opportunities in many industries are waiting for entrepreneurs to build businesses providing green solutions, but which one will work for you? 



There are limitless possibilities.  Some people look at my book “75 Green Businesses” and ask, “Why just 75?”  The 75 in the book are a starting point – the truth is that the opportunities for green businesses are too numerous too count. 



While green business opportunities are numerous and diverse, they are not one size fits all.  You need to find the one that will work for you, looking inward and looking around you.  We each possess unique skills, experiences, knowledge, and interests that we bring to bear on challenges we face like starting a business.  We also have external resources like our money and time that we can commit that will impact the decisions we make and the paths we take.



I think the trick is finding the right match between an opportunity and your own unique resources.  To do this I recommend doing a RISE evaluation, a Resource Inventory Self Evaluation, which looks at the following:



  • What professional experience do you have?
  • What internal resources do you have to offer (skills, knowledge, talents, and personality)?
  • What external resources do you have to work with (time, money, equipment, office space, car)?
  • Where are you geographically and what kind of opportunities are there in your region?
  • What excites you?



For each of these questions, write down the answers.  Try to view things with a fresh perspective.  When you have the answers in hand, the path to the right business opportunity should be much clearer.



Your professional experience is an important starting point, getting out your resume to go over it.  If you haven’t looked at your resume recently, then it’s time.  Where have you worked, and what did you do there?  Even if you are looking for a change, your experience is a valuable resource that should not be neglected and can be a perfect starting point.  Are you a landscaper?  You could easily build on your landscaping experience to create a green landscape maintenance business, for example.  Are you an electrician?  There is a clear path to working in the renewable energy industry.  Practically every business has a green version that has already happened or is waiting to happen.



Your internal resources are also important, including the combined skills, knowledge, talents, and other traits that you carry within.  You might not think often about these, but they can shape a great deal of how you respond to the world.  Some of these will come from your professional experience, but this component of your inventory can come from anywhere.  Your hobbies and your home life can provide skills and experiences that you may not always consider but can be quite valuable when viewed with a fresh perspective.  Are you mechanically skilled?  Perhaps repairing things is the way to go as part of the growing conserver economy, saving resources and money by giving appliances a second life.



External resources are a solid factor shaping the choices you make.  We are all familiar with the role that money on the opportunities you will pursue.  Some opportunities like putting together a blog site can be bootstrapped for very little money, while other opportunities such as developing a new solar technology require millions of dollars to pursue.  Time is another important factor.  Even if you are busy, the trick is not too say you are too busy to get started with a business, but to find a way to at least carve out a small amount of time to take the first few steps forward. 



Next, where do you live?  Green opportunities are everywhere, but it is not necessarily the same opportunities that are ready to take off in different places across the US and around the world.  Is water the big issue where you live?  Does your community provide unique incentives or resources that might help you out?  Is there a listing of green businesses such as Greenopia for your community?  Take a look to see what others are doing, and get out and talk to people at an EcoTuesday or Green Drinks event. 



Finally, think about what you love.  If you are going to pour yourself into creating your business, its best if it’s something that you care deeply about.  Pursuing an opportunity that is profitable is important, but lacking passion your business can become drudgery.



With the RISE evaluation in hand, you can return to the “75 Green Businesses” book or opportunities you see in the world with a fresh perspective, ready to connect yourself and create your own unique path forward. 


Glenn Croston is the author of “75 Green Businesses”, providing green opportunities for people from any background.  He is also the author of “Greening Your Business on a Budget”, the founder of Starting Up Green (, and the green business expert blogger for Fast Company.  To find the opportunity that works for you, you can contact Croston to get started on your own RISE evaluation today.

Opportunities to be Lean and Green: The Shift from Consumer to Conserver Economy

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

The economy is looking less bleak of late in some ways, but we’re not out of the woods yet, and we might not be leaving them any time soon.  The crisis is shifting the ground beneath our feet, dramatically changing spending patterns.  People are saving their money.  While this may sound like a good thing, it’s creating great hardship for businesses that have come to rely on the old patterns of spending in the consumer economy.  This change reflects an underlying shift away from the consumer economy we have known to an emerging Conserver Economy in which people and businesses save more, waste less, and think of the long term.



These new spending patterns reflect changes in how people are living, and these changes are likely to be with us for a while.  The NY Times article of May 10 2009 “Shift to Saving May Be Downturn’s Lasting Impact” described this shift in greater detail.  The forces that enabled and egged on consumers to save less and spend more – easy credit and skyrocketing asset values – could be permanently altered by the financial crisis that spun the economy into recession.”



“Sustained increases in household saving would cause a difficult period of restructuring for the American economy, which has become increasingly driven by consumer spending,” the article goes on to say. 



While the change in spending is drying up old opportunities, the seismic shift is also creating new opportunities.  With less spending also comes more attention on getting more out of what we do spend, making our resources go farther.  People are figuring out creative new ways to live well while getting more out of less, and this change will be with us for a long time to come.  Businesses that see where the Conserver Economy is headed can adapt to this new reality and get out in front.



I previously outlined six trends for businesses to join the conserver economy including:



  • Sharing – Getting more out of goods we buy by sharing them among groups, like ridesharing (PickUpPal).
  • Renting – Getting more value out of money by only leasing what we need, like buying power from solar panels rather than buying the panels (SolarCity).
  • Repairing – Fixing old appliances, watches, and clothes, giving them a new life rather than throwing them away.
  • Reusing – Salvaging building material, selling used cars, thrift shops, and Terracycle.
  • Rebuilding – Retrofitting buildings to be more energy efficient, saving energy, saving money, and fighting climate change (Sustainable Spaces).
  • Rethinking – Hummers and McMansions are out as people rethink what they really need to live well.


These trends also happen in large part to be green.  The leaner businesses and consumers get, squeezing more out of their money and resources, the greener they get overall.  The environment may not be the main reason some people are making changes like using energy more efficiently, but the impact is green all the same.  I described some of these opportunities in “75 Green Businesses” last summer before the Conserver Economy had really started to emerge. 



Rather than hamper the growth of the green economy, the emergence of the conserver economy reinforces the influence of the environment and the importance of making sound economic and environmental decisions for the long run.  Helping the environment and doing the right thing for the long term health of the economy are once again in alignment, and probably more so than ever.



We aren’t out of the woods yet, but these woods might not be so bad after all if we can keep our heads and chart a new path to success where lean meets green.



Glenn Croston is the author of “75 Green Businesses” and “Greening Your Business on a Budget” and the founder of Starting Up Green.

What do Star Trek and Green Businesses Have in Common?

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

I haven’t seen the new Star Trek movie yet, but while listening to talk about the movie I realized that the movie is like the green business world in at least one important respect. 


Is it because they are both action packed?  Maybe.


But more importantly success for both the movie and for green businesses requires breaking out of their niche to reach the broader mainstream market.  And the way to do this is by constructing a great product that just happens to be Star Trek, or green, on top of this.


The worlds of Trekkies and green consumers can both be insular.  Like attracts like.  Trekkies memorize and recite dialog to each other and think nothing of going out in public wearing Spock ears.  They would be first in line for the movie, no matter what. 


The makers of the movie realized though that they could not restrict their audience to the diehard Trekkies.  For the movie to do well, it had to appeal to a broad audience, including those who don’t have a clue who Sulu and Uhura are.  It had to be a great movie first, and a Star Trek movie second.  It had to be a movie that even non-Klingon speakers will want to see.  The movie has managed to do this without losing the original fan base, the Trekkies who have been loyal followers for all of these years. 


The same is true for the greenies.  Deep greenies tend to aggregate together, all of them speaking the language of sustainability with each other.  They talk about Paul Hawken, Hunter Lovins, and Van Jones.  They are the 5% of the population who value green above all else, even if it costs more. 


For most people though, green is only one part of the product puzzle.  They buy products because they work well, or have the right price, or were well marketed to make them feel cool.  To reach the mainstream, green businesses have to sell products that are first of all great products, and green on top of everything else.  In many cases the green economy is just starting to break into the mainstream, with huge opportunities for future growth ahead still.


So, maybe there is something for green businesses to learn from the success of Star Trek. 


Live long and prosper.

Greening Your Business on a Budget

Monday, May 4th, 2009

Greening Your Business on a Budget

Greening Your Business on a Budget

Many people believe that making their business more environmentally sustainable is too expensive or difficult, and would hurt their bottom line.  One of the important lessons that green business leaders have found though is that going green can actually save money, and a lot of it.  Businesses waste $ billions on energy, water and other resources.  Some of the largest corporations like Wal-Mart, DuPont, and 3M have found that wasting less makes their business more competitive, and if it has worked for them it can work for your business too.  I spell out the bottom-line savvy green steps that businesses can take in the e-book “Greening Your Business on a Budget”, which has just been released with Entrepreneur Press.

In the course of working on “75 Green Businesses” and my next book “Starting Up Green” (to be released in Fall 2009), I’ve talked to a great variety of people providing services that help the bottom line by going green.  Many of these steps save money through actions like improving energy efficiency, traveling less, and wasting less water.  Other steps like going carbon neutral can increase visibility and build brand value by demonstrating your commitment to helping the environment as part of doing business.  Often going green can even increase productivity, unlocking the energy of employees, partners, and customers who connect with your green mission and want to get involved.


In “Greening Your Business on a Budget”, I focus on the actions that businesses in many industries, and of any size, can take to help the environment and their business at the same time.  The chapters in this e-book include:


        Chapter 1: A Quick Look at Your Business’s Goals

        Chapter 2: Quick Methods to Green Your Facilities

        Chapter 3: A Quick Look at Greening Your Office

        Chapter 4: Quick Steps to Greening Your Transportation

        Chapter 5: Quick Moves for Greener Human Resources

        Chapter 6: Quick Pointers for Green Computing

        Chapter 7: A Quick List of Potential Green Partners

        Chapter 8: A Quick Guide to Greener Marketing

        A Quick Conclusion

        The Quick Green Checklist


All of the steps described are analyzed according to their impact on business fundamentals, and a checklist for your own green self-audit is included.  While the list of steps in this e-book is long, it’s still just a start.  We have a long way to go, and this book is only one small part of the story.  Not every action makes sense for every business, but by looking through resources like this and translating words into action, you can make an important difference for your business and the world.