Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /data/15/1/87/159/1413322/user/1517526/htdocs/blog/wp-settings.php on line 468

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /data/15/1/87/159/1413322/user/1517526/htdocs/blog/wp-settings.php on line 483

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /data/15/1/87/159/1413322/user/1517526/htdocs/blog/wp-settings.php on line 490

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /data/15/1/87/159/1413322/user/1517526/htdocs/blog/wp-settings.php on line 526

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /data/15/1/87/159/1413322/user/1517526/htdocs/blog/wp-includes/cache.php on line 103

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /data/15/1/87/159/1413322/user/1517526/htdocs/blog/wp-includes/query.php on line 21

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /data/15/1/87/159/1413322/user/1517526/htdocs/blog/wp-includes/theme.php on line 618
75 Green Businesses

SBIR Grants for New Environmental Technologies

March 14th, 2009

Everybody needs money to get their business off the ground, and this is truer than ever lately, with some of the traditional funding channels drying up or frozen.  A fair number of people contact me looking for funding opportunities, so I thought I would share this opportunity for small businesses to apply for SBIR grants from the EPA and NSF.  The information is from the National Center for Environmental Research at the EPA, forwarded by Byron Kennard, Executive Director of the Center for Small Business and the Environment in Washington DC. 

Expanded Funding for New Environmental Technologies

Nearly $200 million funding is currently available from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) for small businesses to grow, add workers, and expand into new markets.  This unique opportunity can be accessed by small businesses through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) programs at both agencies. Companies with fewer than 500 employees are eligible to apply to both EPA and NSF, although they can only accept funding from one source. The EPA’s SBIR Phase I solicitation opens on March 19, 2009, and closes on May 20, 2009.  A total of $70,000 is available in funding for each EPA Phase I award. The NSF’s SBIR Phase I solicitation is now open and will close on June 9, 2009.  Phase I funding is $150,000 per award.

For information on EPA environmental technology needs and application requirements, visit www.epa.gov/ncer/sbir.  For information on the NSF’s SBIR Program, visit the NSF Web site at:  www.nsf.gov/eng/i8ip/sbir.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Green Economies

March 7th, 2009

I get confused sometimes when people talk about “the green economy”.  How large is the green economy?  How do you sell to the green economy?  The answers from different people don’t always agree with each other, and I think the reason might be that there is not really one green economy, but two green economies.  Or more.  

 

  

Some people will tell you that the way to sell to the green economy is to emphasize quality above all else, to produce a premium eco-friendly product.  A great product will distinguish itself and attract buyers concerned about the environment, even if it costs more.  And there are examples where this is true.  Stonyfield Farm has built a $300 million business by producing a consistent high-quality organic yogurt that attracted a loyal following, even if the yogurt costs somewhat more. 

 

  

Another message out there though is that price matters.  In fact, not just that cost matters, but that cost is the driving force in most purchasing decisions for the vast majority of people.  Being green alone, providing an environmental benefit, is not enough to make the sale for the majority of people.  Green Works products are selling to the mainstream market for cleaning products, not just because of the environmental benefit, but because they can compete on price with the less eco-friendly products sitting nearby on the same grocery store shelf. 

 

 

Who’s right?  The answer is that they both are, but they aren’t talking about the same markets, or the same “green economy”. 

  

 

The first green economy includes the people who place the environment at the topic of their priority list, and have the money to buy green products even if they cost somewhat more (within reason).  In Joel Makower’s book “Strategies for the Green Economy” there is an insightful afterward by Cara Pike breaking down consumers into useful psychographic groups.  The first green economy corresponds to groups like the “Greenest Americans” in Pike’s analysis, 9% of the market for whom “ecological concern influences their worldview more than any other social value”. 

  

 

The other green economy includes the people who are not opposed to buying green but don’t place it on the top of their list. They won’t usually buy something just because it’s green.  If a product works well and the cost is right, and green on top of this, then being green can seal the deal and make the sale.  This group is more like the “Compassionate Caretakers” in Pike’s analysis in the Makower book.  This market is closer to the mainstream.

  

 

So when you are positioning your product, thinking who the customer is and how to sell it to them, think about which of the green economies you will be a part of.  Your marketing strategy, your product design, and your pricing will follow from there. 

 

 

Glenn Croston is the author of “75 Green Businesses You Can Start to Make Money and Make a Difference“, the expert blogger on green business for Fast Company, and the founder of Starting Up Green (www.StartingUpGreen.com).

Becoming a greenCoach with emagineGreen

February 27th, 2009

For a growing number of people changing our impact on the environment is not just about changing the things we buy, but changing how we live.   All through our day a hundred little things we do add up to a surprisingly large impact on the world around us, an impact that we are seldom aware of.   When people realize their impact, and are given simple tools to help them change, they are eager to do so.  EmagineGreen is helping entrepreneurial individuals to work as greenCoaches, bringing information and green solutions into people’s homes as a direct sales business.

 

EmagineGreen is focused on two missions, to help people go green and to create opportunities for entrepreneurial individuals.  GreenCoaches sell products directly to groups at home eco-parties, meeting people in their own environment and talking about simple relevant steps we can take to reduce our environmental impact at home.  To help people go green, they don’t just provide information though - they get people to act on this information.  “Every product we sell is hand-picked to change behavior,” said Tonya Ensign, founder of emagineGreen.  “If you don’t change behavior there’s no point in buying different products.  Why get a programmable thermostat if you don’t program it?” 

 

Joining emagineGreen as a greenCoach costs only $129 as of this writing and although they’ve only been signing up people the last ten months (as of Feb 2009), they already have greenCoaches in about half of the US, with more signing up all the time.  Not everybody will be right for the opportunity, so people are screened to make sure it’s a good fit for both emagineGreen and for the greenCoach.  To help them get started, emagineGreen provides training to help people learn about the green world. 

 

In addition to providing a selection of hand-picked products and information, emagineGreen takes care of all the business basics for the greenCoaches, including getting a business license, paying credit card fees, web hosting, and e-commerce setup.  Having this assistance lets each greenCoach enjoy their business rather than spending their time maintaining the operation.  Since it is their own business they can set their own calendar and make their own schedule – they don’t have to ask permission to take the day off. 

 

As a party plan company, they provide residual income and management training for some individuals.  With a couple of levels in the organization, people can advance and get experience mentoring others.  Green coaches come from many backgrounds.  “One segment is women who are stay-at-home moms, struggling to balance kids and career,” said Ensign.  Another group they see joining is women who want out of the corporate America, and are seeking something they can be passionate about, something they care about.  “They are very ambitious, and primed to be leaders and managers,” Ensign said.  “Another group is people who are entrepreneurial, and perhaps have started their own business before, like working in realty.  They see the potential of the timing for a business in the green world and know how to be a sole proprietor, how to market themselves.”

 

Ensign founded emagineGreen after years of working in corporate America for companies from Honeywell to startups. She knew she wanted to create a business to help the environment, but wasn’t sure what the business should be. “I thought through how I could get the message across.  For a website alone, I would need to generate a lot of traffic.  For manufacturing, there are large up-front costs for new product development and branding.  For a retail store, brick and mortar, I would have to deal with inventory expenses, retail space, and so on.  If you are a consultant, once you stop consulting you are done.  I wanted to create an opportunity where people have low startup costs, low risk, low inventory, and where we would take the hassle out of the business for people.”

 

As an executive coach, she realized what it takes to make real behavioral change.  Like Jenny Craig and similar organizations, change is not just information, but having a support structure and creating camaraderie.  As a party planning business, the key to change is meeting people directly, teaching them about the importance of environmental choices, demonstrating options for greener choices, and selling them directly.  “Education and demonstration are the key,” said Ensign.  Their model is a well known one, like Pampered Chef, one of Warren Buffet’s investments.  Other examples are Rubber Stamper or Creative Memories, all of whom are now large successful party planning businesses in mature fields. 

 

The difference for emagineGreen is that the field of green is still wide open for most people.  “Most people still don’t know much about green, so for these products it’s still a big opportunity,” said Ensign.  “It will be ten years before it’s really mainstream, and we’re poised to take advantage.”  Most of the products are targeted for women.  “Women are the ones who do most of the spending for household products,” Ensign said. 

 

Meeting people and talking directly with them is essential, providing the personal touch.  “The key is to get into people’s houses,” said Ensign.  “People just don’t know that it takes seven bottles worth of water to make every water bottle they buy in the store.  They’re shocked when they hear we use a million plastic bags a minute.  We talk for 20 minutes and then they say, ‘What can I do?’  They can buy bottles, bags, or other products that fit what they are looking for, for their health, for the environment, or to save money. “   emagineGreen talks about which habits the clients want to break, and tie each product to a behavior to change.  To reduce paper towel use, they connect it to buying bamboo towels that are reusable. 

 

In addition to knowing that emagineGreen is a direct sales party planning company, it’s also good to know what emagineGreen is not – it’s not a pyramid or MLM.  In MLM organizations, “about 3% of people are team leaders, and the rest are customers on auto-ship programs.  People think they’re going to get rich quick, but very few do.”

 

And with a big opportunity at stake, with millions of consumers ready to buy green and green going mainstream, emagineGreen is ready to grow.  “We’re internally funded, no debt, and we’ve invested in the systems, people and model so we can grow rapidly and take on a lot more people,” said Ensign. 

 

To find out more check the emagineGreen website at:  www.emaginegreen.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s in the Stimulus Package (so far) For Small, Green Businesses

February 2nd, 2009

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 passed by the House of Representatives includes a number of important incentives to help both small businesses and green businesses.  While the bill has yet to make it through the Senate, it’s still worth a look to see what might be on the way.  Those businesses that are both small and green may see a double dose of support coming their way. 

 

 

Small businesses generate most of the jobs, and create a great deal of the innovation that drives economic growth.  According to the National Small Business Association, small businesses created 21.9 million jobs in the last 15 years, compared with 1.8 million for large businesses.  Small businesses are hungry, move quickly, and are able to experiment.  Out of economic necessity, a great number of people are starting businesses.  When you have little to lose, the risk of starting a business seems not so great.  Having some financial support will help small businesses keep their doors open, and keep on innovating to get our economy growing again. 

 

 

This time around green businesses are also receiving important attention in a variety of measures included in the House version of the bill.  Throughout his campaign Obama pledged to support the growth the green economy, and in the early days of his administration he appears to be true to his word.  With the green economy poised to become one of the major engines of economic growth in this century, these investments will help both the environment and the economy, creating green economy businesses that create high quality green collar jobs.

 

 

As the Executive Director of the Center for Small Business and the Environment in Washington DC, Byron Kennard is right in the thick of things, working to ensure that small, green businesses get the important support that they need.  His summary of the support for small businesses in the current package includes $30 billion in tax relief for small businesses and $13 billion in loans, lines of credit and equity capital.  The provisions include:

  • Increasing the SBA guarantee on loans up to 95% of loan value
  • Steps to improve the liquidity of small business lending markets
  • Allowing the SBA to refinance existing loans, including both those with the SBA and other loans
  • Increasing equity capital for high growth businesses
  • Lending assistance for borrowers locked out of traditional financing markets
  • Tax relief in several forms

 

The stimulus package also contains significant new support to drive the growth of green businesses, including a variety of incentives to drive the growth of renewable energy, stimulate energy efficiency efforts, and update the national electrical grid.  President Obama is calling for the production of renewable energy to double in the next 3 years, continuing its rapid growth.  Among the provisions in the over $800 House version of the stimulus package:

 

  • $10 billion to weatherize low-income homes, saving energy
  • $8 billion to increase the efficiency of government and military buildings
  • $7 billion in energy efficiency grants by state governments
  • $11 for the updated electrical smart grid
  • $8 billion in new electrical lines for the improved electrical grid
  • $8 billion in loans for renewable energy projects
  • $2 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy research
  • $2 billion for advanced battery research

 

The stimulus package is not a done deal yet, with a Senate version of the bill still in the works.  At the end of the day, maybe getting the economy back on the same old track is not the goal.  Maybe getting the economy on a better track is the way to go.  Small, green businesses are laying track leading forward to a better future. 

Book Review: “Build a Green Small Business” by Scott Cooney

January 28th, 2009

Sometimes a book really resonates with how you think about things.  That’s the feeling that I got when I read “Build a Green Small Business” by Scott Cooney recently.  Cooney’s book is full of great businesses that a wide range of entrepreneurs can pursue. The many intriguing businesses outlined include “Organic Foods Caterer”, “Wedding and Event Planner”, “Green Shuttle Services”, “Printer Cartridge Refiller Store”, and many others.  One of the questions people ask me is “What kind of business can I start?”  I don’t think that there is a one size fits all answer to this question because everyone is unique, but with such a broad range of ideas, there is bound to be something for everyone. 

 

Green or not, these businesses still must deal with the practical issues like attracting customers and setting the right price.  For each business Cooney provides a description of the idea, how to green it, how to green it, how to find customers, and deciding how much to charge.  For all of these the advice is simple and practical, and interspersed with stories of successful green entrepreneurs.

 

When I met Cooney recently and we talked for a bit, we found that we share many ideas.  Like Cooney, I believe that there is no choice to be made between the economy and the environment.  Green businesses, particularly the small ones, are the engines that hold the key to helping both the economy and the environment in this critical time.  What I like the most about this book is that it is talking about practical solutions rather than problems.  We need more solutions these days.   If you are looking for a new direction in your business life, one that holds financial promise and the connection to a greater purpose, “Build a Green Small Business” might hold the solution you’ve been looking for.

Obama’s New Day: Doing Our Part with Green Businesses

January 20th, 2009

With Barack Obama’s inauguration, a new day has arrived.  Today he became the 44th president of the US.  Throughout his campaign he has promised change, but perhaps the promise was not necessary.  Like it or not change has come to us; it is up to us to greet the change and adapt to it. 

 

In the midst of unprecedented challenges, President Obama’s tone in his speech was somber but hopeful.  Speaking of the many challenges we face, he emphasized the responsibility we each hold to rise and meet them.  He restated his commitment to having the government help, but he also laid out the necessity for each of us to do our part. 

 

From Obama’s inaugural address today:

 

“This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.”

 

He touched today again on the need for cleaner energy to revitalize our economy:

 

“The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.”

 

I feel like we are turning the corner.  Even with the economy down, the world is ripe with opportunity for those who take this responsibility and get into action moving forward with solutions.  Those in business, government, and individual citizens must all do our part.  In the business world, one way to contribute is with businesses that provide clean energy solutions, getting our economy moving today and investing in a better world for the future.

 

To help make this happen, Obama’s team has proposed as part of the economic stimulus plan a major new investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency.  This hasn’t happened yet, but is likely to pass quickly, reflecting the urgency of the need for action.

 

These efforts are not going to happen with the government alone, but with the government creating the right conditions for businesses in these fields to thrive.  Beyond renewable energy, a broad range of other green businesses will also see great opportunities continue to unfold as they make our economy more efficient, and more sustainable.  As I describe in “75 Green Businesses” and at Starting Up Green, there are opportunities for people from almost any background to get involved and start a green business that provides a brighter future for themselves, for our country, and for the world.  I speak all the time with green entrepreneurs who tell me that despite what is happening in the rest of the economy, they are seeing their business continue to grow, helping both the economy and the environment.

 

The journey has just begun, and Obama will not solve all of our problems for us. He will be a busy man in the months and years ahead, but he won’t be alone.  We must all work together to translate words into action, to rise and meet the challenges we are faced with and move beyond them.  These are big problems and won’t be solved overnight, but we can do it and we will.  Lets get started.

The Nation’s Chief Sustainability Officer

January 17th, 2009

With Obama’s inauguration just a few days away, the economy is still at the top of the agenda, but this does not mean that environmental initiatives are forgotten.  With just a few days left before he takes office Obama toured the Cardinal Fastener & Specialty Company in Ohio that makes parts for wind turbines and gave a speech there about the economy.   He talked about the latest economic stimulus package being proposed, hoping to save or create 3-4 million jobs.  Many of these jobs are tied to expanded use of renewable energy, a long term investment in both the economy and the environment. 

 

The $850 billion economic stimulus plan, known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, includes support for renewable energy, and energy efficiency.  The details of the plan being unveiled include $20 billion in incentives for a variety of forms of renewable energy, and $54 billion to improve the grid and to invest in energy efficiency in buildings, the electrical grid, and transportation.  In addition to solar and wind, the plan includes incentives for a broad range of other forms of renewable energy such as waste to energy, methane from landfills, and geothermal energy.

 

President-Elect Obama said in his speech:

 

“That’s why, as part of our Recovery and Reinvestment plan, we’re committing to double the production of renewable energy in the next three years, and to modernize more than 75% of federal buildings and improve the energy efficiency of two million American homes.

 

In the process, we’ll put nearly half a million people to work building wind turbines and solar panels; constructing fuel-efficient cars and buildings; and developing the new energy technologies that will lead to new jobs, more savings, and a cleaner, safer planet in the bargain.”

 

This sounds like a big leap in the right direction, and it’s about time.  We have some leaping to do. 

 

We’ve had a great deal of grass roots action on the green front, with people, local and state governments taking the lead in the absence of environmental leadership at the US Government level.  This might be changing.  While the grass roots efforts are a wonderful start, an effective response to the problems we face requires a coordinated effort at the highest level, with strong leadership.  Many businesses these days are hiring Chief Sustainability Officers, the Chief Green.  Obama might just be our next Chief Green for the US, providing national leadership on both economic and environmental recovery.

 

During the presidential campaign (remember the campaign?), Thomas Friedman remarked that he was less concerned if we have the first black president, or the first woman president, than if we have the first green president.   The show’s not over yet, and hasn’t even started but the previews look good.  Let’s keep the green grass roots growing, and do what we can to support this kind of bold national action that moves us forward toward a brighter future.

Talking about Green Opportunities with Eric Corey Freed, Organic Architect

January 14th, 2009

Eric Corey Freed

Eric Corey Freed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They say that every cloud has a silver lining.  In the case of the cloud hanging over the building industry it seems to have a green one.  The building industry has been at the epicenter of the housing crisis, the credit crunch, and the recession, all rolled into one.  Housing starts have plummeted to record lows, but through all of this, the green building movement has kept on growing.

 

 

As principal of organicARCHITECT in San Francisco, Eric Corey Freed is a well known and highly-regarded green architect, helping the green building movement in its quest to change our buildings to be part of a more sustainable world.  Through his speaking, design work, consulting, and educational work he reaches out to the broad and growing green building community.  He is the author of Green Building and Remodeling for Dummies, and working on two books, Sustainable Schools, and Green Home Green Pockets, both coming out at the end of 2009.  I recently spoke with Eric about the opportunities in green building and the rest of the green economy.

 

While nobody is immune from our economic turmoil, green building seems to be doing relatively well.  “There have been statistics that while building was down in 2008 green building was up 30%, although this does not include the fourth quarter,” said Freed.  “Everything is slow lately, but specific, different areas have picked up.  For example, building owners who are looking to stand out in the market are turning to greening buildings.  There’s a pick up in the business for large commercial projects where green building is a good differentiator to stand out in a tough market.”

 

While green building is holding up well, the economic situation has had an impact, changing the features people look for in buildings.  “The downturn forces people to rethink priorities,” said Freed.  “I’ve seen a definite transition from green finishes which might be seen as a luxury to saving energy and saving water.”  The continued strength in green building can be attributed to the value it provides as a long term trend and not a fad. “We estimate that on average it costs about $4 per square foot to get LEED certified, but it pays for itself at a rate of $67 per square foot including energy saved, according to the US Green Building Council,” said Freed. “In times like these people bear down, turning to options like solar panels where there is an economic benefit.  We’ll see a boom in companies like Sustainable Spaces that address energy efficiency in buildings, and we’ll see businesses like this around the country.  Any contractor or home inspector could make this transition to the green collar economy.”

 

The green building movement creates opportunities for a variety of workers and businesses.  “I would say that there are opportunities for any trade that is loosely connected to energy or utilities (including water or sewer), whether manual, blue collar work, companies that are leasing solar equipment, or Joe the green plumber,” Freed said.  “The more that green building grows, the more pressure and opportunity there is for these business, but they have to change.  They have to change what they do, change their marketing, and change their priorities.”

 

Economics have a big impact on decisions and priorities, as we have seen in the wild swing in the price of gas.  “When gas was $4 a gallon, businesses had to change, and people were choosing smaller cars and smarter driving habits,” said Freed.  “The same goes for electricity.  When we have a carbon tax, when the cost of electricity goes up from 12 cents to 24 cents a kilowatt-hours, everyone will have to address energy efficiency.  The important thing is that it’s not from an abstract carbon footprint perspective, but from showing a tangible impact on the bottom line.”

 

There is a huge opportunity for businesses that improve the energy efficiency in millions of existing buildings in the US, helping to save money now and save resources.  To start a business improving the energy efficiency of buildings, some specific certifications are needed but they can be readily achieved.  “The main certification is Energy Star HERS rating,” said Freed.  “HERS raters are trained and certified in energy efficiency and building.  You have to take a class and take a test, very similar to home inspectors.”

 

These new business opportunities are part of the rising green collar economy, providing good jobs and businesses for those displaced from older, greyer, industries.  In addition to those who work on buildings, there are a wealth of opportunities for related businesses such as marketing, billing, web design firms, education, and other essential services.  “Along with the surge in companies that are part of the green economy there will be an equal surge in companies like these that are fluent in the language of sustainability, such as marketing companies that know how to speak to consumers about these things,” said Freed.

 

Beyond the first and second wave of green businesses, there will be a third wave, the teachers, Freed predicts.  “The first wave is the people doing the hands on work in the field with green collar jobs in renewable energy or green building,” said Freed.  “The second is the people doing the marketing, websites, accounting, hiring, and whatever else businesses need behind the scenes.  The third wave is teaching, at all levels.  We need people that take all of this information and make it available in an easy way for all sorts of green building topics, and other sustainable business areas.  We need good teachers.”

 

If you are thinking about getting involved by starting a green business, what should you keep in mind?  Freed advices green entrepreneurs to be humble.   “There is nothing wrong with saying we know we’re not perfect.  You can say ‘These are the things we’re doing, and here’s what we want to do that we haven’t figured out yet,” but not making broad claims about being green.  Look at the most admired companies working on sustainability, like Interface.  Ray Anderson will tell you all the things he’s doing wrong, things he is still figuring out.  Be humble and honest.”

 

“When somebody comes out and says we’re a green company, and its one green product, then they can really get in trouble with consumers.  They would be better to lay it out, to be honest, and open, to say, ‘Well, we’ve only got one green shoe today, but here is where the problems are, and we’ll keep working on it.’  Businesses don’t like it a lot of times, but there’s nothing wrong with saying ‘We don’t know how to do that yet.’”

 

Building a green business is not just a destination, but an ongoing journey.  “These things take time,” said Freed.  “It doesn’t happen overnight, but plant these seeds now and it will happen.  The more seeds you plant, the better, as long as they are the right seeds to help create the change.”  It sounds like there is plenty of room still for entrepreneurs to plant seeds today for the green businesses of tomorrow. 

 

Starting 2009 in a New Direction with a Green Business

December 29th, 2008

What’s your plan for 2009?  I’m working on mine right now, and I’m wondering what everyone else has in mind. Our economic situation is forcing many of us to rethink our lives and businesses.  I’ve got a feeling that “improve finances” is at the top of many to do lists for 2009, but hunkering down and circling the wagons may not be enough.  To really get where you want to go, it might be time to take the leap and start a new business, and going green might provide the new direction you’re looking for. 

 

Far from being finished, the green economy is just getting started.  Green choices like solar power and organic food have grown immensely in recent years, with consistent double digit annual growth, but solar power is still less than 1% of the overall market and organic food is only about 3% of the food market.  The green economy is already over $200 billion in size, but it still has huge growth ahead in the broader market.  

 

Nobody is immune from the current economy, but green businesses like Sustainable Spaces that help people to save money are doing well.   Saving energy is more important than ever for homes and businesses eager to save money.  Those in the industry who I’ve talked to such as Lyndon Rive, CEO of SolarCity, still expect the solar industry to grow rapidly in 2009, in part because of the opportunity people have to save on their utility bill.  With millions of buildings across the US wasting energy on poor insulation, weather sealing, and air ducts, fixing this problem remains a big opportunity across the country.  As energy continues rising in price in the years ahead, the opportunity for businesses improving energy efficiency will keep on growing.

 

Green markets won’t stay small because all other things being equal, consumers chose green products.  Nobody hates the planet, and consumers consistently report in surveys that they will buy green products, all other things being equal.  Well-priced products like Green Works that work well and also happen to be good for the environment are increasingly moving into the mainstream. 

 

Another trend is that the price of oil will not stay low forever, and seems likely to reverse its downward slide in 2009, moving back toward more moderate territory.  The US auto industry is in turmoil, but there are also opportunities ahead in autos.  A variety of new all electric or plug-in hybrid cars are on the way in the years ahead, and when people start buying more cars again, they will be looking for something fresh and new.

 

Want to start a green business for very little money?  Zola Goods and Green Irene are two possibilities.  Green Irene is recruiting Eco-Consultants across the country to go out to homes and perform Green Home Makeovers, providing a direct sales model like Avon.  Zola Goods works through coordinators who hold green house parties, like Tupperware, helping homeowners green their homes, and helping coordinators produce income on a flexible work schedule.  Another ready to go option is opening your own on-line green store with OnlyGreen4Me.

 

Look for big government action in 2009 that will help the continued growth of the green economy.  The Obama administration has continued to pledge its support for a renewable energy portfolio standard, green job development, and action on climate change.  The highly qualified green team he is assembling, including Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Chu to lead the Department of Energy, demonstrate his commitment to these initiatives. State and regional actions will also support green opportunities for entrepreneurs.  These actions will stimulate the economy not just now, but for many years to come.

 

The opportunities are not just for a few, or for the greenest of the green.  There are opportunities for almost anyone, including you.  Take stock of your assets, of which you probably have more than you realize.  Look through the many possibilities and find something that excites you.  You can do it.  You don’t need an MBA, an impressive resume, or piles of money to get started.  It will take time, energy and commitment, but you can build a successful business and take your life in a new direction.  The most important thing is getting started. 

 

Wishing you a happy, prosperous, and green New Year.   

 

Glenn Croston is the author of “75 Green Businesses You Can Start to Make Money and Make a Difference”, and the founder of Starting Up Green. 

Dreaming of a Green Christmas

December 24th, 2008

Up until now I’ve avoided talking about a Green Christmas, but I can’t resist.  It struck me today that “Green Christmas” is more than a clever turn of phrase, a variation on a theme.  The holiday season is many things to many people, but one thing it represents for almost everyone is hope and belief in good things to come.  This is not just about presents and sugar plums.  It is also about the hope and belief in a better future, and for many of us a better future is a greener one.

                 

My youngest is waiting eagerly for Christmas, full of belief.  She still believes fully and deeply in Santa, and knows he is coming soon.  Her palpable excitement and hope are inspiring.  Many people are full of doubt and fear, and could use such strong belief in a brighter future.  The challenges in the economy weigh heavily, and our environmental challenges remain urgent.  

 

If I could give everyone a Christmas gift, it would be the gift of hope to take with them and carry forward through difficult times.  For all of the great challenges we are faced with, I would give them the deep rock-solid belief in the future that a child feels at Christmas, the excitement about the great things that are coming our way. 

 

There is good reason to feel this way.  It can be hard to feel good about the future when things look bad, but our problems will not last forever.  Someone asked me the other day where I thought the economy will be two or five years from now.  I had to think for a second - I’m not sure where exactly the economy will be, but one thing I do know is that it sure as heck won’t be at the same low point it is today.  Things will get better.  As bad as things look for many people, the recession will pass and we will move on.  I believe the same can be said of our environmental challenges.  I believe we will take on these challenges and turn things around, building a more sustainable future for ourselves and our children.

 

Hope is not easy to wrap up and put in a box, but perhaps this is a gift that we each can give to ourselves, allowing ourselves to believe.  So whatever you are faced with, I hope that you have a green Christmas, full of belief in the bright future we are all going to create together.