Glenn Croston, Ph.D. has written the first in what will undoubtedly be a large genre of books: eco-friendly business ideas. I received a copy of his new book 75 Green Businesses You Can Start to Make Money and Make A Difference last week and just finished reading through all 328 pages.
Although I don’t live an eco-friendly lifestyle like Croston, and tend to dismiss green ideas out of hand, I actually think that this was a good book to read as you explore different business opportunities and ideas. Although some of the ideas were a little too scientific for me, many were simple enough that anyone could do them. If you really enjoyed biology in school, or are some kind of science major in school now, the more technical ideas in this book will be right up your alley.
For each of the seventy-five business ideas profiled, Croston summarizes the market need, the mission, the knowledge needed, the amount of capital required, how long it would take to get off the ground and any special challenges. Following the quick breakdown, he analyzes the idea in further detail, writing three or four pages about each one. He also identifies related trends for each business idea and includes links to web resources that are especially helpful when dealing with the more scientific opportunities.
The seventy-five business ideas are divided into eleven chapters. Let’s go through each one:
I’d assumed that this entire chapter would be devoted to solar panel business opportunities, but surprisingly only two of ten ideas dealt with solar power. Two standout ideas in this chapter were wind-turbine installation and biodiesel production, both of which could be good for small business entrepreneurs.
photo credit: david.nikonvscanon
The ideas this chapter were less about business opportunities and more about being green jobs. The best idea in the chapter was starting a green elementary school. I can see a private school like this appealing to a wide variety of well-heeled parents, especially in urban areas.
This chapter describes eight business opportunities related to increasing the energy efficiency of people’s homes. The home energy efficiency consulting idea is an especially good one. If I could hire someone like this to decrease my $500 a month electric bill, I would, and I’d pay a large portion of my annual savings to do so.
If you have money to invest, or know people who do, the ideas in this chapter will be helpful. Idea #28 in the book is carbon trader. I’m glad that this one was included, because although I’d heard this mentioned before, I never quite understood the concept. Croston’s explanation is the most clear I’ve ever read.
Unfortunately, I thought that this chapter’s ideas were the most out of reach for the small business entrepreneur. Although bio-prospecting, for instance, sounded interesting, it’s large capital requirements were a turn-off.
This chapter has some excellent and inexpensive ideas. My favorite was the paperless office consultant. Businesses could hire you to digitize their internal business practices so that they could save paper, and ultimately money.
photo credit: mhaw
I thought that this chapter would be all about farming, instead it offered some interesting non agricultural ideas including one for eco-friendly restaurants. The idea that most excited me, though, was for home food-safety test kits. I know I spent a quite a bit on a home test to check for the presence of nitrites and nitrates in my well, and would probably spend a decent amount of money to check the level of pesticides and chemicals on the foods we buy and eat, at least once. In our safety-conscious world, I think that only testing once might be the exception and not the rule. If you could find and market inexpensive home tests, I think you’d have a home-run.
There are some esoteric ideas in this chapter, but also one very down to earth one: low water-use landscaping. Because of our years of drought, in California, and increasingly other states, there are restrictions on when we can water our yards. In some communities it’s every other day, and in others, once a week is all that is allowed. This could probably easily be solved if our water wasn’t subsidized and we paid the true cost, but in the meantime, there’s a big opportunity out there for landscapers that can develop yards that don’t use a lot of water, but aren’t just cacti, sand and boulders, either.
I don’t know how realistically it could compete on price, but green dry cleaning, an idea in this chapter, is a good one. Even I know that dry cleaning is heavily dependent on all kinds of toxic chemicals and I think that plenty of people would switch to a green dry cleaner to assuage their conscious.
The best idea in this chapter is a green car dealership. Although the startup expense might be relatively high, a dedicated cross-brand dealership for hybrid, electric, hydrogen, and biodiesel powered cars would be a popular place to purchase their automobile for a certain demographic of people.
Eco-friendly pest control was my favorite business idea from this chapter. There’s a company in North Carolina called The Beneficial Insect Company that raises and sells beneficial insect predators like ladybugs and praying mantises. Imagine if every couple months the pest control man came out and instead of spraying the outside of the house with toxic chemicals instead spread ladybugs? I think people would pay for that.
photo credit: jurvetson