Green business practices have not faded as many trends do, more than likely because these practices have a very real impact on our future. In 2010 we have seen the continued growth of past green practices and the emergence of new ones. As businesses develop the old and new ideas to improve on environmentally friendly services and products, they decrease the negative impact that we are having on the earth. At the same time, businesses are saving money and winning customer loyalty with their adoption of some of these green practices.
Take a look at some of the best green business ideas that came out of 2010 to see where you and your company can make improvements on saving our planet.
Compact florescent lights (CFLs) have been around for a few years now. It is not uncommon for households and businesses to have already replaced their old bulbs with CFLs. However, as with anything there is room for improvement.
While CFLs save much more energy than the regular light bulb, LEDs are even more energy-efficient and last 10 times longer than CFLs. In recent years, scientists expanded the use for LEDs (in the past they could only be used for Christmas lights, instrument panels, and other similar small light bulbs) by clustering the single lights, but the cost was still too high for practical use in homes and small businesses.
In 2009, though, Purdue University had a huge breakthrough in lowering the cost of LEDs, and in 2010 these bulbs were on the market for home and business use. While the cost is still high, the price along with the length of bulb life and energy savings is comparable to most CFLs.
This year, a car lot in St. Petersburgh, Florida opened with only green cars on the lot. With auto makers creating all types of hybrid and electric cars, there is no shortage of options. Chevy’s Volt, Honda’s EV, and Toyota’s RAV4 EV were praised in LA’s largest auto show. The Fisker Karma was the first plug-in hybrid available on the US market this year, but the Chevy Volt beat the Karma with a low price tag and the Nissan all-electric Leaf also made an appearance.
Eco-scientists are working on some pretty amazing new forms of energy sources. Tidal and wave energy developments have been approved and are underway. They are actually harnessing the power of water in wave form to create energy for homes and businesses. Just off of the Scotland coast, 10 energy companies will be setting up wave and tidal farms. The plan is to power 750,000 homes by year 2015. According to predictions made by the Marine Board of the European Science Foundation, the seas will produce half of Europe’s power by 2050.
One of the most interesting methods of reducing waste is the transformation of CO2 emissions into cement. By adding calcium to the smoke emitted from factories, we can create a rock that can be used for cement.
Other uses for waste are also interesting. Companies are actually sifting through trash to find reusable elements to create energy and products. In fact, the US Army used railroad ties made from recycled plastic to build a bridge for tanks. Axion International, the New Jersey company that manufactured the ties, also produces other building materials out of recycled plastic.
Some of the best-selling green products of years past continued to be popular in 2010. More green cleaning products arrived on store shelves this year. For instance, Planet Ultra Dishwashing Liquid, the Ecover dishwasher, the Simple Green All-purpose Cleaner, and Clorox’s Simple Green cleaning line all became popular items. Melaleuca, a company that provides green cleaning supplies, bath and body products, and vitamins to members at a discounted price, continued to grow in sales this year.
Water distillers, air purifiers, hydroponic growing systems, LED and CFL bulbs, and eco-friendly foods all grew in popularity this year. For instance, consumers can easily find Kashi products on the shelves of any major grocery store and even Target’s gift cards are entirely biodegradable and compostable.
Many companies and individuals are opting to build their new homes and office buildings with natural lighting, solar panels, and more to reduce the use of energy. For instance, the Twelve|West building in Portland, Oregon is made up of materials such as salvage and reclaimed and FSC certified wood. On top of this 23 story building are a number of wind mills, and inside the building is mostly open to prevent more use of materials and to help with thermal mass. Kroon Hall at Yale University is a net zero energy building. With plenty of windows for light and lots of open space, the building sets standards for other colleges and universities to become more sustainable.
No More Gulf Oil Spills
With the devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico this year, everyone is more than happy to find ways to avoid this disaster again. This summer, the Southern Allliance for Cleaner Energy gave a grant to Oceana for their plan to eliminate the need for gulf oil. Included in this agenda is to make 20% of America’s cars electric by 2020, turn oil-based power plants into electric ones, do away with oil-heated homes, and use non-feedstock biofuels.
Eco-friendly Gift Wrap
Finally, to wrap up this year’s top green business ideas is a list of eco-friendly gift wrapping methods. Reuse items that you already have laying around the house, such as old Sunday comics, previously used gift bags and tissue paper, reusable shopping bags, maps from an old atlas, old phone book pages, magazine pages, etc. You can also buy green gift wrap. Real Goods sells a gift wrap that is biodegradable and embedded with wildflower seeds. Or you could use banana fiber paper or another similar recycled paper, and fabric is a great alternative to paper, such as the fiber wrap found at wrapnatural.com. Of course, avoid using tape, and instead use tight creases and hold the paper together with hemp twine or recycled yarn. You can even forgo the wrapping completely and place gifts in boxes, pails, mixing bowls, or baskets that your recipient can reuse.
The hard work of diligent people and companies makes living green easier for individuals and businesses. We need only to support these products by using them. As we use green alternatives, we can make more advancements possible for 2011.