Starting an internet business is a great opportunity for eco-conscious entrepreneurs. Because most internet businesses can be started from home, they reduce the need for resource consumption from heating, cooling, and commuting to an office. At the same time, however, many internet businesses contribute to environmental problems by encouraging people to purchase products that are not sustainably produced.
Here are ten great green internet business opportunities for 2011 that promote truly green social change:
1. Green Authority Site
With Google and other search engines continually refining their algorithm to reward websites offering quality content and punish websites with skimpy or spammy content, many webmasters and web analysts agree that the most successful type of website in the future is likely to be authority websites or blogs. These are large sites with hundreds or thousands of pages of quality content and many organic backlinks.
Though the “green” web has expanded exponentially in recent years, there are still many niches available for a creative green entrepreneur interested in starting a successful green authority site. Additionally, though many prominent authority sites in the past were static content sites, a growing number of blogs and other dynamic Web 2.0 sites are now viewed as authority sites by search engines, so there is room for considerable diversity among different authority sites even within the same niche. For many beginning webmasters, the simplest type of green authority to start is likely to be a WordPress blog, but more experienced web entrepreneurs and programmers will find their opportunities limited only by their imagination.
2. Green Social Shopping Network
One type of green authority site that may be especially popular, and profitable, in the coming years is a green social shopping network. Social shopping networks such as ThisNext, Polyvore, and Kaboodle typically combine features such as wishlists, social bookmarking, and user-curated collections that allow members to save and review favorite products, browse other members’ collections, create lists or galleries of products around a certain theme, and share their activity on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. With ethical consumer spending growing by double digits in many states and countries and many green consumers becoming increasingly savvy about “greenwashing” and other dishonest marketing tactics, the time is ripe for an eco-friendly social shopping and recommendations network offering information and personalized recommendations to green consumers.
3. Green Flash Sales Site
Another cool internet business idea targeting green consumers is a green flash deals site. Flash deals, which offer limited time discounts – some lasting as little as an hour – to customers who have signed up to receive mobile or email updates from the business, have become so popular that websites such as Yipit and MyNines have sprung up specifically to keep track of them. A directory of eco-friendly flash deals would be an immensely useful addition to the social shopping web for many frugal green consumers.
4. Green P2P Websites
Another way some frugal green consumers are saving money is by sharing, renting, and trading products instead of purchasing them. The rise in peer-to-peer “collaborative consumption” of this sort has already turned several green web startups into successful internet businesses, and many opportunities remain.
5. Green Membership Sites
Green membership sites are similar to green authority sites, but instead of providing all their information free of charge, they include one or more areas that require a paid membership to access. Visitors need some compelling reason to join a membership site, so it is important to have good sales skills and the ability to establish exertise in order to establish a successful one. If you succeed, however, membership sites can be a fantastic way to create steady, long-term income with relatively little effort on your part. There are many different green niches that could be turned into successful membership sites. Staying on top of green business trends can help you choose a successful one.
6. Green Internet Coach
One type of internet business that is often run as a membership site is internet coaching. Internet coaches offer detailed tutorials and personalized coaching on a wide variety of topics through written content, streaming videos, web conferences, and more. With more and more families, businesses, nonprofit organizations, and even governments trying to go green, there are countless opportunities for knowledgeable eco experts to develop a successful green internet business by offering eco consulting and coaching services online.
7. Green Q&A Site
Another opportunity for eco experts interested in spreading reliable information about green living, green business, and other green issues is a green question and answer site. There are several different business models possible to make your green question and answer site profitable. For example, some question and answer sites are supported by ad revenue, others by charging a small fee for every question asked. Whatever your business model, it’s very important to attract reliable experts to answer questions, or provide a community moderating or voting system to ensure that good answers are rewarded and inaccurate or misleading ones punished.
8. Green Social Games
Social games are all the rage right now, with games such as Farmville and Mafia Wars gathering millions of users on Facebook. Elements of gaming have also begun to creep into everyday life through the phenomenon of “gamification,” with start-ups such as Foursquare and Get Glue offering badges, prizes, and leaderboards for users who “check in” to favorite restaurants, coffee shops, and even TV shows! A few green web start-ups have already started to experiment with using gaming as a force for social good, but it remains a wide open niche, with plenty of room for creative entrepreneurs and game designers to jump in and take the market by storm.
9. Green Ad Server
Google Adsense is the most popular ad serving application on the web, but it’s far from the only one. There are a number of niche ad servers that serve contextual ads similar to Adsense for websites and blogs in particular niches, and with ethical consumerism on the rise, green bloggers and other websites are likely to be increasingly interested in displaying only ads that match their values, for practical as well as moral reasons. A niche green ad server serving ads from green businesses, environmental organizations, social enterprises, and other ethical organizations would be a profitable green business opportunity that would fill this need.
10. Green Apps
Web and mobile applications designed to help users go green are likely to be a booming business as environmental awareness continues to expand around the world. Apps can do everything from calculating carbon footprints to providing sustainability information about a product to automatically donating money to the user’s cause of choice every time they make a purchase. Creative green entrepreneurs and developers will continue to find nearly unlimited opportunities in the green apps niche.