5 Unique Green Business Ideas For the International Year of Forests


For decades, forest conservation and restoration has been the main province of environmental organizations and other non-profits, but a growing number of businesses and for profit social enterprises are beginning to step up to the challenge. If you are passionate about forests, here are some unique green business opportunities to consider:

  • Landscaping with trees. As more and more homeowners become disenchanted with time-consuming, expensive, and unsustainable lawns, eco-friendly shade gardens, there are countless opportunities for people interested in landscaping with trees, from habitat restoration and native plant nurseries to edible landscaping services (many trees and shrubs produce fruits and nuts that are ornamental as well as edible) and permaculture design, which encourages the creation of “food forests” in urban and rural areas alike.
  • Forest farming. Sustainably managed forests, woodlots, and orchards can produce an incredible array of crops and other products, including fruits, nuts, mushrooms, ginseng, maple syrup, firewood, lumber, charcoal, wood biomass, holiday greenery, free range pork, honey, and much, much more. At the same time, they preserve habitat for local wildlife and provide ecosystem services for nearby communities. If sustainable agriculture is your calling, forest farming may be the ideal green business opportunity for you!
  • Reclaimed wood. Architectural salvage yards have been reclaiming quality wood from demolation and remodelling projects to be reused for many years, and in recent years they’ve been joined by a number of companies that specialize in reclaiming wood from urban trees that have died or been removed. Minneapolis-based Wood From the Hood is one such company, which converts former street trees into beautiful artisan furniture and other crafts. Reclaiming wood helps conserve resources and reduce the demand for wood from virgin forests or tree plantations.
  • Shade grown coffee and chocolate. If you’re passionate about rainforest conservation, one of the tastiest ways to help out is to start a organic, shade grown coffee shop or chocolate company. Growing these crops in the shade allows farmers to preserve more of the original forest cover and biodiversity, as well as maintaining ecosystem services. Other sustainably produced rainforest products include some fruits and nuts, such as the Maya Nut, and various herbal and medicinal products, among others.
  • Alternative paper. Even the most hardened anti-environmentalists are often horrified by the destruction of forests to produce junk mail and other paper products that are used once or twice (if at all) and thrown away. In recent years, efforts have been made to develop ecolabels for sustainably harvested paper products, and more and more companies are turning to recycled paper products to reduce their environmental impact even more. The more experimental field of alternative paper offers some unique green business opportunities for creative entrepreneurs, including treeless paper made from sustainably grown fibers such as hemp, kenaf, bamboo, and banana. Several companies have even developed paper made from elephant dung! The great thing about many of these alternative papers is that they’re created from the by-product of other activities, so they help fight deforestation twice over: by reducing the need for wood pulp for paper and by allowing farmers to use land more efficiently and profitably so they don’t have to expand the land under cultivation by cutting down more forests. In the case of elephant dung paper, it also creates an economic incentive to protect these magnificent animals, which are often killed as agricultural pests in some parts of Africa and Asia.

These are just five of the cool green business opportunities available for entrepreneurs with a passion for forest conservation and restoration!

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Image credit: mugley and kevindooley

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