Monthly Archive December 2017

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How to Start a Green Home-Based Business

Do you long to make a positive impact in the planet doing what you love? Are you concerned about the damage to our health and environment created by many of the products and services we use? Do you want to be part of the solution, while being your own boss? Then why not consider starting a green home business to start a new life journey feeling fulfilled and happy with your career?

What is a Green Home-Based Business?

At its very core, a green home-based business is business that is run from your own home that is focused on making the world a more sustainable place. That means whatever you do – whether you produce products or offer services or consult with businesses or homeowners – your goal should be to make the planet cleaner, healthier, and more vibrant. Concepts like reducing energy consumption, cutting pollution and toxicity, minimizing water waste, and reducing resource consumption will all be part of your vocabulary as a green business owner.

Many businesses do not require brick and mortar storefronts, or downtown offices. Web innovation has made it easy to create a virtual office environment and have all employees telecommute. Tools like Google Docs make online collaboration easy, Skype allows video conferencing, Teambox or Basecamp are great for project management and the HiveDesk desktop application allows workers to clock in and out, and run reports on their hours. By running your business from your home office, you will significantly reduce your environmental footprint just by not commuting, and save you tons of money by not having to rent commercial office space.

Consumer interest in sustainability and natural living has never been higher, so now’s a great time to be thinking about how you can put your unique skills and interests into creating a green home-based business that’s great for your bottom line and awesome for the planet.

The Green Startup Action Plan is our detailed guide to helping aspiring eco entrepreneurs start a green business. The Green Startup Action Plan comes with an audio guide and a workbook designed to walk you through the process of clarifying your green business idea, writing your business plan, finding funding, and getting your business off the ground.

7 Steps to Starting a Green Business At Home

  1. Anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit and marketable skills can start a home based business. Research your green business idea. To start a business, you need to know if the market wants what you have to offer. You also need to research if your target market has money to buy your product or service. You also be really clear about what you are good at doing, what you love to do, since, chances are, you will be working a lot to get your business off the ground in the first 2 years. If you are great at accounting, but kind of hate it, definitely don’t go into business as certified green accountant, because it will start to feel like a job. If you need inspiration, check out our list of 50 green business ideas below.
  2. Get trade licenses, certification & training. Depending on what kind of business you going into, and where you are, you may need trade licenses, training and certification in order to operate. You may also consider getting some form of green certification, as this will increase the level of trust around the green-ness of your business. Green America and the Green Business Bureau are 2 organizations that certify green businesses. As you go through the green certification process, you may learn new ways of lowering the eco footprint of your home based business.
  3. Write a business plan. A business plan is a good way to think through your business and all the important areas you will need to address if you want your business to be viable – things like as your marketing plan, your financial projections, your team or board of directors. You don’t need to create a huge business plan, and make it creating the perfect plan doesn’t become an obstacle to launching your business – because your plan will change. Make sure your Executive Summary is rock solid. If you are self financing, the business plan is a great exercise, but not something to get hung up on. If you are seeking financing for your business, however, either via angel or VC investors, grants or a bank loan, you will need to present a compelling business plan as part of the application process.
  4. Apply for a business permit or incorporate. Some fields allow you to Do Business As (DBA) yourself. Other types of businesses may require a local business permit or even business zoning. You will need to research your local business requirements on your city or state website. While it’s possible to operate your business as a sole proprietor, for asset protection reasons, it may be best to incorporate as an LLC, S-Corp or C-Corp. If you are operating as a sole proprietor, your personal assets can be at risk if you are held liable for debts or damages incurred by your business. You will need to research what business structure makes the most sense for you.
  5. Set up your home office. It’s a great idea to create a space dedicated entirely to your business related activities. You can also write this area off as a business expense, though you will need to check with your accountant, as there may be requirements as to what kind of spaces qualify – for example, that your office is indeed a separate room with a door, as opposed to the corner of your living room.
  6. Create a website. Having a business website is a must for all businesses as it is your virtual calling card. It is considerably cheaper to set up a website than it is to print a brochure, and you can update it whenever you want without worrying about having to recycle your last print run. Make sure, when you build your website, to build it with search engine optimization (SEO) in mind. Never underestimate the power of web traffic. Most consumers begin researching the products or services they need in places like Google and Yelp, so you want to makes sure the website you build has strong search engine visibility for keywords relevant to your industry and is listed in all the right places.
  7. Market your new green business. Now that you have written your business plan, raised funding, gotten any necessary licenses, training, and certification, and established a web presence, now it’s time to market your business and get customers. SEO is a must, as search engine traffic is a powerful way to attract customers. While SEO traffic can take time, energy, and resources to build up, it’s long term ROI is better than any paid advertising campaign, because, eventually it becomes free, keyword targeted traffic. Web advertising is the best way to market your business as it is considerably cheaper than placing print ads AND you will have immediate metrics that indicate to you how your advertising is doing. The cheapest and easiest way to market your business, is to get listed on Yelp.com and other local directories, Google Places – if you are a brick and mortar business – so you show up in Google Maps, and using social media sites like Facebook & Twitter. Facebook advertising is considerably cheaper than Google Adwords. Setting up a Facebook Business Page and Twitter account are free.

If you need help getting your green business idea off the ground, sign up for our Green Startup mailing list below, and receive the Green Startup Action Plan as a free gift. The Green Startup Action Plan will walk you through the process of visioning your green business idea, writing your business plan, finding funding, and getting your business off the ground.

50 Green Home Business Ideas

If you’re like many people, you’re having a hard time envisioning what would count as a green home-based business. Well, have we got a list for you! Following are 50 green home business ideas you can scan to see if any are the right fit for you. Even if there isn’t a perfect match, many of these ideas will trigger you to think of unique and interesting spin-offs that could be the perfect fit for your interests and abilities.

Eco-friendly consignment shop
Eco-friendly wedding dress designer
Permaculture design business
Green toy maker
Upcycling business
Organic herb business
Green online business
Green home audit company
Sustainable architecture firm
Green game designer
Green app creator
Sustainable home builder
Community supported agriculture association
Energy financing company
Building deconstruction consulting
Home hydroponic system designer
Eco-friendly crafts creator
Green building audit company
Nontoxic cleaning product sales
Home cleaning services
Sustainable landscape design
Eco-friendly pool maintenance
Sustainable janitorial services
Vegetarian or organic meal service company
Organic bakery
Home garden consultant
Detoxify your home specialist
Green candle making
Green home business through Etsy
Natural massage therapy business
Organic orchard business
Natural, organic gift basket business
Bicycle repair business
Biofuel vehicle conversion business
Vegetable oil refining business (for fuel)
Green interior design business
Organic beekeeping business
Green event planning business
Organic lawn care business
Sustainable wedding planning business
Composting consultant business
Natural pet care and grooming services
Virtual assistant work
Eco-friendly dog walking service
Accounting services
Legal services
Home improvement
Building retrofitting
Water saving consultant
Graphic design

Green home-based businesses, as you can see, come in all shapes and sizes. Whether you offer services, sell a product, or consult based on your expertise, there’s a green home business idea out there that is the perfect fit for you.

If you need help getting your green business idea off the ground, sign up for our Green Startup mailing list below, and receive the Green Startup Action Plan as a free gift. The Green Startup Action Plan will walk you through the process of visioning your green business idea, writing your business plan, finding funding, and getting your business off the ground.

Bygreen

Green Affiliate Marketing Guide

Affiliate marketing is a form of performance-based marketing in which a merchant rewards its affiliated marketing partners for each visitor or customer brought about by the affiliate’s own marketing efforts. The affiliate marketing industry involves 4 principal players:

  1. The merchant – also known as the ‘retailer’ or ‘brand’
  2. The affiliate network – the platform that contains product offers for the affiliate, tracks and manages the affiliates, and processes payments
  3. The publisher – also known as ‘the affiliate’, and
  4. The customer

Affiliate marketers often use Internet marketing strategies to promote their affiliate products. These include organic search engine optimization (SEO), pay per click marketing, and display advertising, email marketing. On the other hand, affiliates sometimes use less orthodox techniques to promote their products. This includes all kinds of spam (email, blog comment, link spam, autoblogs), parasite hosting, and publishing fake reviews of products or services offered by a partner.

3 Reasons for Green Merchants to Start an Affiliate Marketing Program

Many green merchants miss out on the opportunity to grow their business through affiliate marketing. Imagine recruiting an army of affiliate marketers that will promote your products all over the Web. Here are some advantages for merchants of eco friendly products to start their own affiliate marketing program.

Recruit People: Affiliate marketing allows you to recruit people who believe in your brand or your product to promote you. They benefit by receiving income for promoting your business or product and you benefit by growing your customer base.

Increases Your Brand Recognition: Even if you don’t get sales from affiliate marketing, your brand is getting out there and people are beginning to recognize your brand. Affiliate marketing works to your benefit even if you don’t make the sale the first time.

It Doesn’t Cost You Anything: Affiliate marketing is a very low-cost way to advertise your green business or social enterprise. If no purchase takes place, there’s no money changing hands, which is a benefit over traditional marketing which will require you to put out money in the hope that it will increase sales and traffic.

Tips on Choosing a Green Affiliate Network to List Your Products

As a merchant, you can list on multiple affiliate networks to increase your reach. However, it is important to research the network to determine if it is the best fit for you. Some areas to keep in mind include:

  • Set up fees & commissions
  • Types of industries represented
  • Payout terms
  • Customer service

25% Discount to Join the Performance-Based Green Affiliate Marketing Network

Warren Fligg is an affiliate marketing guru, with experience dating back to the 90s. As the founder of Performance-Based.com, Warren has turned his niche green affiliate network into a thriving marketplace for eco products. He also works with green merchants and retailers and how to make affiliate marketing work for them.

While Warren and his wife were preparing their nursery for their first born son, they spent hours scrubbing the room clean using foul smelling, and probably toxic cleaning chemicals. In a Eureka moment – based on the realization that all the cleaning chemicals they just used were probably terrible for their unborn child, them, their pet and the environment as a whole – Warren decided to be part of the solution, and launched an affiliate network that focuses on green, eco,organic, and sustainable merchants.

Green Affiliate Network Green affiliate programs 300×51 Green Affiliate Marketing GuideFor a limited time, Performance-Based.com is offering a 25% to green merchants to sign up to their affiliate network.

Use the discount code Green Me Today and get 25% off your merchant setup fees.

Bygreen

11 Green Business Trends For 2011

Many analysts are predicting that 2011 will be a make-or-break-it year for many green businesses as increasing competition in the green sector drives some businesses to new heights of innovation and service while other businesses lag behind. Keeping your finger on the pulse of macro and consumer trends is one way to ensure that your business will pass all challenges with flying colors, and make 2011 its strongest year yet!
Here are eleven green business trends to be aware of in 2011:

1. Collaborative Consumerism

With the aftershocks of the Great Recession still hurting working families around the country and environmental awareness on the rise, many families are trying to simplify their lives, protect their financial well-being, and go green at the same time by getting rid of possessions they don’t need and cutting back on unnecessary purchases. This has led to a sharp increase in the number of people leading what some are calling the “leasing lifestyle.” Why spend money, consume resources, and use up valuable storage space on something you’ll only use a few times a year, the philosophy goes, when you can just rent it instead?

In addition to seeking out traditional rental companies, many families are turning to more creative alternatives to ownership. One that is becoming increasingly popular is the concept of “collaborative consumption.” This is a catchall term that includes many different ways families are saving money and reducing their consumption, including peer-to-peer (P2P) sharing, P2P renting, bartering, swapping, fractional ownership, and more.

In an economy dependent on consumer spending, this may seem like a dangerous trend, even for green businesses dedicated to the principles of reduce, reuse, recycle. However, it offers many business opportunities for creative green entrepreneurs, especially on the web. Local, national, and international websites such as Freecycle, Rentalic, Zilok, Swap.com, and Neighborrow are already springing up to help facilitate these types of collaborative transactions, and there is room for many more.

Online communities have formed around some unusual types of “rentals” as well. Couchsurfing.com is a P2P travel network that enables members to rent out unused rooms, beds, or even couches to travelers as a unique form of cultural exchange. Hyperlocavore, a yardsharing community, matches up apartment dwellers and other people who want to grow their own food but don’t have the resources with people who have unused land or who need help tending their gardens. Coworking.com enables people interested in sharing workspaces with others to facilitate creative collaboration and community. And of course, blogs have sprung up to document the phenomenon and share information and resources among collaborative consumers!

2. Eco-Superior

Another consequence of the recession may be a decline in so-called “planned obsolescence” in certain types of consumer products. Clothing, appliances, tools, and other products that break down after just a few months or years of use not only cause frustration and aggravation, they are also hard on consumer’s pocketbooks, and with more consumers trying to cut back on unnecessary spending, expect to see more high quality, long-lasting products in stores.
This won’t just help consumers save money, it will also conserve resources and reduce waste, improving environmental sustainability. Many green businesses are already booming due to the rise in ethical consumerism around the world, and are well equipped to capitalize on this trend by developing innovative, “eco-superior” products that are not only greener than conventional alternatives, but also offer superior performance and durability.

3. Reduce, Reuse, Recyle

As concerns about waste and dwindling resources have grown, the three Rs of green living have gained more attention from businesses than ever before, and a growing number of companies are developing creative solutions to reducing waste and resource consumption.

One such is Recycle Match, which operates on the philosophy that one company’s trash is another company’s treasure. RecycleMatch matches businesses who have waste products such as used vinyl billboards, polyester textile waste, and salvaged building materials with businesses who need them. The business offering the waste materials has the opportunity to make money off something it would otherwise need to pay to dispose of, the business receiving the waste materials gets a lower price than it would if it sourced the product through traditional channels, and both businesses are able to protect the environment by reducing resource consumption and waste. Founded in 2009, Recycle Match has already helped keep more than 3 million pounds of waste materials out of landfills!

Another green business trend that has taken off in recent years and is expected to continue to spread is the concept of “upcycling,” which takes low value waste materials and turns them into products that are useful and beautiful. Recent years have seen a resurgence in the popularity of crafts such as knitting, pottery, and weaving in many parts of the world, and clever crafters have turned discarded candy wrappers into handbags, aluminum pop tops into jewelry, and worn denim into braided rugs. Many of these crafters now sell upcycled products online on Etsy.com or their own green business websites, meeting the growing demand both for eco-friendly products and for high quality, handcrafted goods.

4. Social Shopping and Group Buying

Social shopping has been around in one form or another since a Sumerian housewife first recommended a new potter to her neighbor, but since the advent of the internet, it has exploded in popularity. E-commerce websites such as Amazon are now able to track your purchases online and suggest other products you may be interested in based on the purchases of others who made the same purchase, while popular shopping social networks such as ThisNext allow members to display favorite products as recommendations to their friends on the website itself, and increasingly on other social media sites as well.

In addition to personalized recommendations from friends, many green consumers are increasingly savvy about “greenwashing” and seek out reliable ecolabeling information and similar resources to help them make informed decisions about green products and services. Although most ecolabels are issued by non-profit organizations, one way green businesses are capitalizing on the desire for reliable information is by turning retail stores into information resources that offer detailed information about the environmental impacts of particular products in the form of supplier scorecards or similar factsheets.

One unique green startup pursuing this business model is Source4Style, an e-commerce site and information resource for eco-conscious fashion designers all in one. Co-founded by model and eco-fashionista Summer Rayne Oakes, the site allows designers to research and source sustainable materials, receive swatches and make purchases, and share reviews with fellow designers.

Other green businesses have taken a social enterprise approach to ecolabeling. One of the most recognized for-profit ecolabels is the Marine Stewardship Council, which provides certification for sustainably harvested seafood.

Another consumer trend likely to make a splash in the green business world in the coming year is group buying. The success of group buying startup Groupon, which allows members to receive substantial deals at local restaurants and other businesses if enough people sign up within the deadline, has been well documented, and several green entrepreneurs, including Sundeep Ahuja of Blissmo and Annalea Krebs of EthicalDeal.com are hoping to duplicate the model with a focus on green businesses. Green products and services have a not-always-deserved reputation for being more expensive than conventional products and services, and group buying is one of several creative solutions green entrepreneurs are using to reach a wider audience and make going green more affordable.

5. Gamification

One of the hottest trends in social media in 2010 was “gamification.” Gamification is the practice of adding game mechanics such as points, badges, and leaderboards to everyday activities.

To date, most of the social media startups banking on gamification as a business strategy have focused on geolocation or entertainment. For example, Foursquare, one of 2010′s fastest growing social networks, allows users to earn badges, discounts, and other rewards, for “checking in” to their favorite restaurants and other businesses with GPS-enabled smartphones, and GetGlue, which raised more than $6 million in venture capital to build its popular social entertainment platform, offers stickers and a personalized recommendation engine for checking in to books, movies, tv shows, and other types of entertainment.

However, there are interesting signs that the addictive power of gamification may increasingly be used to promote positive social change. One popular recent startup, Health Month, tackles behavior modification through social gaming, encouraging members to eat healthier, exercise more, go green, and be more financially responsible with the help of points, brackets, and a dash of friendly competition among team members. Green startup Practically Green offers badges, points, and achievement levels based on simple, practical green living tips such as composting kitchen waste and replacing conventional light bulbs with LEDs. Social games such as these and others will likely spread over the coming year, and more social gaming startups that encourage players to live greener and more eco-conscious lives can be expected, as can elements of gamification added to everyday appliances, electronics, and vehicles.

6. Energy Dieting

One area where gamification is already being rapidly adopted is energy efficiency technology. As world economies begin to recover and demand for oil returns to pre-recession levels, oil prices in 2011 are expected to rise to levels not seen since the record prices of 2008. This will hurt businesses and households alike, so expect to see renewed efforts to improve energy efficiency and reduce energy consumption.

Gamification is likely to play an increasing role in these efforts due to the irresistible element of competition it adds. The new Nissan Leaf electric car incorporates a software program that allows drivers to calculate their mileage per kWh and compare it with other Nissan Leaf drivers in their local area and around the world, with a leaderboard displaying the best results. Smart grid companies have also embraced the trend. OPOWER, one of the rising stars of the industry, not only tracks the energy consumption of a household and compares it to the previous month and the same month the previous year, it also compares it to other households in the same neighborhood! Utilities have reported that customers receiving this type of comparative report consistently lower their energy consumption compared to customers that don’t, driven on by a spirit of competition.

Another recent startup, EarthAid, offers more direct rewards to customers who reduce their energy consumption. EarthAid connects to your utility accounts and compares your energy consumption to that of your friends and neighbors. Through its partnerships with sponsors such as Dove and Starbucks, it then offers coupons and other financial rewards to families that reduce their electricity, gas, and water consumption!

Of course, many green businesses and households have continued efforts to reduce energy consumption despite the comparatively low oil prices of 2009 and 2010, so as oil prices begin to rise again in 2011, expect to see many green businesses outperforming their oil-dependent competitors, and a growing realization in both the business world and among ordinary families that going green is not only good for the environment, it’s also good for the wallet!

7. Alternative Transportation

Another consequence of higher oil prices in 2011 is likely to be the growth of the alternative transportation industry. New electric car models such as the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt are expected to disappear quickly off lots in 2011, and the booming popularity of electric scooters and electric bikes will likely continue.

The auto and transport industries are also likely to see an increase in collaborative consumption. Carpools and ridesharing arrangements have long been a staple technique of eco-conscious commuters, but in the coming year we are also likely to see the rapid expansion of car-sharing in urban areas. A number of businesses and organizations, including ZipCar and even the traditional car rental service Hertz, have started successful car sharing services in urban areas with a fractional ownership model, allowing members to pay an annual fee and in exchange get access to a car for short trips whenever they want. More recently, the phenomenon of P2P car rentals has started to make a splash, with websites such as the UK based WhipCar and the Australian Drive My Car helping to arrange fully insured short term car rentals between neighbors, creating an extra source of income for people with unused cars while allowing non-car owners to save money and continue a primarily car-free lifestyle.

8. Urban Farming

green business trends 2011 urban farming 300×231 11 Green Business Trends For 2011Another consequence of rising oil prices is likely to be rising food prices, which may lead to food riots and even the collapse of governments in unstable regions of the developing world. In more stable societies, it is likely to lead to the continued expansion of the local food movement, with particular emphasis on urban farming and gardening.

The gardening and edible landscaping industries have already seen substantial growth in the last few years due to the recession. As families seek to reduce their grocery bills by growing more of their own food, sales of vegetable seeds, garden tools, and other products that help improve food security can increase 75% or more. At the same time, more and more consumers are seeking out fresh, organic, local, and non-GMO foods due to concerns about the health and environmental impacts of conventionally produced food products, and a growing percentage of organic consumers are becoming concerned about weak organic standards and greenwashing by industrial agriculture.

Gardening offers health conscious families a way to control both the health and environmental impacts of the food they eat, but with nearly 80% of the US population now living in urban and suburban areas, growing food requires a little more creativity than it once did. Fortunately, a number of clever green entrepreneurs are helping urban and suburban farmers out with everything from hydroponic farms designed to fit into apartment windows to rental chickens that allow would-be backyard chicken farmers an opportunity to try before they buy! As food prices rise and the demand for ethically produced food continues to rise, the popularity of urban farming is sure to rise along with it.

9. Local Action

Food is not the only area where green businesses and organizations are increasingly looking to local solutions. With many environmentalists bitterly disappointed by the results of national and international efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions, such as the disastrous Copenhagen Summit and the ineffectual Cancun Climate Summit, expect to see an increase in efforts to fight climate change on a local level. Grassroots efforts such the Transition Town movement have spread quickly and mobilized local communities around the globe to make a difference, as have awareness building events such as the 10/10/10 work day organized by 350.org.

Green businesses will likely benefit from this trend thanks to increased awareness of environmental issues among local residents, and by being one step ahead of more conventional businesses in the face of new regulations designed to improve local sustainability.

10. Sustainable Investing

Some market analysts are predicting that 2011 will be a strong year for green Initial Public Offerings (IPOs), especially in the clean tech field.

For less Wall Street savvy investors who still want to put their money where their mouth is, the explosive growth of microfinance, crowdfunding, and P2P lending will increasingly offer opportunities to earn interest or other rewards for helping fund small businesses and other projects.

Several non-profits, including Water.org and Energy in Common, are applying the microfinance model popularized by the Grameen Bank, Kiva, and others to support small-scale environmental infrastructure projects designed to improve access to clean water and renewable energy in the developing world.

To date, crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter and Sellaband have focused primarily on creative endeavors such as art, fashion, music, or writing. However, as the popularity of these sites continues to grow, new startups may offer opportunities for small scale angel investors to support green business startups with microinvestments of as little as $25.

11. Forests

green business trends 2011 reforestation 300×199 11 Green Business Trends For 2011The United Nations has declared 2011 the International Year of Forests, and scarcely a moment too soon! More than 97% of temperate “frontier” forests, also known as virgin forests or old growth forests, have been lost, and more than 60% of the world’s total “frontier” forests are gone. Although some reforestation efforts have met with great success, forest loss remains a pressing problem, not only for environmentalists, but also for local communities affected by the loss of ecosystem services provided by forests. The devastating floods that struck Pakistan in 2010, covering as much as 15% of the country in water, are blamed on a combination of factors, including the illegal logging of 80 million trees over a three year period in one “protected” forest reserve alone. Trees play a tremendously important role in flood mitigation, so the greed of a few illegal loggers may have cost more than 1,500 of their countrymen and women their lives, and tens of thousands more their homes and livelihoods. More recently, Australia and Brazil have been hit by severe floods and mudslides blamed partly on deforestation.

The memory of these disasters, combined with worldwide efforts to raise awareness of the importance of conserving and restoring forest lands, is likely to lead to renewed efforts to protect and manage forests in sustainable ways. For businesses and green entrepreneurs, this offers a great opportunity to expand corporate social responsibility programs, and it even creates a number of unique business opportunities. In particular, the field of agroforestry, which focuses on providing sustainable human livelihoods with forest products while also increasing total forest cover and biodiversity, has received a lot of attention from non-profit organizations, businesses, and landowners alike. Agroforestry has proved particularly popular in Africa, where it has spearheaded a quiet green revolution that has increased yields for many poor farmers by 100% or more without the use for chemical fertilizers, but it offers many applications in the developed world as well, where organizations such as CityFruit are using tree crops to reduce hunger and improve nutrition in urban areas.

Conclusion

Trends may come and go, and of course, it is impossible for any green business to stay on top of all of them, nor is it worthwhile to try. However, keeping track of green business trends is a great way to ensure that your business stays fresh, flexible, and creative in the face of new challenges and opportunities, the surest way to green business success in 2011 and beyond.