The idea of following a “green” lifestyle is by no means a new concept but the almost universal realisation that our activities are causing immense damage to the world’s ecosystems has propelled the cause of global environmentalism to the forefront of political decision making and most people agree that there is no time to lose.
On a purely personal level, we all have a part to play and the old adage “Think globally … act locally” is as true today as it has ever been. However many people simply fail to take their personal responsibility for some of the potentially catastrophic changes to our planet. It seems highly unlikely that any significant improvements will occur as a result of the goodwill and common sense of the general population. National governments do have a part to play but again the usual mix of threats and incentives is seldom as effective as the politicians may have hoped.
In order for any meaningful changes to occur, people really need to have a very real and genuine wish to change and such change should be seen as a positive improvement in their quality of life. In the world of commerce, the “greening” of products has long been recognised as a selling point meaning that there is usually no conflict between acting in an environmentally conscious manner and running a profitable business. From the point of view of the entrepreneur, this is an ideal opportunity to provide tailor-made products and services specifically targeted at a steadily increasing sector. There are many different business opportunities worthy of consideration but the following ten are some of our favourites.
Recycling has always provided ways of reducing the demand for raw materials and energy but recycling on an industrial scale involves huge financial investment and is best suited to large corporations or governmental organisations. On a smaller scale, the reuse of items destined to end up in landfill certainly ticks all of the right environmental boxes. It is currently extremely fashionable to give items a new lease of life in this way with many “Vintage” and “Retro” retail establishments selling things from clothing to furniture. The main requirement is a good sense of style and the ability to spot the potential in items that most people would overlook. In our throwaway society, there is certainly no shortage of suitable material which is often very inexpensive or even free from sites such as Freecycle.
Low Energy Lighting
No one likes to waste money so why would anyone choose to use high energy lighting when much more efficient alternatives are now available? In the past, the relatively high initial outlay may have been a deterrent but costs continue to fall and have now reached the point where the energy and cost savings are immediate. There are opportunities for both the installation and sales of suitable systems. Obviously safety and quality are key factors and any imported items should be sourced from a trusted supplier with very high-quality control standards.
Facilities for Electric Vehicles
The widespread use of electric vehicles is much closer than most people realise and the huge rise in the number of such vehicles will be matched by a demand for a suitable infrastructure. Charging points will certainly become standard features on new houses and will be retrofitted to other properties including homes, workplaces and supermarket car parks. There is also likely to be a demand for specialist garage services dealing with the new technological features of electric vehicles.
Eco-Friendly Building Materials
The use of environmentally friendly construction materials is no longer restricted to the construction of eco-homes but is widely specified throughout the industry and with plans for a major programme of house building being imminent, suitably certified materials are likely to be in great demand.
The use of biomass fuels sourced from natural living materials has been considered a suitable alternative to the use of fossil fuels. Its production and use, however, remains controversial, particularly where biomass crops are grown on land which could otherwise be employed for food production. It would seem that the success of such a venture depends not only on its relatively green credentials but also on the current world price of crude oil.
Stay at Home Holidays
Air travel is a major contributor to the personal carbon footprint of those who choose to fly, especially where long-haul flights are involved. By choosing more local holiday destinations, this can be avoided and this is one of the reasons increasing numbers of people are choosing to holiday at home. The current trend is for families to enjoy outdoor holidays so camping is enjoying something of a resurgence with “glamping” offering a slightly upmarket alternative.
Plant a Forest
Any entrepreneur looking for a “get rich quick” opportunity would be well advised to look elsewhere. The excitement of watching trees grow is certainly akin to watching paint dry but as a truly environmentally friendly business idea, it is surely without equal. The trees of an established forest increase in size and value each year ensuring that this is a genuinely appreciating asset. The main disadvantages are the fact that, for a newly planted forest, there will be no capital return for many years. A more balanced approach is to buy an established forest and add to it. That way a steady income stream can be obtained. Trees effectively remove and lock away atmospheric carbon dioxide providing a positive contribution towards the problem of global warming. Forestry usually attracts government grants and tax advantages due to the extremely long-term nature of the investment.
Promote Organic Gardening
Commercial food production usually relies on the use of chemical pesticides and fungicides which can be extremely damaging to wildlife and possibly harmful to humans. Many people enjoy growing their own food often choosing natural methods of pest prevention. Organic farming is possible but the results are often disappointing and unpredictable but for the home gardener some good successes can be achieved. There is certainly a market for both the expertise of showing just how to successfully grow crops organically and also for the various pieces of equipment needed, along with suitably certified organic seed, fertilisers, insecticides and fungicides.
Provide Alternatives to Wood Burners
For many years the use of domestic wood burning stoves has been regarded as being almost “carbon neutral” as all carbon produced has previously been taken from the atmosphere as the trees have grown. It has now been realised that these stoves not only produce large amounts of damaging greenhouse gasses but also other combustion products which can have a serious effect on air quality, especially in urban areas. It is likely that the use of such stoves will be prohibited in some areas and there would certainly seem to be some scope for either the decommissioning of the stoves or providing suitable adaptations to enable their use to continue without causing any significant pollution problems.
Vegetarianism and Veganism
The production of meat for human consumption is hugely damaging to the environment. The use of land for grazing and silage is very inefficient compared to growing food crops and the production of methane should be minimised as this is one of the most damaging of all greenhouse gasses. Vegetarianism and veganism are steadily increasing worldwide and the production and retailing of vegetarian and vegan products is certainly a growing market. Any venture into this market certainly promises to help the planet while also preventing unnecessary animal suffering.