10 Sustainable Business Ideas For Eco-Minded Entrepreneurs

March 22, 2022
Authored by:
Aakash Shewakaramani
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Sustainable business ideas have taken the limelight in recent years. This is partly thanks to Generation Z, which places great value on sustainability. This value comes hand in hand with the realization that we’ve had a late wake-up call.  

This is where entrepreneurship comes in. Sustainable business ideas can bring forth a better future for us and the coming generations. There are unlimited ways to approach sustainability! This article highlights 10 sustainable business ideas and how to develop them.

What Is A Sustainable Business?

A sustainable business is an operation that unionizes concern for the environment, profitability, and goodwill for the common good as its forefront. It requires asking the question, “How can you, as an entrepreneur, use your influence to help society in being more sustainable?”

The entire concept revolves around ‘doing more with less.' The navigation is tricky. You have to come up with efficient and sustainable solutions while keeping up with the provisions demanded by law.

But here’s the good news: Everyone wants to, or at least has thought about, jumping on the bandwagon.

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According to this Ipsos survey, the ongoing pandemic has influenced society into thinking more sustainably. Among 21,000 adults from 28 different countries, a whopping 86% want the world to become more sustainable and equitable.

Suffice it to say, if you want to put up a sustainable business, there are people who will listen to you. However, it’s up to you to develop a unique idea that allows society to come together and be a part of the solution.

It sounds intimidating, but there are businesses out there that have done just that. The common theme is a genuine desire to help.

Businesses That Practice Sustainability

A sustainable business can mean a lot of things. It can be a regular business that attempts to add sustainability to its everyday practices. These companies are known as ‘eco-friendly’.

Patagonia is a great example. Along with using 100% renewable energy in their stores and offices, the brand has set goals to be a net-zero emitter.

Patagonia's Anti-Growth Strategy | The New Yorker
Patagonia store sign made from recyclable materials

Businesses That Produce Green Products/Services

The term can also refer to what is known as a ‘green’ business. These businesses provide end consumers with alternatives to current options that are harmful to the environment.

For example, meat production places a heavy burden on the planet. This is why companies like Beyond Meat have gained a lot of consumer praise recently. Their plant-based alternatives are gentler on the planet.

The Complete Vegan Guide to Beyond Meat (Updated August 2020) | LIVEKINDLY
Beyond Meat's plant-based selection

What Are Some Great Sustainable Business Ideas?

If you’re looking at leaving a footprint (or technically a lack of one?) in the world of sustainability, there are almost innumerable ways for you to do that. All you have to do is look at your  brand identity and ask yourself, “How can I make a sustainable alternative to this?”

That is a lot easier said than done. These 10 sustainable business ideas will offer inspiration for your pursuits.

1. Environment-Friendly Stationery Materials

The Best Brands for Eco-Friendly Stationery and Notebooks
Sustainable stationery and notebooks

Despite living in a digital world, we still use classic stationery like paper (Michael Scott would be proud), ink, pens, brushes, etc. This goes without saying, but all of these items harm the environment in their own unique but significant ways.

Pens, for example, need to be made with plastic. Papers, as we all know, are made by cutting down trees. This is why alternative stationery can be one of the best sustainable business ideas.

This sounds like a pipe dream, but the folks at Graviky Labs are doing it with their sustainable AIR-INK. Their ink is made by collecting carbon emissions from the environment. So, not only does their product offer a green alternative to harmful ink, but it also effectively reduces the pollutants in our atmosphere right now.

Check out this short clip on AIR-INK:

2. Hemp Products

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Such is the case with hemp, which is technically the environment-friendly, nonpsychoactive sister plant to cannabis. It grows without much trouble. The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the list of controlled substances. Since then, it has been used in a variety of ways to create alternatives for all sorts of non-sustainable products.

Hempitecture is one company doing great things with hemp (as its name points out). The company creates building materials with hemp, and its HempWool is a phenomenal, sustainable housing-insulation material.

Products – Zero Energy Project
HempWool

3. Bicycle Rentals

Almost everyone you know probably has a core memory of riding their bikes for the first time. The excitement of not having to use training wheels is simply incomparable!

Along with being super, super fun (not a scientifically verified measure), bicycles can be a great form of transport. They also only use one type of energy, and it’s not fossil fuels; it’s physical effort. You save the environment and you get in shape; that’s a good win-win situation.

India-based MyByk is a prime example of a modern-day bicycle rental service. Users can simply unlock a nearby bicycle with the app and go for a ride!

MYBYK on Twitter: "Hey Cochins, have you noticed cycle stations popping up  across your town? That's right! India's largest and successful bicycle  sharing startup is coming to Kochi! To locate the nearest
MyByk bicycle rentals

4. Farmers’ Markets

Farmers’ markets are extremely pleasant to visit. Consumers know that they’re both supporting small businesses and getting the absolute best eatables out there!

Organizing farmers’ markets can take time. You need to familiarize yourself with the local community, for starters. Then, you need to build trust with farming organizations. Planning and coordination can also take up a lot of time. The result, however, is a happy and healthy community.

State College, Pennsylvania, runs a plethora of farmers’ markets. You can shop for the freshest veggies and fruits and also find yourself enticed by the best-looking pizzas out there.

At the very least, if you manage a restaurant or have a catering business, you can get your produce from these sources to support the local community and farmers.

Market Day: Seek out Pennsylvania wines at your local farmers market -  Pennsylvania Wines
Farmers' market in Pennsylvania

5. Renewable Energy

Renewable energy is a big topic during sustainability discussions and for a good reason. If we can power our homes, offices, and vehicles without polluting the environment, then we’re home free. It is a gargantuan task, no doubt. But, so is the market.

The market for renewable energy is worth over $880 billion and is expected to grow at a compounded rate of 8.4% year on year. It can be, without a doubt, one of the best sustainable business ideas, if done right.

There are many ways to approach renewable energy. Companies can look into harvesting solar power, biomass, wind energy, and more. Canadian Solar is a company that provides solar power solutions for commercial and residential needs. Thanks to companies like this, solar power is a lot more approachable for everyday people.

British investment group snaps up Queensland solar farms – pv magazine  Australia
Canadian Solar, solar farm

6. Electric Vehicles (EV) & Charging

Companies like Tesla have made owning electric vehicles seem not unusual. There is a massive market for it. The biggest indicator of that is Elon Musk becoming one of the richest people in the world, on the back of Tesla shares.

But you don’t need to be a manufacturer to get into the electric vehicle industry. It can be extremely lucrative to make charging for EVs as accessible as possible.

Xeal, for example, does just that. Rather than asking people to drive to charging stations, Xeal makes the idea of installing charging stations lucrative for everyday buildings, housing societies, and offices. This theoretically makes owning an EV ‘easier’ compared to fossil fuel-powered cars!

These EV chargers make money for their building-owner hosts - Electrek
Xeal charging station

7. Sustainable Fashion

The fast fashion industry is extremely harmful to the environment. Firstly, the hectic production timelines don’t help one bit. Their supply chain practices also favor speed over sustainability. Additionally, the textile industry is already a major polluter.

The alternative to that is sustainable fashion that doesn’t harm the earth. An example is the fashion label Doodlage. They have taken sustainable fashion to the next level by creating clothing that is made from upcycled materials, such as factory waste. You can start a clothing business that makes people happy and saves the environment!

The Doodlage Story: Kriti Tula On How She Built The Brand | POPxo
Doodlage ethical fashion

8. Electronics Repair

Right to Repair has gained massive traction in recent years. 27 states in the US have bills that allow people to repair their electronics without repercussions from companies. It gives people the option of choosing to fix their items, rather than looking for new gadgets. The accessibility automatically makes this a sustainable practice.

There are various ways to start a sustainable business around this. One option is to manufacture cheap repair kits. Another option is to start a third-party repair service. Yet another option is to create content for people to repair things themselves. You can maybe combine all three if you want!

How-FixIT is a YouTube channel, with over 122K subscribers, that makes complicated electronics repairs seem easy with step-by-step tutorials.

9. Second-Hand Retail

While Macklemore may not have invented it, he did make thrift shopping seem pretty cool. Beyond fashion, second-hand retail can be one of the most sustainable business ideas. Consumption can and will never stop. It’s what makes events like Black Friday so popular.

Entrepreneurs can create a sustainable business by offering an outlet for used goods. This both prevents waste and also gets people great deals, which makes it an attractive business model.

Amazon’s ‘Renewed’ initiative is probably the best example of this being used on a mass scale. The catch is whether you can make these refurbished products seem as new as possible.

If you won’t take it from us, take it from Macklemore.

10. Urban Agriculture

Urban agriculture solves two problems in one. It makes people less reliant on store-bought produce, which often contains harmful chemicals. It also allows people to use their space in a sustainable and useful way.

Urban agriculture can seem very appealing, but not everyone is born with a green thumb. Green City Growers have made urban rooftop farming easy for building owners by taking care of installation and maintenance. The reduced effort definitely makes rooftop farming all the more appealing.

Tour of Green City Growers in Cleveland Opens Eyes
Green City Growers in Cleveland

On To A Greener Future

The total list of sustainable business ideas doesn’t end here. Far from it, every business can become sustainable, really. All you need is a desire to fix age-old business practices that aren’t good for the planet.

Sustainable businesses are both at the forefront and gaining heat. They will become the new normal in years to come. It is definitely a good idea to invest your time, energy, and abilities into such a business.

This guide can be a good place to start, but in the end, you decide how you want to positively impact the earth!

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