The explosion of organic and eco-friendly products on retail store shelves is more than just a passing fad. It’s big business. This means big opportunities for environmentally minded entrepreneurs.

According to the The Organic Trade Association’s Manufacturer Survey, the organic industry grew by 21% to reach $17.7 billion in consumer sales in 2006. Over the last decade organic sales have increase by an average of 20%, and this rate is expected to remain steady over the next 20 years.

Successful green businesses not only benefit the environment, but also use green business practices as means to market their products. If you are thinking of starting a green business, consider the following tips:

Find Your Niche. As the natural, organic lifestyle continues to catch on with consumers, there are many growth possibilities. Products such as food, cosmetics and cleaning supplies are growing areas within the organic trade, however, to be successful, you should look for opportunities that match your interests.

Get Certified. To differentiate your product or service as environmentally sound, consider obtaining certification from an independent, third-party. Being certified means that you can include their “ecolabel” on your product’s label and other marketing materials. Ecolabeling is important for attracting “green” customers. Learn more about Green Marketing.

Join Industry Partnerships. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sponsors a wide variety of industry partnership and product stewardship programs that aim to reduce the impact of industrial activities on the environment. Joining one of these programs helps you connect with others in your industry, grow your brand, and protect the environment and natural resources.

Practice What You Preach. The most successful green businesses don’t just sell the green lifestyle. They live it. Selling green means being green, and this helps build your brand and image as a socially responsible. Use the guide below to get started!

Green Guide for New Businesses:

Adopting environmentally-friendly and energy efficient business practices provides numerous benefits to new business owners looking to control costs, attract customers, and become socially responsible.

This guide provides you with some important information on implementing an environmental strategy for your business, including steps to becoming energy efficient, compliant with environmental regulations, and a recognized “green business.”

Step 1: Comply with Environmental Regulations

As a green business, you should practice what you preach. This means complying with all environmental regulations relevant to your business. Compliance not only protects the environment, it protects your business from fines and legal action from the government. Consult the Environment Regulations section of the Green Business Guide for more information.

Step 2: Develop an Environmental Management Plan

Running a green business means creating an environmentally-friendly, energy efficient workplace. A sound environmental plan will help minimize your company’s eco-footprint, and encourage green business practices throughout your organization.

Step 3: Build Green

If you are opening a business in a new or remodeled building, make sure you build green and install energy efficient heating and air conditioning systems, appliances, equipment and lighting. Consult the following resources for more information:

Step 4: Buy Green Products

Consider buying green and environmentally friendly products that are

  • Made from post-consumer, recycled materials
  • Bio-based
  • Non-toxic
  • Energy efficient rated products, such as ENERGY STAR®
  • Renewable and recyclable
  • Locally produced, such as food that is locally grown and organic

Step 5: Adopt Energy Efficient Practices

Good energy management is good business. The prudent and conservative use of energy is one of the easiest and most cost effective steps you can take to cut costs, increase profitability, and create shareholder value. Given the potentially high returns and minimal risk, implementing energy efficiency practices is at the core of most business environmental management strategies.

Step 6: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Wastes

Most businesses can save a substantial amount of money by reducing waste. In addition to lower removal costs, waste reduction measures help cut costs on raw materials, office supplies and equipment. Furthermore, by streamlining your operations to reduce waste, you may also be able to enhance your overall efficiency, productivity and public image.

Develop waste management procedures throughout your operations that includes:

  • Use of post-consumer, recycled products
  • Elimination of excessive product packaging materials
  • Optimized use of paper products
  • Participation in recycling programs, such as EPA’s WasteWise

For more information visit our Waste Management Guide.

Step 7: Conserve Water

The increased demand on our nation’s water supply is threatening human health and the environment. By implementing a water efficiency program, you can not only help conserve this precious resource, but cut your costs associated with buying, heating, treating and disposing of it.

  • Have a water audit conducted at your facility by your local water agency
  • Conserve water using best available technology and water saving equipment utilities
  • Minimize discharges to sewer/wastewater
  • For more information visit our Water Conservation Guide.

Step 8: Prevent Pollution

Every business generates waste. For some, it may be only waste paper or dirty water; for others, it may be hazardous or toxic wastes that require special handling and disposal.

Whatever the type or volume of waste your company generates, it is costing you money. You pay for what you use twice – once when you buy it and the second time when you throw it away. The bottom line is that preventing waste will save you money.

For resources to help you prevent pollution, visit our guide to Pollution Prevention.

Step 9: Create a Green Marketing Strategy

If you are starting a green business, you need to market yourself as one. Adding “green” claims and eco-labels to your marketing strategy will enhance your brand image and secure your market share among the growing number of environmentally concerned consumers.

Visit our Green Marketing Guide for information on the legal aspects of green marketing and strategies for successful campaigns.

Step 10: Join Industry Partnership and Stewardship Programs

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sponsors a wide variety of industry partnership and stewardship programsthat aim to reduce the impact of industrial activities on the environment. These partnerships will help you build relationships with other green business owners in your industry, and build a brand that’s credible with your customers.