The data is in: consumers care deeply about sustainability, and as many as 88% of customers are more loyal to companies that support environmentalist or socially responsible causes. With more people shopping sustainably, you might wonder how you can make money and a difference with a new business venture.
Today’s entrepreneurs know that gainful enterprise prioritizes green business practices—but what sorts of products and services are in high demand in a burgeoning green economy?
In this guide, we’ll touch on 24 sustainable business ideas across six different sectors to help you jump-start your brainstorming and find a market niche for your small business.
#1 Reusable Shopping Bags
Our first green business idea is something we all use but don’t think too much of, even though it’s in everyone’s homes.
Reusable bag devotees will tell you that you can never have too many. Reusable products are all the rage in the sustainability movement. By following sustainable practices like reducing plastic production, minimizing energy consumption and carbon footprint, mitigating pollution, and simplifying storage, they empower consumers to shop with the environment in mind.
Reusable bags can be used for a variety of applications, including:
- Grocery shopping
- Produce bagging at the farmers’ market
- Retail shopping
- Gift bagging
Whether it’s a shopping bag made by recycling and repurposing rice bags or upcycled from sustainable material like reclaimed fabric and plastics, this is one eco-friendly product that’s gaining more fans each day.
#2 Reusable Water Bottles and Tumblers
The fight against single-use plastic water bottles is a long-standing one in the eco-friendly movement, and the market size of reusable ones is expected to reach $84.8 billion by 2028.
Not only do reusable water bottles enable consumers to stay hydrated on the go, but they can also be an opportunity to highlight your brand logo with custom designs.
#3 Cloth Diapers
Single-use disposable diapers and pull-ups can be convenient—but they also comprise some 7% of household landfill waste.
For eco-friendly parents, washable cloth diapers and pull-ups provide an excellent solution to a significant environmental problem.
#4 Reusable Menstrual Products
Consumers are increasingly opting for eco-friendly sanitary napkins over traditional pads and tampons. Demand is high for accessible, sustainable, and healthy menstrual products such as:
- Washable period underwear
- Cloth menstrual pads
- BPA-free silicone menstrual cups
#5 Bulk Product Bags and Containers
Eco-conscious businesses and consumers frequently purchase products in bulk to reduce their plastic packaging waste. However, many are still seeking lightweight container solutions for bulk products like:
- Rice and grains
- Nuts, seeds, and dried fruit
- Liquid products (e.g., soap)
#6 Reusable Dispensers and Containers
Once they shuttle their bulk products home, environmentally responsible shoppers need a way to store and dispense them. Consider developing and selling products like:
- Pump bottles
- Spray bottles
- Airtight containers and decanters
- Baskets and crates
- Spice jars
#7 Cloth Napkins and Kitchen Towels
You could easily replace products like paper towels and paper napkins with reusable, washable options like cloth napkins.
Everyday consumers can integrate cloth napkins into their everyday kitchen routine and throw them into regular loads of laundry when needed.
Toiletries like shampoo, conditioner, and soap bars can help make the self-care industry more sustainable. To ensure a low-impact personal care product, be sure to account for sustainable packaging like:
- Reusable cloth
- Recyclable cardboard
- Compostable paper
- Seed paper
#9 Greeting Cards
Greeting cards benefit from renewable demand (the holidays come every year, after all), but they’re usually thrown away. Eco-friendly consumers could benefit from greeting card options that:
- Are made from recycled materials
- Can be repurposed or reused
- Double as gift wrap
#10 Toilet Paper, Tissues, and Paper Towels
Many personal hygiene products need to be disposable for sanitary reasons—but they don’t have to be unsustainable.
Whether toilet paper, tissues or paper towels, consider creating disposable bath products made from recycled or compostable materials.
#11 Laundry Materials
The household product market is flooded with unsustainably-packaged laundry and green cleaning products like:
- Stain removers
- Scent boosters
- Fabric softeners
- Dryer sheets
To meet consumers’ needs for sustainable laundry solutions, consider developing green alternatives that use biodegradable chemicals and raw material that are safe for humans and the planet.
#12 Beauty Products
The beauty industry is booming with eco-conscious small business owners, but not every brand making makeup, skincare solutions, and hair products is planet-kind.
In an industry inundated with plastic, create your niche as an eco-conscious business owner by prioritizing low-waste packaging and cruelty-free formulas.
The fashion world is one of the most wasteful industries on the planet, discarding 11.3 million tons of textiles each year and 2,150 clothing articles every second.
Combat fast fashion products by designing clothes that use recycled fabrics, plant-based dyes, or organically-harvested cotton or wool.
The farm-to-table and organic food movement have come a long way in recent years, but restaurants still have a long way to go to minimize their ecological footprints.
A green restaurant concept could tackle several environmental concerns, including:
- Minimizing food waste
- Focusing on organic food and sustainable agricultural practices
- Correcting water and energy inefficiencies
- Sustainably sourcing ingredients
Engineer ways to supply nearby restaurants and grocery stores with products grown or raised on regenerative farms. Consider solutions like:
- Growing plants using reclaimed water
- Forage-based livestock feeding
- Perennial crops
Alternatively, founding a 100% green grocery store could fill a significant market need, making eco-conscious shopping unprecedentedly convenient.
Green energy is a massive market with plenty of room for innovation. Make sustainable living even more accessible by developing one of the following products or services.
#16 Solar Technologies
Solar technology has a high barrier to entry. Consumers want businesses to develop simpler, more portable, affordable solar energy solutions to decrease their reliance on fossil fuels.
Solar-powered products could include:
- Electronics and chargers
- Electric vehicle charging stations
- Outdoor lighting
- Whole-home power sources
#17 Affordable Wind Power
For homeowners and renters with yard space, at-home wind power solutions could significantly increase energy autonomy. Developing easy-to-install, open-source, or small wind turbines could help give everyday consumers better access to renewable power.
#18 Alternative Fuels
Today, a host of alternative fuel solutions are being brought to market. Some examples include:
- Hydrogen fuels
- Drop-in biofuels chemically identical to traditional gasoline and diesel
- Fuels derived from vegetable oils and waste products
Giving consumers enhanced access to these fuels could increase their likelihood of purchasing sustainable, low carbon emission vehicles.
#19 Environmental Law Firms
Environmental law is a growing field. Today, there’s a growing need for attorneys with environmental policy knowledge in sectors like:
- Political lobbying
- Consumer protections
- Climate advocacy and non-profit work
- Land grant law
- Ecological preservation and conservation organizations
#20 Sustainable Architecture and Engineering
Before contractors can build an eco-friendly structure, they must recruit licensed architects and engineers to design it.
If you’re already in these fields, pursue the appropriate licensing to set your business apart by offering:
- Sustainable construction materials
- Renewable Energy solutions
- Low-impact building systems such as:
- Structural components
#21 Green Accounting and Financial Advice
The green economy is growing, and eco-conscious investors, business owners, and taxpayers could benefit from guidance as it scales.
As a finance professional, you could help consumers explore economic opportunities in:
- Environmental, social, and governance (ESV) investing
- Eco-friendly mutual fund management
- Fossil fuel divestment initiatives
- Avoiding banks that invest in fossil fuels
- Green tax incentives
#22 Green Medical Products
Every day, the healthcare industry relies on single-use plastics to treat their patients, including:
- Liquid product bags for IV applications
Because these materials must be sterile, most must be disposable. Devising a more sanitary and sustainable solution could revolutionize healthcare and significantly reduce the industry’s footprint.
#23 Sustainable Fitness
Most fitness facilities require significant energy reserves to operate. Consider developing a greener, low-impact fitness business—like a cross-fit gym or a yoga studio—that would enable fitness enthusiasts to feel good in more ways than one.
#24 Eco-Friendly Wellness Products
Wellness gurus and self-care enthusiasts are constantly searching for supplements that will improve their health, optimize their mental performance, or help them reach their fitness goals.
However, many supplement brands skip environmental responsibility entirely when developing their product. To cut through the rabble, consider developing renewably sourced supplements ethically formulated and purveyed through low-impact distribution networks.
How to Make An Existing Business More Sustainable
If you already run a business, your bottom line may prevent you from executing a ground-up eco-friendly overhaul.
Instead, implement these initiatives for amping up your brand’s green factor:
- Educate your employees and your clients about sustainability
- Center ESG investing in your brand’s portfolio
- Donate a portion of your revenue to carbon offsetting or climate action organizations
- Switch to green suppliers and distributors
- Uncover your business’ carbon footprint and create sustainability programs with Aspiration’s Sustainability Impact Services
As a budding entrepreneur or newbie to the environmentalist movement, remember that even small sustainability initiatives to your company structure, business model, supply chain strategy, and procedures can make a positive impact on the environment.
Join the Green Economy with Aspiration
Running a business—of any size—with the environment in mind can be both a noble and profitable pursuit. Whether donating to the best environmental charities, adapting green logistics strategies, or lowering carbon emissions, business owners can do more to support environmental protection. By providing sustainable solutions to eco-conscious consumers and supporting sustainability initiatives, you not only stand to gain from the green economy—you’re also helping to secure a healthy planet for future generations.
Aspiration is a green financial services provider that protects both of those interests while helping you understand your footprint and achieve your climate goals. Do your part and discover sustainable solutions for businesses with Aspiration today.
Forbes. Do Customers Really Care About Your Environmental Impact?. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesnycouncil/2018/11/21/do-customers-really-care-about-your-environmental-impact/?sh=59d0e055240d
PR Newswire. Global Reusable Water Bottle Market Report 2021-2028: Government Regulations and the Anti-Plastic Movement are Encouraging Consumers to Switch to Disposable Water Bottles. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/global-reusable-water-bottle-market-report-2021-2028-government-regulations-and-the-anti-plastic-movement-are-encouraging-consumers-to-switch-to-disposable-water-bottles-301284226.html
The New York Times. Cloth vs. Disposable Diapers: Which Kind Should I Use https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/blog/cloth-vs-disposable-diapers/
Harvard Business Review. Research: Actually, Consumers Do Buy Sustainable Products. https://hbr.org/2019/06/research-actually-consumers-do-buy-sustainable-products
Bloomberg. The Global Glut of Clothing Is an Environmental Crisis. https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2022-fashion-industry-environmental-impact/#xj4y7vzkg
US Environmental Protection Agency. Alternative Fuels. https://www.epa.gov/renewable-fuel-standard-program/alternative-fuels