Going Green is Not Just for Big Business-You Can Grow Eco-Profits, Too!

The world of big business is making daily headlines by “going green” after discovering that what’s good for the planet is also proving good for business.

IBM recently announced “Project Big Green,” a $1 billion initiative to reduce energy consumption by offering new lines of energy-efficient IT products.

Wal-Mart is adding solar power to more than 20 stores.

PepsiCo is buying renewable energy certificates to offset its carbon footprint. Even major banks and energy firms are being asked by shareholders to prove that they, too, are going green.

It’s not just the biggest businesses that are attracting new customers and shareholders and reaping huge profits by “going green.” Small businesses also are growing eco-profits by embracing surprisingly inexpensive strategies to add value to their products, services and brand.

Consider these innovative examples:

– Bob Smith of Mad River Brewing Company in Blue Lake, California, has attracted positive publicity (and new customers) by promoting his efforts to reduce his small firm’s waste output and take other environmentally conscious steps. In turn, he has received welcome positive publicity from the press. “What PR budget? That is our PR budget,” he told the Albuquerque Tribune about “going green” to market his business.

– In Florida, Natalie Kelly formed Home Therapy Cleaning Services, which uses only nontoxic, all-natural cleaning products for her home cleaning business. She used to sell aromatherapy candles from her home, she told the St. Petersburg Times, but today uses an aromatherapy baking soda blend to freshen carpets.

Here’s what you can do:

– Two inexpensive ways any small business or solo entrepreneur can go green are to change light bulbs to energy-efficient bulbs and use biodegradable cleaning products.

– With that done, tell your customers and the media about these simple ways to go green. You will have just earned instant credibility as a green business, and also as a media resource for simple, effective ways to “go green.”

– Many communities online and offline are forming networks to exchange energy-saving ideas for home and business. Form your own energy network, enlisting neighborhood businesses that will welcome another opportunity to show they’re going green, too. The plus for you is that you will have just positioned yourself and your business as a community environmental leader.

– Copy what the New York Times called “Phase 2” of the corporate response to global warming. Partner with an environmental group. Travelocity invites customers to donate an extra $10 to $40, which goes to the Conservation Fund to plant trees to offset the carbon used by a client to take a trip. Whole Foods invites customers to buy a $5 “wind power card” that goes to Renewable Choice Energy to build wind farms. What local environmental group can you partner with to promote on your Web site (and vice versa), to set aside a day that a percentage of profits will go to that organization or to make their fliers available at your business?

– Make use of readily available, free information to hand out with your business literature or to make available in your office. For example, create a one-page flier on your letterhead inviting clients to calculate their own carbon footprint by visiting http://multimedia.wri.org/safeclimate_calculator.cfm.

– Go deeper green! Attend a “green” conference in your community or region, and promote your attendance. (Go to Google.com and type in “green” and “conference” and your area to find out when and where they are scheduled.) Write a “green” article on simple ways you are going green and submit it to one of the dozens of “green” Web sites and blogs that invite reader contributions. It’s a great way to market your smart ideas and your business!