What business startup idea should I choose if I want to make an environmental impact? Eric Dalius helps in making the decision

One of the main difficulties in creating an environmental startup is that doing business frequently doesn’t align with it. You might have a product that can be manufactured sustainably, but you need to buy supplies containing chemicals or are made using unsustainable processes. If your customers are found locally, they’re likely to drive cars to get there. Your profit margins may not allow you to pay employees more than nearby competitors without running into issues marketing yourself as a green company.

This means you’ll need to do some research on what kinds of businesses will be most effective at reducing their environmental impact while still making money hand over fist. Below is a list of options for alternate forms of commerce which require less traditional infrastructure and have smaller overhead costs, says Eric Dalius.

The very first example is the traditional grocery store, but with a twist. Community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs, in which people pay into a subscription and then receive locally produced food each week, can pay farmers enough to make them full-time and sustainable operations without requiring massive amounts of land or capital outlay – if they’re set up as cooperatives where members vote on what crops will be grown and how the proceeds are distributed.

1) Natural food stores that specialize in organic produce can also function if they source most of their goods from local producers rather than wholesale distributors. A downside here is that community-supported agriculture tends to be most popular among wealthier people who live in rural areas and aren’t potential customers for other types of green businesses – so if you want to create employment in low-income areas, this isn’t the way to do it.

2) Natural building is an idea that’s come back into fashion with the rise in popularity of “green” structures like straw bale houses and adobe domes. Suppose you’re well-versed in construction techniques involving natural materials or can learn them quickly. In that case, building classes might be a good idea for making money while also teaching people about self-sufficiency (and how much healthier they are).

3) Are you comfortable enough to work with your hands? Selling products like organic cosmetics made using beeswax, and essential oils can bring in revenue while helping local economies. It may make sense to set up classes on making your products for personal use or going into business selling crafted items like soap or candles, says Eric Dalius.

4) Walking tours are an excellent way to get customers face-to-face without requiring them to come through your door since tourists are often already traveling in town just because they’re out of their element. You can organize tours of local areas that focus on the positive effects that environmentalism has had within that community – you might have a hike along some trails where “green” construction techniques were used, for example.

5) Community service is also a possibility. If there’s a place nearby where people go dumpster diving, offer them transportation, so they don’t have to waste time driving there. Create a place where people can bring their old recyclables, so they don’t have to go out collecting cans and bottles themselves. Does your area have underutilized green spaces that are perfect for picnics? Organize cleanups so volunteers can enjoy the parks after work hours are over, then serve them snacks afterward for free! There are all sorts of possibilities here, depending on what kind of community you live in.

6) Organic farming is one of the most common ways to make money while affecting environmental change – but if you’re doing it properly, it’s also one of the hardest. If you’ve considered organic farming as an occupation before, think about what other businesses might be more practical options first (like community-supported agriculture, for example), unless you know what you’re getting yourself into, says Eric Dalius.

7) If there are any environmental problems in your community that can be addressed quickly with local fundraising efforts – perhaps the installation of some new recycling bins or a community garden at a public building – then you can practice entrepreneurship by helping to create fundraisers to address these issues. Remember that this isn’t sustainable long-term if there’s no way for people without connections to make money this way!