50 Eco-Friendly Small Business Ideas and How to Start

50 eco-friendly small business ideas

Environmental, or eco-friendly small business ideas can be very powerful because of their dual purpose:

1) Make money.

2) Make the world a better place.

What could be better than that for a career? Green businesses can make a commitment to the environment in many ways, as described below.

Eco-friendly small businesses can also grow into significant companies over time. Just look at companies like Tesla and Waste Management.

Eco-friendly small business owners are driven to make money, but also because they have a mission to improve the planet, or the health, mindfulness and well-being of their customer base.

As mentioned before, climate change is viewed by many as a serious problem… And some people have their heads in the sand, crying fake news, and doing nothing about it.

But big businesses across the globe are betting on sustainability, committing to 100% renewable energy, and doubling down on corporate social responsibility… If this continues, which it probably will, reliance on renewable energy will become standard.

Eco-friendly small business owners and entrepreneurs are stepping up to make money by building businesses to try to solve these problems.

50 Eco-Friendly Small Business Ideas

The following are 50 eco-friendly small business ideas across 8 important categories.

Each job is in demand today, and should increase in demand as time goes on. Also listed below are links to online classes, exam preparation resources and educational programs that you can take advantage of today to get started.1

1) Outdoor Green Small Business Ideas:

Stormwater Management Consultant
Green Roof and Cool Roof Consulting
EV Charging Station Sales
Rainwater Catchment System Consultant
Xeriscaping Consultant

2) Green Food and Beverage Ideas:

Composting Company
Restaurant Oil Recycling Business
Eco-Friendly Franchisee
Eco-Friendly Restaurant Consultant
Hospitality Energy Efficiency Consultant

3) Renewable Energy Small Business Ideas:

Solar Installer
Solar Photovoltaic Sales
Solar Thermal Sales
Geothermal Sales and Installation
Small Wind Power Sales
Green Energy Consultant

4) Energy Efficiency Small Business Ideas:

Energy Efficient Lighting Retrofit Consultant
Smart Home Consultant
Energy Storage Sales
Demand Response Sales
Zero Energy Building Consultant
Passive House Consultant
Building Management System (BMS) Consultant
Home Energy Services (HES) Consultant
Fuel Cell Sales
Commercial Energy Auditor
Commissioning Agent (CxA)

5) Eco-Friendly Materials Small Business Ideas:

Green Flooring Consultant
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Products Buyer
Recycling Provider
Green Furniture Consultant
Recycled Carpet Sales

6) Indoor Environmental Quality Small Business Ideas:

Indoor Air Quality Tester
Legionella Testing
Green Cleaning Services Provider
Green Cleaning Materials Sales
Health and Physical Activity Consultant
Diet Nutrition and Wellness Consultant
Indoor Vegetative Wall Sales

7) Eco-Friendly Education Small Business Ideas:

Green Blogger
LEED Teacher
WELL Faculty
Green Building Educator
Living Building Challenge Educator

8) Green Finance Small Business Ideas:

CPACE Advisor
Solar Investor
Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) Manager
Green Building Insurance Sales
Green Loan Officer
Carbon Offsets/Credits Consultant

Outdoor green small business ideas

Outdoor Green Small Business Ideas:

  • Stormwater Management Consultant: 

Stormwater runoff can cause problems with freshwater pollution, and overloading water treatment plants. It also carries dangerous pollutants from the streets to oceans and rivers.

As such, controlling stormwater runoff in heavy traffic areas can be achieved by building constructed wetlands, rain gardens, bioswales and pervious paving. These strategies are built into many architectural plans and green building rating systems.

Of course, any of these specialties can be businesses in and of themselves! But one sure fire way to get educated on being a stormwater management consultant is to earn a Qualified Preparer of Stormwater (QPSWPPP) certificate. Check out the link on Green-Buildings.com.

  • Green Roof and Cool Roof Consulting:

Green roofs and/or cool roofs help buildings reduce the harmful “heat island” effect. Heat islands cause incremental heat from solar heat gain, which can increase air conditioning loads in buildings and harm surrounding animal and bird habitats. There is a clear return on investment (ROI) that can be calculated from a green or white roof. As such it can be included in CPACE projects (more on that below).

  • EV Charging Station Sales:

Electric vehicles are the future. Not just Tesla, but it seems that almost every major car manufacturer is investing in electric vehicles.

Some are all electric vehicles (aka “EVs”), others are plugin hybrids or dual fuel vehicles that help to overcome driver “range anxiety”. But most require charging. And with the federal EV tax credit and other state tax incentives for EVs, there’s never been a better time to get into the EV market.

Electric vehicle charging stations can be installed almost anywhere there are cars to be parked. From hotels to malls to office parks to municipal lots. That means charging stations are a great business for the future.

  • Rainwater Catchment System Consultant:

Similar to the “stormwater management” above, rainwater catchment systems can capture rainwater for use in irrigation and/or conversion to drinking (potable) water. Capturing rainwater can help reduce exposure to harmful chemicals, such as arsenic, which has been found in most municipal drinking water systems. However capturing rainwater and treating it so that it becomes potable is an alternative strategy for residential and small commercial businesses.

  • Xeriscaping Consultant:

Xeriscaping is a type of natural planting that require very little water or maintenance. The less water a plant needs while being in its natural habitat, the less water is wasted. Most watering of gardens and plantings is done above ground, which is very inefficient. A better approach is “drip irrigation” or “root applied” irrigation which reduces waste. Combined with xeriscaping and you can save a lot of money on water, while having a beautiful landscape.

Green food and beverage Small Business Ideas

Green Food and Beverage Ideas:

  • Composting Company:

Composting is the decomposition of kitchen and garden wastes in a garden or outdoor/indoor bin. A benefit of composting is the diversion of kitchen and yard waste that would otherwise end up in a landfill. It is estimated that around 1/3 of landfill waste is made up of compostable material, so composting is an easy way to both improve your garden and reduce your environmental impact.

Compost is a natural soil conditioner and fertilizer, and adds beneficial organisms to the soil. Composting businesses can pick up compost from individuals or businesses in exchange for a fee. Some composting companies offer their customers small bins to collect the compost. They pick it up and swap out the bins. Billing is usually a subscription model (monthly/yearly) payments.

  • Restaurant Oil Recycling Business:

Cooking oil can be recycled and used as fuel. Or if it is not used for another purpose, it can be disposed of in an environmentally friendly way. Businesses can offer to pick up this oil and cart it away for a fee.

  • Eco-Friendly Franchisee:

Environmentally friendly franchises exist in a variety of industries. Most focus on outdoor environment improvements (lawn care), energy efficiency (green energy), water efficiency (consulting on water efficiency), or reduce, reuse, recycle of materials. One popular franchise is “UBreakIFix” which fixes electronic devices, such as smart phones, computers, etc. that would otherwise be thrown away. There is a colossal amount of e-waste that is piling up across the globe. By fixing electronic gadgets for a fee, you save your clients money (they don’t have to buy a new device) and you save e-waste from going to a landfill.

  • Eco-Friendly Restaurant Consultant:

A good restaurant consultant is hard to find. One that understands how efficiency in a restaurant operation can mean more dollars in the owner’s pocket is even more valuable. In restaurant and/or bar ownership every penny counts. Eco-friendly restaurants can not only charge more for their menu items, because of higher quality product, but also they can save money by understanding financing structures such as solar PPAs and CPACE. An eco-friendly restaurant consultant can not only help prepare restaurant owners for success, but also can reward the owners with a smaller carbon footprint and lower energy bills.

  • Hospitality Energy Efficiency Consultant:

Hotels can add a tremendous amount to the bottom line by focusing on energy efficiency. LED lighting and efficient “white goods”, such as washing machines and dryers, can have a great impact on earnings. A hospitality energy efficiency consultant can provide energy benchmarking services to compare a hotel to his or her database of “best practices hotels”. Then make recommendations to the businesses. For example, if hotels switch to “cold water” washing instead of hot water washing with the P&G Pro Line Tide Coldwater Laundry Detergent, they could save as much as 75% on the energy used to heat water. Hotels can also take advantage of increasingly effective Internet of Things (IoT) technologies that can turn off unused lights, fans or mechanical equipment when not in use.

eco-friendly renewable energy small business ideas

Renewable Energy Small Business Ideas:

  • Solar Installer:

Solar installers help put up photovoltaic (PV) panels that generate electricity directly from sunlight via an electronic process that occurs naturally in certain types of material, called semiconductors.

Solar installers typically will offer a free consultation where they will evaluate your home or commercial building’s solar orientation and geographic location, electricity usage, potential problems with shading, amount of annual sunlight, financing options and tax incentives that may be available.

Solar installers should be able to quickly provide you with an estimated cost and the predicted payback for your system.

When choosing a solar contractor consider the following:

  • Number of installations in your area
  • Type of installations (commercial or residential)
  • Industry certifications: NABCEP, ETA and RISE
  • Financing options
  • The look of systems they have installed
  • Reputation

The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) offers specific certification for PV installers, PV technical sales and solar heating installers. Check out the courses to learn about solar on Green-Buildings.com or the Heatspring website.

  • Solar Photovoltaic Sales:

Selling solar systems can be lucrative. The commission rate for solar salespeople ranges from 2-5% of the total cost of the system. You can work with local solar installers or bigger companies on a referral basis. The bigger the company, the lower the commission is likely to be. For instance, if you are working for a public company like Solar City or SunRun, you might only receive less than 2% of the sale as a commission, of course, sales commissions vary all the time and are also negotiable.

  • Solar Thermal Sales:

Solar thermal systems provide hot water from the sun’s energy. Unlike solar PV, solar thermal uses collectors that heat the water inside them before sending it to where it needs to go.

Solar thermal sales are always in demand and solar thermal installers are as well. You can earn solar thermal credentials that ensure your experience and knowledge of solar thermal. The North American Board of Certified Energy Practioners (NABCEP) has a Solar Heating Installer Certification.

  • Geothermal Sales and Installation:

Our planet’s geothermal energy originated with the formation of the Earth approximately 4.54 billion years ago. Earth’s core is constantly generating heat. Temperatures at the center of the Earth are extreme, reaching approximately 9,000 degrees Fahrenheit (5,000 degrees Celsius). The Earth’s heat radiates to the surface where temperatures below the surface remain relatively constant all year round, regardless of geographic location. Geothermal sales are more common in areas where temperatures do not swing very greatly from high to low.

  • Small Wind Power Sales:

You’ve probably seen the large wind turbines that dot the horizon across America. Those are commercial grade wind turbines.

Small wind is suitable for individual homes. American homes typically consume much more energy than the average home. Average homes use about 10,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) or electricity per year. This means they average about 830 kWh per month. A home with this energy need would need a turbine with 5 to 15 kW of capacity. Regions with lower average wind speeds would need larger turbines to meet this need, and regions with higher average wind speeds would need a smaller system. For example, a 1.5- kW wind turbine would meet the needs of a home requiring 300 kWh per month in a place with 14 mph annual average wind speed.

A small wind turbine for a typical North American home would need to sweep 26 m² of the wind stream. This is equivalent to a wind turbine with a rotor diameter of almost 6 meters.

  • Green Energy Consultant:

Green energy refers to purchasing renewable energy generated off the project site from renewable sources, such as solar, wind or hydro.  For the clients you have who want green energy, but can’t afford to buy solar panels or install wind, they can buy green power. Green power encourages further downstream investment in renewables and offsets some or all of the carbon emissions generated by the owner.

energy efficiency small business ideas

 Energy Efficiency Small Business Ideas:

  • Energy Efficient Lighting Retrofit Consultant:

Green jobs in the EA category are on the front lines of our transition toward sustainable, renewable energies, and away from fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and natural gas. From the initial stages of building design to operations and maintenance, performance in the EA category is influenced by professions influencing a building’s orientation, glazing selection, building envelope design, passive heating and cooling, operable window design, high efficiency HVAC systems, building controls, green power, demand response programs and on-site renewable energy systems.

  • Smart Home Consultant:

The global smart homes market was valued at USD 35.7 billion in 2017, and it is expected to reach a value of USD 150.6 billion by 2023 at a CAGR of 26.9%, during the forecast period (2018-2023).

Energy management in smart homes mainly comprises of smart meters, smart appliances, energy management system for appliances, and home power generation, all functioning on smart grids. Smart meters are unleashing the potential of power demand management across the world by measuring and smartly managing resources. An instance of this trend is the ongoing process of voluntary replacement of standard meters with smart meters in high volumes in the Europe in the recent years.

McKinsey estimates that with technological advances in voice control and artificial intelligence, the intelligent assistant is now a viable control center for the connected home. Tech giants and startup attackers have developed solutions delivered through both existing devices and new, stand-alone products..Home automation or domotics[1] is building automation for a home, called a smart home or smart house. It involves the control and automation of lighting, heating (such as smart thermostats), ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC), and security (such as smart locks), as well as home appliances such as washer/dryers, ovens or refrigerators/freezers

  • Energy Storage Sales:

Big batteries are being used in residential homes and commercial buildings. These batteries store energy from the grid or from renewable energy and can reduce the costs of “peak energy” demand. Peak energy costs can take up as much as 50% of your electricity bill, depending on where you are located. Selling energy storage can also help people go “off the grid” by using both solar and batteries. Part of Elon Musk’s master plan is to combine solar with batteries and electric vehicles.

  • Demand Response Sales:

LEED Green Associate exam prepDemand response (DR) programs encourage building owners and managers to reduce their energy use during peak hours in return for payment and/or other economic incentives.

Building owners and operators are motivated to participate in the program because of the potential revenue or savings generated. The utilities often provide customers with a better understanding of their energy use and an opportunity to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Demand response sales can be very lucrative because it is typically recurring income and the commissions are high.

  • Zero Energy Building Consultant:

Zero energy buildings, or net zero buildings, aim to equalize energy production and consumption by combining energy efficient design and maintenance practices with on-site renewable energy generation. “Net Zero” Building consultants must expand and apply their sustainability expertise not only during the initial planning phase, but also throughout their projects’ life cycles as well. Consultants are required for increased and continual engagement with the building owners and also of building occupants, who can minimize plug loads and overall consumption by engaging in energy efficient practices.

  • Passive House Consultant:

Passive Buildings are designed to condition (heat and cool) a building with little or no use of mechanical, electrical or energy systems. Passive house consultants are typically engaged throughout the construction process, or handle the entire construction process from initial planning through the Certificate of Occupancy.

  • Building Management System (BMS) Consultant:

According to Mordor Intelligence, as the population across the globe increases, so will energy demand consumption. This is driving resilience in energy management systems. Smart energy management technologies help utilities and distributors anticipate and manage loads better, reduce the requirement for costly infrastructure development, and improve service quality and customer satisfaction.

  • Home Energy Services (HES) Consultant:

Both RESNET and Building Performance Institute offer courses for builders, insulation and weatherization contractors, home inspectors, code officials, HVAC technicians, and anyone else expected to perform building air leakage and duct tightness testing on the job.

Home energy services (HES) inspectors and consultants regularly operate blower doors and duct blasters. Sometimes called Duct and Envelope Tightness (DET), the BPI IDL Certification fills a void in new home construction.

As the need to save energy in residential homes continues, the number of HES consultants in demand will continue to rise.

  • Fuel Cell Sales:

A fuel cell converts the chemical energy from a fuel into electricity through a reaction with oxygen (or oxidizing agent). Unlike batteries, which use a well-known type of electrochemical reaction, when the battery dies it does not produce any more electricity.

Fuel cells also use an electrochemical reaction, but they are different because when chemicals are constantly input, the electrical flow produced is continuous. Fuel cells are not renewable energy, but can help use “cleaner” energy, such as natural gas, as an alternative to oil or coal.

  • Commercial Energy Auditor:

As an energy auditor you will go to visit commercial and residential customers, inspect lighting, air conditioning, heating and ventilation equipment, controls, air compressors, water consuming equipment, and anything else that is using energy.

Then you will create an evaluation of energy conservation measures (ECMs) that could be implemented to reduce energy usage and costs. This information will include simple payback calculations associated with various energy saving techniques.

In some cases, payback is almost immediate, whereas other investments may take many years to pay for themselves.

  • Commissioning Agent (CxA):

The goal of a commissioning agent is “to provide a uniform, integrated, and consistent approach for delivering and operating facilities that meet an owner’s ongoing requirements” and “to reduce the cost of delivering construction projects and increase value to owners, occupants, and users.”

In basic terms, commissioning is sort of a quality assurance process that will not only ensure the building is designed and constructed according to the owner’s wishes, but will also keep initial costs as well as operations and maintenance costs down over the life of the building.

Commissioning agents are experts who engage in the commissioning process. Commissioning is required in most green building certification systems, so demand for commissioning is built right into your business.

eco-friendly material small business ideas

Eco-Friendly Material Small Business Ideas:

  • Green Flooring Consultant:

Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are harmful to humans when emitted in large amounts. They are found in common household and construction items, including paints… Even floors, sealants, and adhesives. However, most people are not even aware that flooring can cause health problems. To maintain good indoor air quality, it is best to choose flooring products with low VOCs, such as “marmoleum”.

  • Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Products Buyer:

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is a nonprofit group that works to ensure sustainable forest management. FSC certifies forest management practices that harvest wood sustainably, and chain-of-custody certifies products that are made using FSC-certified products.

According to FSC’s website, its requirements for harvesting wood are the following:

• prohibits conversion of natural forests or other habitat around the world
• prohibits the use of highly hazardous pesticides around the world
• prohibits the cultivation of genetically modified trees (GMOs)
• respects the right of indigenous peoples around the world
• controls each certified operation at least once a year – and if they are found not to comply, the certificate is withdrawn

  • Recycling Provider:

Recycling is the process of turning used materials into new, useful materials. Recycling reduces waste in landfills, which reduces both air and water pollution. E-waste recycling is a particular up and coming specialty.

Recycling reduces waste in landfills, which reduces both air and water pollution. It also prevents harvesting of raw virgin materials, which saves energy, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and prevents pollution.

Generally, paper, plastic and glass can be easily recycled curb-side, so recycling adoption can be greatly improved.

  • Green Furniture Consultant:

When many people think of eco-friendly household items, they usually think of its materials. However, truly sustainable furniture will provide a healthy indoor environment that will not make occupants sick. Furniture can often be made with chemicals such as formaldehyde that offgas volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can give occupants skin and respiratory problems.

Eco-friendly furniture will emits a low number of VOCs. One way to ensure that furniture is low emitting is to look for the GreenGuard label. GreenGuard was created by the GreenGuard Environmental Institute (GEI) in 2001, and is somewhat similar to LEED in terms of specifying green products, establishing indoor air quality standards, and influencing building design and construction strategies. Furniture marked with the GREENGUARD Indoor Air Quality mark will have lower emissions of VOCs and will be better for indoor air quality.

  • Recycled Carpet Sales:

When purchasing eco-friendly carpet, look for carpets with natural and/or recycled materials and few or no toxins or volatile organic compounds. Some carpets may contain volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. These toxic VOCs will off-gas from the material and can become airborne, infecting your lungs, eyes, nose, and ears. To avoid the negative effects on indoor air quality, choose a low-emitting carpet.

Green Label Plus was established by the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI). Green Label Plus is similar to Green Seal, but only for recycled or environmentally friendly carpet and adhesive cushions. The products are established to meet certain compound emission standards, including VOCs.

indoor environmental quality small business ideas

Indoor Environmental Quality Small Business Ideas:

  • Indoor Air Quality Tester:

Indoor air quality has become a bigger priority over the last two decades as a better understanding of the issue developed and green building standards and rating systems like LEED require it for sustainable building environments.

Therefore, indoor air quality testing has become more popular in green building, because occupant health is considered an important component of green construction.

Air quality testing can be performed by professionals, or there are a number of do it yourself kits on the market. Some kits are as little as $90, though they can go up to $500 and more. Most of them require that you use the kit to collect a sample of your indoor air for a day or two, then send it to a lab for testing. Not much of an investment for you to get started helping people to test their indoor air.

  • Legionella Testing:

Legionella testing is now mandatory in Manhattan buildings of a certain size. This type of requirement can only increase in cities across the U.S. as the dangers of Legionella become more well known. According to the WELL Building Standard, to engage in Legionella testing building owners should:

  • Form of a legionella management team in the building
  • Conduct a water system inventory and produce process flow diagrams
  • Conduct hazard analysis of water assets
  • Identify critical control points
  • Maintain and control measures, monitor, establish of performance limits and corrective actions
  • Document, verify and validate procedures

Sick Building Syndrome and Legionnaire’s disease are illnesses caused by poor indoor air quality. Sick Building Syndrome is when building occupants experience symptoms such as fever and muscles aches as a result of poor indoor air quality. Legionnaires’ disease is a result of inhaling Legionella bacteria from aerosols or other particulates. This disease can be fatal.

  • Green Cleaning Services Provider:

Opting for green cleaning supplies with more natural ingredients and fewer toxins will make both the environment and occupants healthier.

Green cleaning is something that you can do yourself. For example, the Daily Green’s website has homemade recipes for non-toxic, green cleaning products.

You can also pay for green cleaning services to come to your home. Many people, both residential and commercial clients, for example, may desire green techniques or products to clean their homes or buildings.

  • Green Cleaning Materials Sales:

When shopping for green cleaning products to sell, you can look for products that have been labeled by the EPA’s Safer Product Labeling Program. Each of these products have been thoroughly screened, and have been found to contain the least harmful chemicals possible.

  • Health and Physical Activity Consultant:

Health and physical activity is more important than ever as some studies suggest that Americans’ sedentary lifestyles are a major contributing factor to obesity.

Physically active indoor environments bring health and wellness to occupants, helping to avoid chronic diseases and overweight.

As a consultant, you can provide tailored advice to your clients in areas such as making stairs easily accessible and visible, incorporating on-site gardens, providing bike-share programs, enticing artwork in stairwells, exercise facilities and designing staircases that are at least 20% wider than the code dictates.

A great way to learn about the importance of health and physical activity in the workplace is to become a WELL AP. As a WELL AP, you can also provide consulting services on any of the Indoor Environmental Quality eco-friendly small business ideas in this section.

  • Diet, Nutrition and Wellness Consultant:

Developing healthy eating habits greatly benefits people of all ages. People who have developed good nutritional practices are less likely to be overweight or obese if they maintain a healthy diet and engage in physical activity. Substituting junk food with whole, natural foods keeps the body energized and increases productivity.

Unfortunately, as consumers we are outgunned by all the profit seeking artillery of the food and beverage industry… Ads for sugary foods directly influence how much food we eat.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, American children see somewhere between 20,000 to 40,000 commercials annually.

As such, diet, nutrition and wellness consultants are in need.

  • Indoor Vegetative Wall Sales:

Green (or vegetated) walls are covered with various native or adapted plants. The benefits of a green wall include biophilia and improved indoor air quality. Research has been done that indicates that indoor work environments that include lots of plants make employees more productive.

eco-friendly education small business ideas

Eco-Friendly Education Small Business Ideas:

  • Green Blogger:

If you have a passion for “all things green”, becoming a blogger is a natural pursuit. You can start a blog for free, or buy an established, money making green building blog, such as Green-Buildings.com, for sale through GoDaddy.

Green-Buildings.com - Eco Friendly Blog Business For Sale-min

Buying an established blog with traffic and customers gives you a head start… However, starting a blog from scratch is easy… This post will walk you through it and you can get your blog set up in no time using a free WordPress with hosting on Bluehost, where your blog will live.

If you follow these steps, you can complete this process in about 5 minutes… Then you can get working on making money with your green blog.

I started writing about “green building” about 10 years ago… I can say that the process has been very rewarding on multiple levels.

Blogging can be done part time, and as you generate an audience and traffic you can create incremental streams of income through passive affiliate sales of green building products and services. Establishing a blog with multiple revenue streams allows you to spend more time with your family each day…

Also, understanding sustainability can help you save money by living a more efficient lifestyle. Many people are just not aware of the nuances and benefits of eco-friendly strategies such as insulating your home, using LED or CFL lightbulbs, geothermal heat pumps, high-efficiency toilets, solar energy, federal tax credits, demand response and local incentives for EVs…

However, all of these things combined can save significant money and make a small contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.

What could be more sustainable than that?!

  • LEED Teacher:

If you are interested in architecture, design or engineering, becoming LEED accredited is a must. LEED is the leading green building rating system.

Because it is complex, LEED lends itself well to consulting. The credits and prerequisites of the LEED rating systems are always changing, and the rating systems include many paths to certification. Each building should have its own approach to certification…

This is where you come in!

To become LEED accredited, there are two types of LEED credentials that you can earn: LEED Green Associate and LEED AP with Specialty. There is also a LEED Fellow credential but it is only awarded, not earned by passing an exam.

The exams are notoriously challenging. Exam preparation materials to help pass the LEED Green Associate exam and LEED AP exams are available from Poplar Education.

Free LEED Green Associate practice test

Once you’ve become LEED accredited, you can explore becoming a LEED consultant. LEED project experience is simply the best way to learn about what happens in the field.

Regardless of what type of eco-friendly small business you are interested in, earning a LEED credential is a great way to demonstrate your understanding of sustainability, as well as sustainable design principles, practices and standards.

  • WELL Faculty:

The WELL Building Standard is leading the way in “Wellness Real Estate”. Like LEED, WELL is a building certification system that also offers a professional accreditation through the WELL AP credential.

The WELL AP exam gauges the knowledge and skills necessary to support the WELL certification process. The exam specifications consist of knowledge domains that address human health, design, strategies and synergies of the WELL Building Standard’s Concepts and the certification process.

The first step is to pass the WELL AP exam.

The exam consists of 100 questions. There are 15 pre-test questions, 13 Air questions, 8 Water questions, 8 Nourishment questions, 11 Light questions, 8 Fitness questions, 10 Comfort questions, 9 Mind questions, 10 WELL Certification questions and 8 Synergies questions.

The Poplar WELL AP exam preparation materials are developed by exam experts and are designed to help you pass your exam the first time.

  • Green Building Educator:

There is so much to talk about in the world of green building. You can specialize in a particular area, or become a generalist providing helpful guidance to businesses and students.

Areas you can teach include the outdoor environment and ecology, water efficiency, renewable energy and carbon emissions, materials efficiency, reduction, reuse and recycling, indoor air quality improvements and technologies, or new innovations in sustainability.

Combine all of these items together and provide education.

  • Living Building Challenge Educator:

The Living Building Challenge is an international sustainable building certification program created in 2006 by the non-profit International Living Future Institute. Living Building Challenge is described by the Institute as a philosophy, advocacy tool and certification program that promotes the most advanced measurement of sustainability in the built environment.

This certification system is extremely rigorous, and can be applied to development at all scales, from buildings – both new construction and renovation – to infrastructure, landscapes and neighborhoods. LBC is tougher to earn than green building certifications such as LEED, ENERGY STAR or BREEAM.

eco-friendly finance small business ideas

Green Finance Small Business Ideas:

One of the most up and coming eco-friendly small business niches is in renewable energy finance, PACE financing/lending and “green mortgage lending”. These careers are often specialties within larger investment firms and banks.

  • CPACE Advisor:

There are many commercial real estate owners, but not too many of them understand Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (CPACE). In states where it has been passed as legislation, CPACE allows commercial property owners to receive 100% financing to pay for building efficiency improvements such as renewable energy systems, efficient lighting upgrades, building control systems and other energy conservation measures (ECMs). It’s even possible to get a brand new roof using CPACE… For free!

  • Solar Investor:

Building owners who want to install solar on their roofs sometimes don’t have the money to do so. So they look to investors to provide the money.

Solar investors typically earn a series of fees, as well as interest for owning the system. The investor also usually benefits from the tax incentives and deductions. In return the building owner gets less expensive electricity from renewable energy.

The building owner has the right, but not the obligation, to purchase the system at the end of its useful life. You can learn more about financing arrangements like this in this article on solar tax equity.

  • Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) Manager:

Socially responsible investing, sometimes called “Environmental, Social and Governance” investing, focuses on investing in businesses that “do good”. There is a growing interest in investing only in public or private companies, sometimes “B Corporations”, by investors who want to “do good” as well as make money.

  • Green Building Insurance Sales:

If you can get comfortable with sales and the complexities of insurance policies, insurance is one of the best green jobs. The changing nature of risk in the environment makes you a valuable service provider.

Green buildings have risks, sustainable products and practices make promises they have to keep… And both require insurance.

A huge opportunity exists for insurance agents and brokers to learn, get educated and grow their businesses.

  • Green Loan Officer:

Cost savings from energy efficiency is being recognized by mortgage lenders as a risk reduction strategy.

What risks are mortgage lending officers most concerned about?

Risk of non-payment.

However, the risk of non-payment is reduced in “green buildings” because of lower operating expenses. Efficient buildings provide benefits for building owners, tenants, residents, lenders and investors. As mentioned above, green or healthy buildings reduce risk for their occupants because of indoor air quality and smart systems.

As a loan officer, your understanding of underwriting energy efficiency can help make larger loans (higher LTV ratios) and provide lower rates. Check out this PDF on green underwriting from Community Preservation Corporation (CPC) to get started.

  • Carbon Offsets/Credits Consultant:

As a carbon offsets consultant, you’ll help organizations, utilities and individuals transition towards a low-carbon economy. To do so, you’ll advise them on strategies to utilize clean energy and greenhouse gas emission reduction strategies into their business operations. Strategies to reduce carbon emissions and/or incorporate carbon offsets are available for both residential and commercial clients. Carbon offsets may eventually be built into a carbon tax, which is supported by many politicians, both Democrat and Republican.


Regardless of which type of Eco-Friendly Small Business you choose, earning a LEED credential is a great way to demonstrate your understanding both environmental issues and business.

I learned about the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating system and I was floored by the new perspective I had on environmental practices and strategies that I could apply to almost any business.

Good luck!



  1. Many of these are inspired by the green building topics listed on the “Topics” page of Poplar Network.