Growing a Green Business

How to plant seeds of success and profit from the booming environmental movement

It’s happened before: A few scribbles on a cocktail napkin—be they product blueprints, song lyrics, or business plans—have proved to be million-dollar ideas. Bianca and Michael Alexander, who hatched their own business idea on a flight home from their honeymoon four years ago, are hoping for the same sort of fairy-tale success.

After spending time in Hong Kong, Thailand, and Bali, they jotted down their ideas about creating a television program that would focus on the environment and promote a green lifestyle.

Their brainstorming would ultimately become Conscious Planet Media Inc. The business offers a weekly broadband television program via Conscious LivingTV.com, as well as green event planning and consulting. Together the Alexanders produce five- to seven-minute segments on practical, everyday subjects such as home décor, fitness, organic food, and travel—all, of course, eco-friendly.

“We also carry forward the spirit of ‘green’ by seeking to collaborate, and not compete, with like-minded businesses that are doing great things for the world,” says Bianca, “often by showcasing them on our show.”

Now totally immersed in a green lifestyle, that wasn’t always the case for Bianca. A lawyer with a degree from the University of Virginia, she only started thinking about the environment after meeting Michael at a party in Hollywood Hills, California, in 2001. His green experience extends back to the early ’90s when, after graduating from the University of California at Davis with an economics degree, he worked as a distributor of eco-friendly household products.

The Alexanders are just two of the entrepreneurs—motivated by some mixture of idealism and capitalism—in the ongoing explosion of green businesses. It’s a boom that’s fueled by 100 million or more consumers who make purchases guided by health and environmental concerns every year. Overall, the green economy is worth more than $209 billion annually and is expected to reach $1 trillion by 2020, according to The LOHAS Journal, which tracks green economic trends.

With all that said, what exactly constitutes a “green” business is open to interpretation. “At one time, the perception of what ‘green’ meant only fit certain niche businesses such as recycling and alternative energy,” says George Brooks Jr., the publisher of Nxt Horizon magazine, an online minority business publication based in Phoenix. “But we are in a wholly new time.” Companies that offer green products and services—such as those that build pollution fighting into their business plans—are all responding to a rapidly growing demand.

Driven by the high cost of oil, global warming, and growing health consciousness, the green economy is powering everything from organic food companies to socially responsible investments. Witness that environmentally safe products such as recycled paper towels and all-natural laundry detergent are becoming supermarket staples. What’s more, the green building industry is on course to grow as much as fourfold, to $38 billion by 2010, according to the McGraw-Hill Residential Green Building SmartMarket Report. And sales of organic foods are expected to grow 18% annually from 2008 to 2010, according to the Organic Trade Association.

For entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs, opportunity is virtually pounding on the

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