Growing a Green Business - Page 6 of 7

Growing a Green Business

green to get business,” he says. “But the fact is that we get a lot of business by being green.” Though he says eco-friendliness also has a growing appeal in Canada, and it’s a part of the company’s marketing materials, it’s not front-and-center because Ilesanmi says he wants the business to be known for its quality service and not be perceived as largely promoting a cause.

While the 10-employee company does clean individual homes, “bulk” customers are its bread and butter. Ilesanmi and his wife and business partner, Idironke Oyekanle, have come a long way since 2004, when they started the business by literally carrying mops and other supplies from building to building. Zenith’s annual revenues are approaching $250,000, and are on pace to grow at least 50% annually over the next three years. In fact, says Ilesanmi, the only reason the business is not growing faster is that it can’t find high-quality, long-term hires fast enough.

While there is real money to be made in green businesses, it’s the rare entrepreneur who is not also driven by idealism. As humble a business as Zenith Cleaners may be, its people- and environmentally friendly products are part of a philosophy of caring for the planet and its inhabitants, says Ilesanmi.

It was the death of Ilesanmi’s brother several years ago, from asthma, that got the future entrepreneur thinking about his own legacy. “I started to think about endings, and wanting to do something that would outlast me,” he says. “I decided I don’t want to be caught dead doing something that doesn’t have any meaning.”

As children, Kermit the Frog sang to us all that “it’s not easy being green.” Well, it’s easier if you can speak the lingo. Here are a few terms worth knowing:

  • Carbon footprint: A measure of the impact human activities have on the environment, as calculated by the amount of greenhouse gases produced. Your personal footprint is likely to be dominated by transportation.
  • Carbon offset: Credits purchased by individuals and companies to offset their contributions to global warming. The market for carbon offsets is estimated to be $100 million annually and growing fast.
  • Fair trade: Signifies that goods meet certain standards related to social and environmental considerations, such as fair payment for producers.
  • Gray water: Accounting for 50% to 80% of residential waste water, it is produced by washing dishes, laundry, and showering. Gray water can be used for landscape irrigation and other uses, although regulations vary by jurisdiction.
  • Green-collar job: A popular term in this presidential election cycle, it describes a position that involves products or services relating to clean energy or environmental concerns more broadly.
  • Greenhouse gases: A combination of water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone that all contribute to global warming. These gases come from both human activity and natural sources.
  • LEED standards: An acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environment Design–a set of national standards for green building and construction created by the U.S. Green