Building. Living. Cars. Energy. These are words prefixed with “Green” so often that we hardly notice them anymore. Looking for a green car? Stand on any street corner. You’re bound to see (if not hear the whisper of) a Toyota Prius within minutes. Want a green living product? Do some window shopping. You won’t get far. In a depressed economy, there is one sector that continues to grow—green businesses and the goods or services they sell.
But there’s already so much info about this efficient building or that green power plant, so I decided to look on the fringe—off the green, if you will. To get below the fast-moving mainstream to the undercurrent below, where small or niche green businesses rule. They are no doubt connected to the green zeitgeist propelling Western society forward, but are largely unheralded as yet, e.g. still businesses rather than business trends. I found seven green services most of us haven’t heard of. Here are their stories, complete with mainstream eco-buzzwords to help guide these outlanders onto the green.
#1—Green Pest Remover
“Exterminator” is so brown. “Remover” is the green word of choice for Joe Franco when he describes his small seasonal pest control business (with a heart) in BC, Canada. Every summer, wasps, bees and bumblebees come out of hiding to populate homeowners’ yards, eaves, siding, decks and a myriad other home locations they might find to be suitable to their apian or vespine needs.
Rather than breaking out the spray can of RAID, as most people still do, Franco shows up in a white Toyota Tercel with ladder and custom-made vacuum. With the vacuum, he sucks the wasps or bees out of their nest. With the car, he transports them somewhere well away from human populations and releases them. Franco understands the intimate part that bees and wasps play in the local (and global) ecosystem. Hence, his “green” pest removal business. Read more about “Joe Wasp” at BC Local News.
In an office filled with chemicals, X-ray machines and plastic molds, one might wonder how well a green business model could fit. This was exactly the thinking of Gabriela Garcia-Rojas, longtime dentist in Mill Valley, California. Her practice is now certified as a green business by the Marin County Board of Supervisors. How did she do it? Common green business upgrades like energy efficient lighting and sustainable waste management, as well as some industry-specific tactics, e.g. an amalgam separator that removes mercury residue from old fillings, the use of porcelain fillings, performing digital scans of teeth rather than plastic molds, and digital X-rays that avoid the chemicals of traditional X-ray processes.
Perhaps I’m gender-specifying myself as a cosmetics-ignorant male, but green cosmetics is certainly fringe to me, especially on the global, independently-owned scale achieved by Lavera. This natural cosmetics company has been at it for over 20 years, preceding any society-wide green movement. Using only natural materials, Lavera, based in Germany, has over 330 natural cosmetic products, employs 250 employees and uses renewable energy and organic ingredients as much as possible. Products come in recycled packaging and recyclable or refillable bottles wherever possible. And, for those men as ignorant as I am about the cosmetics industry, there is a dedicated men’s line as well. See more at Cosmetics Business.
#4—Sustainable Dog Boutique
Welcome to the Healthy Spot Dog Boutique, recent recipient of the Enviromental Sustainability Award by the California State Senate. Healthy Spot was one of Santa Monica’s first certified green businesses, a pioneer in an increasingly less-fringy green business realm. Reductions in solid waste, recycling promotion, water and energy efficiency, and eco-friendly products are some of the steps making the Healthy Spot the premier green spot for pet owners to shop. Shelves are stocked with eco-friendly toys, treats, supplies and grooming products, and the store even offers the best in green doggy daycare and grooming.
#5—Eco-Chic Rubber Jewelry
Recycled rubber is a very common product ingredient these days, but to see rubber reused as jewelry is a new one. Enter My Sister’s Art; definitely on the fringe—or forefront—of eco-chic fashion. Everything from decorative flowers to feather duster earrings to elaborate chandelier necklace are represented—proof that one woman’s tire can be another woman’s black gold.
#6—Certified Green Tire & Auto Shop
How can a tire and automotive service store be green? Good question. Amazingly, it seems several locations in Arizona have figured it out. Six Firestone Complete Auto Care centers in and around Phoenix have been certified as “green shops” through Arizona’s voluntary Green Business Automotive Program administered with the state’s Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ). One thing is for sure about auto shops: there’s plenty of room for greening up practices, which for these six locations includes eco-friendly cleaning and degreasing, recycling oil, using low-hazard solvents, energy efficient lighting, green office equipment, reducing paper use and water conservation. It would be nice to see oil services in general become a fringe practice (in favor of electric transportation), but it’s also good to see them cleaning up their act as much as possible.
Burial with dignity now means more than a rifle salute or meaningful epitaph, as those planning for their afterlife are choosing to honor the earth through natural burial. Currently, 22 cemeteries nationwide offer natural burial services, a very small amount relative to the whole but a growing trend nonetheless (see the Green Burial Council).
Options include biodegradable caskets, lack of embalming chemicals and, increasingly as it becomes legal in more states (California next?), “resomation.” Resomation avoids the carbon emissions unfortunately common with cremation by placing human remains inside a stainless steel tank filled with water and potassium hydroxide, where they are heated over several hours until the remains melt. Some of the resulting “residue” is placed in an urn, the rest recycled into the sewer system. Odd to talk about, and almost certainly the oddest of fringe green business practices, but also a serious contender for common burial practices of the future. Read more at Newsweek.