Consumers need to be given the opportunity to choose green products and services that meet their needs without unnecessarily using scarce resources and without leading to additional emissions of greenhouse gases or other forms of pollution. Some may be willing to pay a premium for these attributes but we really need to reach the situation where consumers no longer have to make the choice because all new products and services meet stringent environmental criteria.
The new business ideas I come across in all sectors demonstrate that people in the UK have the imagination and innovative flair to devise new green products and services. The green economy continues to grow and as more consumers search for products and services that don't exacerbate the damage to our environment there are real opportunities for many more of us to focus on this sector and bring these ideas to market.
Here are some examples:
Urban farming: There are lots of opportunities for using space in our towns and cities for growing food. This may not necessarily be in the obvious places like gardens but can involve public spaces too. There are also opportunities to grow food in vertical spaces and on roofs as well as on the ground. Food growing can take advantage of the 'urban heat island' effect to extend the growing season (although an increase in greenery could reduce this effect). Urban farming can improve the environment of our towns and cities but it can also reduce food miles considerably by growing the food close to the people who'll consume it. This has the potential to make some of our towns and cities much more productive and much healthier and more inviting places to live. If you want some inspiration, have a look at what they're doing in Todmorden in Lancashire, or in Havana, Cuba In Havana, urban farming increased to meet the effects of trade sanctions by the US but what the people of that city have done could provide a blueprint for urban farming systems across the world.
Biomimicry: This is a discipline that studies nature's best ideas and then imitates the designs and processes to solve human problems. Studying a leaf to invent a better solar cell is an example, studying a plant to identify the most effective way of arranging solar cells to collect sunlight is another. An Australian company is using biomimicry to generate renewable energy in another medium – under the sea. They've designed their wave and tide generators using ideas from sharks and from seaweed! You can find out more here .
Rental models: An alternative to buying a washing machine (or other domestic or business appliance) and then discarding it and replacing it after a couple of years is to rent it. As resources become scarcer, we'll have to design equipment to last longer and there are opportunities for businesses to build or purchase domestic and commercial appliances and rent them to users for a period of time before replacing them. All repairs and maintenance would be carried out by the rental company and the cost included in the rental. This has a significant impact on design as the appliances need to last longer and be easy to repair. On replacement, the older appliance would then be rented to someone else who may not need or cannot afford to rent a new one. At the end of the machine's life you, as the owner of the appliance, would then dismantle it, recycle worn or damaged parts and reuse serviceable parts to repair other machines. This business model also provides a great opportunity to build stronger relationships with your customers. Co-Wheels and other car pooling companies use this model for one of the most expensive items most people will buy – a car. Ecomodo is a relatively new organisation that facilitates rentals between individuals. The model also works for other equipment. Interface Floor pioneered the idea of renting floor coverings for offices and the idea has long been used for office photocopiers.
These ideas have been taken from our Ideas Hub. If you want more ideas or you want to contribute your own, you can have a look at http://www.ecoskill.co.uk/ideas-hub/. Next time, we'll look at some key lessons for green entrepreneurs.
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