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How to Start a Business to Combat Climate Change

The human impact on the climate system is unequivocal. The changes now occurring have not been seen for countless thousands of years. It is 95% certain that humans are the leading cause of global warming, and humans can be the leading solution, too. The changes occurring now may be long-lasting, but we have the opportunity to disrupt those changes.

The awareness and urgency of climate change are growing rapidly. Because of this, many entrepreneurs are embracing the challenge. They are starting new companies or joining new industries that will help lead to significant positive results for our planet.

How to Start a Business to Combat Climate Change

How Big Are the Markets?

This is a planet-sized issue, so in theory, your market could be the entire earth. Because of the growing awareness of climate change, you are more likely to make a good bit of money than many other businesses if your new company can contribute to saving the world from prolonged hardship and devastation.

Here are ten major categories causing climate change:

  • Electricity and heat
  • Transportation uses
  • Manufacturing and construction
  • Agricultural practices
  • Deforestation
  • Other industrial processes
  • Landfill and oceanic waste
  • Bunker fuels (cargo shipping)
  • Other fuel combustion
  • Fugitive emissions (constant leaks from industrial activities).

Here are business ideas that help combat climate change:

Electric Vehicles and Electric Vehicle Charging

Transportation contributes 15% of all global warming. Leading the charge against this are a vast array of innovations in electric vehicles, ranging from electric bikes, electric trikes, scooters, motorcycles, trucks, boats, and airplanes. Engineers are redesigning these modes of transportation, resulting in drastically reduced carbon dioxide emissions. While equity investment in the field is surging, many exciting new companies are leveraging crowdfunding and equity crowdfunding to bring prototypes and production lines to market.

A subset of this is the burgeoning interest in ridesharing, bike-sharing, scooter-sharing, and other aspects of the non-owner economy.

Organic Farming

There is a trend in agricultural practices toward organic, non-GM grain farming. The awareness of GMO products is already nearly universal in the US (97%), and Whole Foods (a large natural food provider) says that non-GMO demand increased 426% just between 2010 and 2014.

The earth isn’t making new land, and areas suitable for farming are limited, so your first challenge will be to find farmland. You will want to work with a person experienced in farmland ownership or in finding lessee-operators. On the plus side, the average age of US farmers is approaching 60, and analysts feel that as many as 400 million acres will change hands within 20 years. When acquiring land, you will also need to consider environmental issues and how to obtain or how to maintain organic certification.

When it comes to deciding what to grow on your farm, you’ll need to assess the profit potential of certain crops, as well as your climate, location, and other regulatory issues. For example, new crops like industrial hemp may command the most money, but it could be a challenge to grow such a crop in a particular local climate and soil.

Tech Startups in Smart-Farming

Farms from small to large are embracing new technologies and IoT solutions to lower costs, increase yields, conserve resources, shepherd natural resources, and improve the quality of crops. New technologies such as LED lighting, soil content monitoring with sensors, savvy irrigation, drone imagery of fields and problem areas, robotics, and the use of natural pesticides are all producing astounding savings in water usage and crop yields.

Eco-Friendly Clothing

Analysts speculate that the average consumer in the United States discards 81 pounds of clothing per year, adding 3.8 billion pounds of waste to landfills, just in the US. In response, many designers and manufacturers are moving steadily toward recyclable (e.g., plastic) materials for their clothing (think Patagonia or H&M) – or using “upcycled” (new but discarded) material to provide consumers with fashionable products that are also eco-friendly. (Note: I just walked by a worker in Walmart, and his safety vest said “6 plastic bottles were used to make this vest.”) Nice. Another way that helps start a business, specifically when it comes to clothing, is to utilize the print-on-demand model. POD has proven to reduce clothing waste by only producing clothing on demand. This means that businesses using the print-on-demand model won’t have unused inventory that will most likely end up in a landfill. Even some well-known brands like Coca-Cola, Spotify, and Netflix have started using POD to reduce clothing waste.

Meat Alternatives

Agriculture contributes 11% of the causes of climate change. Going green isn’t the only alternative. Reducing meat consumption, primarily from beef cattle, is a massive help in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as are innovations in optimizing water transportation, management, and usage. Vegetarians and meat-eaters are consuming more plant-based meat alternatives like Beyond Meat and Impossible. The plant-based meat alternative trend is going international, with products such as Zhenmeat. Zhenmeat is a new Beijing-based startup producing a vegetable alternative to pork (China being the largest consumer of pork in the world). These products not only help reduce climate change but save animal lives, too. The plant-based meat alternative industry is likely to grow as both issues continue to rise in awareness.

Alternative Energy

Experts expect renewable energy to increase to 22.5% of the global power mix by 2020, and IoT-based technology is driving efficiency and automation. Innovations rapidly coming to market include smart appliances, sensors (e.g., vibration, temperature and wear), advanced storage (batteries and data), AI analysis of usage and savings possibilities, remote management, and many others.

What Do I Need in My Business Plan?

As we frequently advise: Whatever business you choose, there is nothing like a great business plan to present your opportunity to partners, stakeholders, investors, lenders, vendors, major customers, service providers, and regulatory and licensing agencies. A great plan will typically include information on scores of subjects, such as business model, market opportunity or market entry, products and services, market analysis, regulatory environment, team, metrics and milestones, financial strategy, and marketing plan, among other subjects.  Here’s more about the many roles a well-written business plan can play.

What is the Best Path for Starting My Business?

Forward-thinking and planning is key to whatever your idea is. Like all businesses, location is everything. When considering a new business, begin by learning if your state, county, and city support your climate change idea. Find out what licenses and permits you will need and if you’ll need legal assistance to acquire them.

Next, you’ll want to decide how your business will make moneyif there’s a market for it, and then write a business plan.

Deciding to start a new business is a big decision, no matter what the industry is. You will likely find that having your own business is the most all-encompassing job you’ve ever done. So before you dive in, be sure that you are genuinely excited about the business idea. No matter what you do, if you are helping fight climate change, you will already be doing something popular. So avoid the temptation to follow a trending industry just because it is hot right now. Get behind a concept that you can fight for and believe will make the world a better place.

Lee is a Principal Consultant at Cayenne Consulting. Lee brings to Cayenne clients over 30 years of experience from his prior roles as a law partner in entertainment law, securities licensee, real estate broker, and multiple positions as a CEO/COO of early-stage media companies. Lee received his JD from the UCLA School of Law. View details.

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