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Shel Horowitz: Green variations on traditional business

As the world gets smarter about the need to go green, millions of consumers are looking for greener ways of doing the things they’ve been doing all along. And smart businesses owners are right there with them, offering greener ways to do business and making green their attitude.

Here are a few among numerous examples of businesses that are successfully filling that niche.

Green real estate

More and more brokers are actively marketing green properties. A few have gone so far as to affiliate themselves with green real estate broker associations such as EcoBroker.com. The home page of EcoBroker triages visitors into three channels: consumers who want to buy or sell a green home; brokers who’d like to get certified as green-aware; and vendors of green products and services who could benefit from an affiliate relationship — everything from green architects and builders to suppliers of renewable energy certificates.

(This section uses a fairly expensive paid-placement model, and as of this writing most of the categories are empty — rather surprising for a website launched in 2004, and disconcerting for visitors. If I were EcoBroker, I’d either switch to free basic listings with payment for enhanced, or get rid of any categories that have no entries.) Where the site does build trust is in the section on “Green Topics”: numerous articles, some of them fairly technical, on various aspects of building, renovating and living in a green home, or working in a green building.

Printing

Putting words onto paper creates all sorts of environmental issues: logging forests, chemicals in the waste water, paper going into landfills after it’s read, carbon impact of powering all those presses (to name a few).

However, you have lots of leeway to choose a printer who’s working hard to minimize negative environmental impacts. Here are several things to look for:

∎ Forest Stewardship Council or other reputable certification that monitors chain-of-custody from the time the wood is harvested until the paper is used (note: there are several different levels of FSC certification, so make sure you know what you’re getting)

∎ Recycled paper, processed without chlorine bleach, with a high post-consumer waste (PCW) percentage

∎ Renewable energy used for all or most of the printing plant’s energy needs (a net-zero building is even better)

∎ Short-run and on-demand printing options, allowing customers to use just-in-time inventory management instead of warehousing large quantities of printed materials

∎ Recycling of paper-roll ends and other usable scrap

∎ Biodegradable, vegetable-based inks

∎ Zero contamination of water sources through waste discharge.

Most printing companies offer at least a selection of recycled paper these days (and often at prices comparable to nonrecycled).

Some go much farther, incorporating many of the items in our checklist, above. And some actively market their green commitments; my eighth book, “Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green,” examines three different attempts by three different printers to make themselves attractive to green customers.

Lodging

As with printing, pretty much every hotel, inn and B&B has adopted at least some green best practices — if nothing else, the relatively recent custom of not changing all the towels and linens every day.

But in this industry, too, the smart ones are doing much more:

∎ Installing water-conserving showerheads, toilets, and faucet aerators

∎ Serving filtered water in reusable pitchers and glasses, instead of water bottles and disposable cups

∎Generating power through solar, wind, hydro, etc.

∎ Incorporating local organic food into meal and snack choices — and accommodating greener diets such as vegetarian and vegan

∎ Composting food wastes, either on-site or by donating to local farmers

∎ Putting plantings and potted plants in public areas

∎ Setting no-smoking policies

And they’re basing much of their marketing on these initiatives. Here, for instance, is a passage from the home page of a very environmentally aware B&B: “first solar-powered, off-the-grid, bed and breakfast [in the state]. Our B&B opened in 2008 so we could showcase the ease of solar-living, provide you with a ‘green’ getaway, and share our land, our animals and our farm. We are just 5 minutes from town, but light years from the noise, hustle, and hassle of city life.”

How can you incorporate more green principles into a conventional business — and how can you then get the most marketing advantage from doing so?

Shel Horowitz, shel@greenandprofitable.com, shows you how to “reach green, socially conscious consumers with marketing that has THEM calling YOU.” He writes the monthly Green And Profitable column and is the primary author of the award-winning book “Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green” (John Wiley & Sons).

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