5 Creative Ways Startups Are Going Green

02/28/2017 11:28 am ET Updated Mar 01, 2017

No matter the industry, every business has a role to play in improving its sustainability. As more and more companies catch on to the importance of limiting their eco-footprint, green business trends are on the rise.

Even cash-strapped startups are getting in on the action. Some of them have baked green business ideas into their profit motives, while others are working to reduce their eco-footprint even when doing so isn’t directly tied to their mission. In the process, they’re blazing the way for sustainable business initiatives of all stripes. Here are five creative ways startups are going green.

1. They’re reducing waste.

Sometimes startups don’t begin their business with an environmental ethos, but gradually work to reduce their eco-footprint over time. Other times, they arise expressly because of the need for more sustainable industry solutions.

That was the case with Attero Recycling, which was founded to combat the growing issues posed by electronic waste. The startup provides end-to-end electronic and electrical goods management with an emphasis on sustainable recycling initiatives.

Spoiler Alert also falls into this category. The startup helps food-related businesses reduce their food waste by coordinating fulfillment and managing donations of surplus food that would otherwise go to waste.

2. They’re promoting sustainable energy.

Skyrocketing energy usage is one of the greatest drains on natural resources. Luckily, a host of startups are investing in the sustainable energy revolution with eco-friendly energy solutions and/or working to reduce their own energy waste.

Arctic Sand (which launched out of MIT) developed technology that boosts energy efficiency and reduces energy lost as heat. Wunder pairs schools, organizations, and municipalities with potential investors for large-scale solar projects. Sungage Financial helps everyday consumers access funding for solar panels. For these startups, eco-friendliness isn’t a byproduct of their work. Instead, it’s the central focus of their mission.

3. They’re sourcing sustainable materials.

Selling any physical product inherently requires some drain on environmental resources. The manufacturing process involves large amounts of water and energy, and the transportation needed to ship products around the country (or world) releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Investing in sustainable materials can help offset the size of this eco-footprint.

Startups are rising to the challenge by utilizing organic cotton (in the case of the fashion industry), investing in sustainable farming (in the case of the food industry), and utilizing non-toxic materials (in the case of the mattress industry). Even the death industry is getting in on the act—casket maker Willow & Werth, for example, uses American-grown wood sourced primarily from sustainably managed forests.

4. They’re minimizing paper use.

The production of paper requires the destruction of natural resources (i.e. trees) as well as copious amounts of water and energy. Thus, minimizing paper use is a simple way for businesses in any industry to become a little greener. Startups are working to reduce their own paper usage—as well as their customers’ paper consumption—in a number of ways.

For example, expense management software company Concur eliminates the need for their customers to print paper expense reports. And a wide variety of startups are reducing their own paper usage by utilizing cloud storage, digital invoicing, and other tech tools.

5. They’re incentivizing green purchases.

Some startups have identified opportunities to use consumer rewards programs for environmental good as well as profit. The e-commerce site EcoPlum, for example, sells eco-friendly products and works to educate its customers about the importance of environmentally friendly consumerism. To further encourage sustainable shopping, EcoPlum bestows customers with “EcoChipz” for every purchase. These chips can then be donated to environmental initiatives.

Whether sustainability is at the forefront of a business’ mission or simply one of its values, these startups demonstrate that it’s possible to find creative ways to go green in virtually any industry.

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