A Brilliantly Simple Green Business Idea


As a green business blogger on three sites, I hear about a lot of green business ideas. Today I heard about a near perfect one. Green Any Site. The idea is simple: Before you make a purchase online, you hit the “Green This!” button, and then make your purchase as usual, coupon codes and all. A portion of that sale will go to Green Any Site, 100% of which will be donated to a green nonprofit organization. End of story.
There is, of course, more. And Green Any Site does a great job explaining it, complete with rollover text popping up on the FAQs on the front page, getting all the big questions answered quickly, without fuss.
Basically, merchants have what they call affiliate programs – you send me business, I send you a percentage for having done so. Miro, an arts non profit, has done this, with purchases on Amazon. Green Any Site, as the name says, does (or will soon) with any shopping site. They’re working within an existing system that merchants are familiar with, so no need to convince sites to “go green.” They just get the green, and give some to Green My Site.
So how does Green Any Site make money, since they give 100% of affiliate money away, in an auditable trail?

As Tal Ater, the founder of it explained to me:

Our business model is based on ethical advertising – suggesting greener alternatives to users based what they’re shopping for. For example, if you’re purchasing a book online, we may suggest you save another tree and show you where you can find the same book as an audio book or e-book. The same space may also be used for green tips which aren’t advertising sponsored such as suggesting how to recycle your old phone when you purchase a new one.

I have to say they’ve done a great job at making this a compelling offering, both on the site itself, and what they will be doing in the future: giving registered users a vote in which organization money will go to, plus offering a widget & Facebook app to show how much your purchases have earned green organizations. And, having tried it myself, the visual element of the screen getting greened before you purchase, though silly, is somehow satisfying.
By making the everyday act of making an online purchase, green or not, have a green impact, they’ve scored a win on all sides. Creating ease in making positive choices is a wise move.
Readers: What other ways do you see out there for making the making of green choices a simplified process? Share below please.
Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio School of Management in San Francisco. His overarching talent is “bottom lining” complex ideas, in a way that is understandable and accessible to a variety of audiences, internal and external to a company.

Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. He creates interest in, conversations about, and business for green (and greening) companies, via social media marketing. || ==> For more, see GreenSmithConsulting.com

7 responses

  1. Assuming the advertising actually leads people to make “greener” choices, then this is a compelling concept, but spare me the “we donate money to a green cause stuff”, that’s pure fluff.
    A more interesting question is – would amazon, for example, tolerate the fact that their advertising might be driving people away to other products elsewhere? Basically this is another feel good gimmick, and hardly what I’d call a “green business idea”.

  2. Hi Ray.
    I understand the skepticism… I’m a big skeptic myself and always bashing green washers… But GAS isn’t one of those.
    As opposed to some start ups (e.g. green search engines) who claim to help the environment but don’t really say how much they are giving away, GAS is completely transparent.
    We donate 100% of our revenue from greening purchases to environmental charities. Those charities are chosen by our registered users.
    Every cent we get and every cent we give is reported and tracked on our blog for complete transparency. Including publishing affiliate reports, and receipts for donations.
    And as for being a “feel good gimmick”, I don’t agree… The percentage sites give to affiliates is quite substantial, usually 5%-20%. I think that is quite substantial, and can have one hell of an impact. Can you imagine a better way to get retailers to donate even 5% of their revenues to the environment?
    I really hope you take a second to check it out for yourself. And if there’s anything else, I’d love to hear from you here or on my email (tal@talater.com)

  3. I think Ray raises a valid point. He’s not really cynical when he suggest that merely donating money to whatever charity is basically fluff – it is fluff! It’s feel good. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but why should I care if buying X or Y product donates money to some charity??? I would much rather know that company X or Y is run responsibly, or is helping to bring people into the middle class by means of their hiring practices. I don’t care about handing out money.
    That said, if this product really works – and really gives people choices that influence them in a greener direction, I’m all for it. But I’d like to see real evidence of that before I jump on the bandwagon!

  4. Soakmen, Ray – You’re right that donating money is less important that having companies actually change the way they do things. But – the fact is that people respond to gimmicks. Many people who might otherwise not cough up money to support worthy causes are inspired to do so when it’s an add-on to something they already plan to do – like buying something online. So there’s certainly no harm in this, and if these guys can make a buck in the process, more power to ’em. As you say, the real icing on the cake comes if they can present new options to people – something that would likely earn them even more as affiliates via their recommendation system. It’s a pretty smooth idea.

  5. Consider parking lot litter cleanup. I’ve been in the business since 1981. All you need are simple hand tools. I contract with property management companies to maintain their commercial properties litter free. Almost as easy as a walk through the park. Start part time to make more money on the side. Go full time and make a six figure income like I do. Full details online. http://www.cleanlots.com

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