Making some green by being green
On Earth Day, here's a look at some small companies that are not only making a difference, but making a profit.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - A small but growing number of entrepreneurs are managing to do good while still doing well - making the environment a priority every day of the year and posting healthy profits.
"As more and more people are conscience of the environment, (starting an eco-friendly business) has become more popular," according to Steve Rosen, soon to become interim CEO of FranNet, a franchise consulting organization.
And these business are increasingly popular with customers too, Rosen says, "because it is something that agrees with people's social objectives."
Fried chicken and the environment don't seem to have much in common. But FiltaFry developed a micro-filtration process that significantly extends the life cooking oil, which means much less waste is generated. FiltaFry will come to a restaurant, hospital or hotel and clean the cooking oil on location. The cost of an average cleaning, which takes about an hour, is $46.70.
Julian Yates, who owns several FiltaFry mobile units in the San Francisco area, says he is recycling about 10,000 pounds of oil a week - or about 520,000 pounds of oil a year. And not only does the oil last longer, but it's also cleaner, which means the food is healthier too.
"I wasn't looking for an eco-friendly business in particular," Yates admits, but when he realized he could help the environment and make money, it was "an added benefit."
Packing peanuts and ink refills
PostNet, a packing and shipping company with 500 franchises is the U.S., also makes reducing waste a part of daily business. The company will gladly take your old packing peanuts and reuse them in packing for other customers. In some cases, they will even come pick up peanuts from retail stores and locations. "That there is so much waste in today's world is a focus for us," said Brian Spindel, executive vice president of the company. And, the company made $232 million last year.
Rapid Refill inked it's own method for reducing waste. Since 2002, the company has found success refilling and remanufacturing inkjet and laser toner cartridges for printers, copiers and fax machines. Drop boxes in video stores, supermarkets, bookstores and dry cleaners make it easy for people to drop off their empty cartridges, instead of just throwing them away. Customers can then buy remanufactured toner cartridges at Rapid Refill's retail locations for 40 to 70 percent less than the price of a new one.
Dan White, president of Rapid Refill and a biologist by education, estimates that the average Rapid Refill store remanufactures 5,000 inkjet cartridges a month, which would otherwise get shipped out of the country and burnt as waste.
But they don't stop there. "We also decided you can't be in the recycling business if you don't walk the walk," White says. In each store, "the countertops are made out of sunflower seeds, the carpeting is made from post consumer content... we even use floor tile that was partially reclaimed building materials."
Those that walk the walk may also want to dress the part. Martinizing Dry Cleaning has been around for nearly 50 years, but when traditional solvent came under fire for environmental reasons several years ago, the company jumped to adopt a non-toxic solvent called Green Earth, which is less harmful to the environment. "It is costlier but we think it's worth it," says Toney Strike, CEO & president.
An added bonus: Strike discovered that some customers even go out of there way to go to a place that's environmentally friendly. Systemwide the company grosses about $200 million, Strike estimates.
Not bad for a day's work.
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