Unless you’ve been in a coma for the last couple of years, you no doubt have noticed that “green” is getting a lot of press. And a lot of what you hear is the downside of what’s going on with the environment – CO2 is being pumped into the air at an alarming rate, the planet is warming, the icecaps are melting, and if we don’t do something fast, New York City will one day be under water.

Scary stuff. The upside is that on a global scale, people are talking about all this, and trying to find ways to prevent or improve it. That’s an upside for the earth, and it’s a huge potential upside for entrepreneurs.

Because there is so much interest in how to make things greener, businesses focused on either helping the environment or teaching others to do so are thriving, even in a down economy. And this green movement isn’t just a fad or short-term trend.

All signs point to it being a new way of doing things – a new, green economy. If you’re considering going into business, here are some ways to capitalize on that new green economy:

1. Become a Greenifier

What are greenifiers? All over the world, there are businesses and homeowners who really want to make their companies and homes more earth-friendly, but just don’t know how, don’t have the time, or for whatever other reason are willing to pay someone to come in and do it for them. Enter greenifiers.

There’s an opportunity for anyone willing to learn what it takes to turn a company or residence green to make a business out of it. You’ll need to really know your stuff to make this business happen, so the key, early on and as a continuous process, is research and learning.

There are tons of websites and books on the subject right now, so you shouldn’t have any trouble educating yourself. From there, you’ll want to establish relationships with wholesale suppliers where you can buy energy-efficient light bulbs and other supplies you’ll use to help people turn their worlds green.

With a good business plan and a sound marketing strategy, this could be a huge business for anyone willing to put in the time to become a greenifier.

2. Home Wind Turbine Dealer

Wind energy has been around since well before the green craze hit. But now it’s getting a lot more attention, and more and more people are looking into how to use this cheap, clean source of electric power.

As a dealer and/or installer of home wind turbines, you can take advantage of this trend and make big bucks. Companies like Wind Energy 7 sell these systems retail, but they also set up dealers and train them on how to sell and install home wind turbines.

Most of the home units are roof-mounted and fairly easy to install. The units run from around $6,000 and up, so this is a big-ticket item with a decent profit margin. The real money comes when you’re busy enough to hire installers, which in many cases can be subcontractors or even sub-dealers. Especially if you live in a windy place, check this business out – it could mean a real windfall!

3. Certified Green Professional

If you’re in the building business or want to go into the business, consider becoming a Certified Green Professional, through the NAHB (National Association of Home Builders). You just need 24 hours of training and to agree to their code of ethics, and you can place this designation on all you do.

The certification adds to your credibility and gives comfort to those wanting to hire a contractor that uses green building practices. Not in the construction business? You can also use this certification and consult with builders to help them follow green practices in their work.

These consultant, much like the greenifiers mentioned above, are in high demand because, even though construction has slowed down across the board, those who are building are more interested in doing it green.

4. Green Clothing

No, not clothes that are green in color – those that are made from environmentally friendly fabrics, using green manufacturing processes. Notice that there are two pieces to this industry.

Many fabrics, like hemp, organic cotton, and bamboo are grown without pesticides, but some are processed using old school manufacturing methods that involve chemicals and solvents that end up in the watershed.

Two bright spots though:

1. There are manufacturers that use green methods for turning the plants into fabric, and
2. People are paying a premium well beyond the additional manufacturing costs for clothes made from these fabrics.

Find a good manufacturer to partner with (by conducting plenty of online research), and you will find a market hungry for your products.

Solar To Go

When people think of solar power, they often picture large arrays of solar panels on a roof or out in the desert. As the green movement grows though, so does the number of portable solar products.

In fact, there are so many different kinds of portable solar products on the market right now, that you could definitely start a business selling nothing but these cool gadgets. From cell phone and iPod chargers, to solar laptop bags, and solar lanterns, people are eating this stuff up.

There’s even a solar frother for lattes on the go! The outlets to sell your products range from a commerce site, to eBay, to a brick and mortar store – or any combination of all of these. Here’s an online store that illustrates the range of products you could carry.

6. Local Organic Food

The average food served at a US home travels 1500 miles from source to plate. That’s a lot of carbon released into the atmosphere, regardless whether it comes by truck, train or ship. So it’s no wonder local food is a fast-growing trend in cities all over.

Obviously you need a little land to make this business work, but you don’t need much to start. Your back yard might be big enough for a garden that will produce enough vegetables to make a showing at the local farmer’s market.

Of course you aren’t likely to make a great living that way, but if it goes well, you can think about expanding. A movement in some areas is toward small farms that sell directly to the public. In a lot of these cases people pay a yearly membership to pick their own vegetables.

Most also supply some meat from animals raised using sustainable methods. The great part for the farmer is that instead of selling wholesale to grocery stores, they’re selling above retail to individuals who are willing to pay for the quality and the experience.

7. Green(er) Landscaping

A good entrepreneur knows that one way to be successful is to niche. Find a different slant on the typical way your industry works, and you can really improve you bottom line. One way some landscapers are doing this is by promoting their business as a greener alternative to normal landscapers.

From planting low-water-use plants and shrubs to installing low-flow, low-waste irrigation systems and using environmentally friendly fertilizers and pesticides, these companies take an already green business and make it a whole lot greener.

If you’re thinking of going into landscaping, this might be the niche that will make your business stand out and thrive.

8. Green Cleaning

Just like with green landscaping, this business concept takes an existing industry and “niches” it. There are plenty of house and office cleaning services out there, but what if you promoted yours as an environmentally safe alternative?

Committing to implement green cleaning products and earth-friendly trash disposal methods will appeal to homeowners and businesses who want to support the green movement. The products might cost a little more, but you’ll be able to charge more too – one of the great things about finding a niche market!

9. Paperless Office Consultant

The dream of the paperless office has come true for many small businesses, but most either think it’s not possible or simply don’t know how to make it happen. As a consultant in this field, you will show companies how to turn their operations paperless.

You’ll need training and experience in designing processes that eliminate the need for paper, from ordering processes to training materials, and even marketing materials. All of this can be learned with some online research. For some inspiration, here is a company that’s currently in this business and making it happen.

10. Solar Cookers and Barbeques

Hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk? Then it’s more than hot enough to cook your food in a solar cooker. Whether you’re making these cookers and selling them, or teaching others to make them – or both – it’s easy to get started right now in the solar cooker business.

In fact, SolarCooking.org has free plans for over 30 different solar cookers. They range from the cheap and not-so-attractive windshield shade funnel cooker, to the backyard-party-worthy Cob Solar Oven. Set up at trade shows, craft fairs and the like, and you’re bound to generate a lot of interest in these products – especially if you can come up with a unique, attractive design.

And there you have it – 10 great green businesses to help make the earth a better place to live. If you’re looking to go into business, consider making it part of the green economy. Doing so might just mean more green in your pocket too!