Green Dreams: Resources for Green Business Planning

Welcome back to Green Dreams! This is my second post in a series following my journey starting a green graphic design firm. Go back to post #1 to get the full scoop.

Green Business HomeworkBefore you start a business of any kind, there is a lot of planning and research to be done. If you do your homework, you will have a better chance at getting your business off the ground. Unfortunately for designers, business classes usually aren’t a required part of design curricula, so a lot of us creative types have to learn as we go along. Lack of business sense is also the reason many creative start-ups fail. So, in my efforts to avoid that, I’ve been doing lots of homework and research on how to run a business.

Being fiercely independent, I have always known that someday I wanted to run my own business and work for myself. It’s one of the reasons I decided to study graphic design. But since college didn’t really prepare me for running a business, I have spent the last couple of years reading and researching not only how to start and run a business, but how to do it sustainably. What follows is a long list of resources that have been helpful to me.

Books on Starting a Design Business

  • The Business Side of Creativity by Cameron S. Foote: this Creative Business guide is a comprehensive discussion of whether running your own business is for you, pricing, taxes, marketing & selling, and running a multi-person shop. A must-have resource for creative professionals.
  • The Savvy Designer’s Guide To Success by Jeff Fisher: this book is a general career success guide for designers, and a great resource for people new to the industry.
  • Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines: the authority on pricing and business practices. The GAG handbook is a great resource to have on your shelf.
  • Talent is not Enough: Business Secrets for Designers by Shel Perkins: a thorough look at design business issues.

Greening Your Office

  • The Green Office: a one-stop shopping resource for sustainable office supplies, furniture, electronics, and even carbon offsets.
  • Green Printer Online: a convenient way to learn about green printing options and order green printing services online. They also have an informative blog and resources to learn more about green printing technology.
  • Greener Printing and Greener Paper options have been covered previously on Green Options. Printing and paper are two areas that designers can make a big impact if they shop sustainably.
  • Sustainable Web Hosting Options: since every business needs a web site, you’ll want a green web host to make sure your site is as sustainable as possible.

Green Certification and Green Biz Networks

Green Design + Business

  • The Sustainable Studio: this series on BoDo (The Business of Design Online) is a wonderful comprehensive look at running a sustainable design firm. Written by Jess Sand of Roughstock Studios, a certified green business, the series of articles covers a wide variety of topics from finding green vendors to saving money sustainably, and there’s more to come!
  • Organic Design Operatives’ Eco-Design Toolkit: this handy downloadable toolkit for designing greener projects includes calculators and worksheets that help you make your projects greener.
  • re-nourish: not so much focused on the business side of design, but re-nourish is an excellent resource for all things sustainable design. Learn how to make your work greener and be inspired by numerous green design case studies.

Business Basics

  • SBA Small Business Planner: this is not the most exciting read, but the US Small Business Administration has some great tips and resources for starting a small business.
  • IRS Small Business Resource: taxes and finances are also rather boring to read about, but an essential part of running a business. Get tax info from the source, the IRS.
  • StartUpNation: a great resource for entrepreneurs and start-ups. One of their new features is a wonderful guide called 9 Steps to Greening Your Business.

Well, that should certainly be enough homework to get you started! My plan has been to gather as much information as possible before I really get started on business planning. Of course, there is a lot of info out there, so absorbing it all has proven to be quite the task! I will of course want to continue my business education as I go about the planning process and even after my business has officially opened its doors. Hopefully this list of resources gives you a platform for learning and starting your own green business. Please add to this list by leaving a comment with your own recommended reading. Knowledge is power. And in the business world, knowledge is money! So, it’s time to hit the books!

About the Author

I grew up camping and hiking in the woods of Idaho, leading to a connection with and deep respect for nature. I recently moved to the Mendocino coast in Northern California, where I was happy to find not only beautiful redwoods and beaches, but a high level of green consciousness. I am a graphic and web designer who focuses on making the world a better place through sustainable design and communication. I specialize in green design solutions for small businesses, non-profits, and activist organizations. When I'm not designing, I'm hiking, camping, traveling, taking pictures, blogging, and spending time with my boyfriend and our "fur-kids." You can find out more about me on my sites and blogs: my personal site,, or unplug magazine.
  • Thanks for the tips.

  • Megan,
    Thanks for all the helpful information in your article. I hope many are inspired by your dreams as well.

  • renee Carl

    This story was about making a business.

  • Thanks so much for spreading all this great green business information – and for mentioning our Green Business Network, Connections newsletter and Green Business Conference.

    Plus there are many other ways Co-op America is working to grow a green economy that works for people and the planet. We strongly encourage you kind blog readers to get involved:

    Jocelyn Allen
    Online Campaign Outreach Intern
    Co-op America

  • Dori

    Thanks for compiling this list. I am saving it and will be checking out all the links.

    I’ve been a freelance designer for 9 years, and have been researching ways to “green” my business. I already actually consider myself a green business, because I work at home, and barely drive at all. I even order groceries online, which saves a lot of time and gas. I rarely travel.

    The improvements over the last few years in being able to transfer files to printers via the internet has helped me drive a lot less too. Also, clients are getting more comfortable with having an entire relationship online, which saves tons of trips to meetings that I used to make.

    I try and reuse and recycle, compost, plant lots of trees…and am always looking for ways to do more. I would like to get some sort of certification.

    Thanks again for the interesting and helpful post! I’ll be reading…

  • 🙂 Thank you everyone for your comments!

    Dori – Good to hear that there are other green designers out there. It’s nice to be able to work at home and have no commute! I do most of my work online as well, but I also work with local printers and clients. I do plan to cover certification because it’s something I am looking into for my business, so stay tuned!

  • Pingback: 10 Business Practices that Reduce Your Footprint : Ecopreneurist()

  • Pingback: The Next Green Thing: Green Insurance : Green Building Elements()

  • GreenLine Paper ( offers a Green Office Certification to companies and other organizations which meet environmentally friendly certification requirements. Applicants must use energy wisely, recycle, use recycled products, and be environmentally savvy. Questions concerning topics like energy, building construction, supplies, recycling, and transportation determine the company’s green ranking. Companies which fulfill the requirements will receive a certification graphic for their Web site, which when clicked, will show the date of certification. GreenLine also offers their monthly Green Office News e-newsletter with environmental news and tips on greener office practices.

  • Pingback: Operating a Small, Sustainable Business: Resources for Ecopreneurs | Keys to Natural Health()

  • Pingback: Stocking the Green Office: Sustainable Supplies : Ecopreneurist()

  • Julie

    Office Greeners ( offers TRUE Green Office Certification, which stands for Travel, Recycling, Use, and Efficiency. They charge a fee for certification, but they require proof in addition to companies completing the checklist, so it’s more accountable.

  • Pingback: Unofficial ‘Hot’ List of Green Design Firms - Green Printer’s picks for January 2009 : Save a Tree - Print Green - Green Options()

  • Pingback: Green Printer Blog » Unofficial ‘Hot’ List of Green Design Firms - Green Printer’s picks for January 2009()

  • Its easy to choose an office supply product that is environmentally friendly at because ONLY environmentally friendly supplies are listed for sale there — recycled and remanufactured supplies that can be purchased with confidence by those who care about having a sustainable world for ourselves and our descendents.

  • Pingback: Operating a Small, Sustainable Business: Resources for Ecopreneurs()