So the recession deepens.  It’s looking more and more likely that it’s going to get worse before it gets better, and unemployment is getting dangerously close to 10% nationwide, a level we haven’t seen in decades. With every cloud is a silver lining, of course, and I think one that we must focus on is that we should be taking this time to plant some seeds that will pay off handsomely down the road. 

I’m an avid gardener.  I live in San Francisco, and have a garden full of winter crops:  lettuce, kale, kumquat, lemons, spinach, rosemary, mint, and a variety of other herbs that are in full force right now.  I recently added a plum tree, an almond tree, and an apple tree, all ultra-dwarves to accomodate my limited San Francisco-style backyard, and was telling a friend how much fun I was having.  He said, and I quote, “Sheesh.  Are you hunkering down for the Great Depression, or what?”


It was a brilliant comment, and made me think about what businesses could be doing during this downturn that would ‘bear fruit’, if you don’t mind the pun, later down the road.  For a green business during this time of economic hardship, there are a lot of opportunities to reach out to a disgruntled workforce, a slowing customer base, and other local businesses in the area to plant some seeds. 

Why not partner up with other locally owned businesses and put a small ‘buy local’ coupon book together.  You split the costs of printing and distribution, and hang them on all the doors in your neighborhood.   In doing so, you make some cool business connections that will continue to help you down the road.  Customers would certainly appreciate the coupons, the localism, and the community you’re building, and probably become regulars. 

Why not post an ad on Craigslist looking for a part-time volunteer who wants to learn how you do your thing?  Going green is still hot and sexy, and many people are just looking for an education, and while unemployed, probably wouldn’t mind at all volunteering for you for a bit.  Part civic engagement, part internship, part just plain fun.  You get free help, they get a mentor in the green business community and a letter of reference if they ever need one.  Maybe a job opens up for them down the road. 

Look around.  Opportunities that are free or very inexpensive exist for your business.  Make something happen.  Hunker down.  But keep your head and your spirits up and good things will happen. 


Photo credit >Berd on Flickr Creative Commons
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About The Author

Scott Cooney

Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, green business startup coach, author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and developer of the sustainability board game GBO Hawai'i. Scott has started, grown and sold two mission-driven businesses, failed miserably at a third, and is currently in his fourth. Scott's current company has three divisions: a sustainability blog network that includes the world's biggest clean energy website and reached over 5 million readers in December 2013 alone; Pono Home, a turnkey and franchiseable green home consulting service that won entrance into the clean tech incubator known as Energy Excelerator; and Cost of Solar, a solar lead generation service to connect interested homeowners and solar contractors. In his spare time, Scott surfs, plays ultimate frisbee and enjoys a good, long bike ride. Find Scott on

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