Realizing this faster than most was Jennie Nevin, who founded a company aptly titled Green Spaces in 2008. The hybrid company, part non-profit, part for-profit, rents affordable workspace to green businesses at its inviting open space loft at 33 Flatbush Avenue in Fort Greene.
"Green business startups don't have access to cheap workspace," said Nevin. "So I thought it would be great to open up a green space."
The innovative business idea first came to Nevin around 2005, after she left a job on Wall Street working for Merrill Lynch to start Green Leaders, a green networking organization. Nevin, originally from Minneapolis, said her work in the financial sector helped her develop an understanding that green and business could fit together very nicely indeed.
"I've always been really interested in the environment and saw a lot of the synergies between the environment and business," said Nevin, who took environmental studies classes at the Masters level at Harvard University before earning her MBA in business. "I realized there were a lot of problems that needed changing but there were a lot of opportunities, too."
In 2008, following three years of green consulting and organizing work, Nevin decided it was finally the right time to set up a collective space for fledgling green businesses. After searching for a suitable space, Nevin found the 7,000-square-foot Fort Greene loft. She rents the space from a landlord, and charges entrepreneurs $425 a month in turn for a spacious desk area to run their businesses. The monthly rent includes marketing help and other business service assistance from the Green Spaces staff.
So far, Green Spaces rents to approximately 20 different enterprises, said Nevin, including some non-profit organizations. Together they represent the diverse and expanding new energy economy.
One of the businesses there, Sun One Solutions, runs a land management company that helps landowners reduce their carbon emissions. Another, Sea to Table, sells fresh seafood to restaurants and grocery stores. A third, Crops to Cup, produces local coffee using sustainable farming methods, and even provides Green Spaces with workplace java.
"We have all different types of startups," said Nevin. "The idea is it crosses all the different industries."
The idea has caught on, and Green Spaces is quickly become an eco-center hot spot in Brooklyn, hosting business competitions and networking events. Nevin, who was honored as a distinguished entrepreneur by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz in his 2009 State of the Borough Address, said she is already thinking of ways to grow the business.
"We're looking at expanding into Manhattan, expanding nationally and broadening the range of our services," said Nevin. "One thing at a time though. Right now, we're focused on Brooklyn."