Welcome to the Sustainability Side Hustle Series

Thinking about starting a side hustle? Eco-conscious living is en vogue and for good reason as climate action becomes ever more crucial? How about a sustainability side hustle?

Read on for an introduction to the new Sustainability Side Hustle series as I share more about how my sustainability side hustle came to be and what I’ve learned along the way that might help you find your own sustainability side hustle.

Every other Thursday, I drive around town and collect food waste from fellow neighbors who are equally as eager as me to reduce the waste they send to the landfill and do a few favors for our amazing planet. Rain or shine, snow or sweltering sun, I run a small but mighty sustainability side hustle that started on a bit of a whim in the fall of 2020.

For as long as I can remember, I knew in the deepest corners of my heart that I wanted to start my own business. I also wanted to do something to help others, though I had the faintest clue what that “thing” actually was or how I would get there.

As an eager high school senior, I set off to college to get a degree in finance and be a badass investment banker on Wall Street. I remember reading an article in The Wall Street Journal about the 50 most powerful women and thinking, at the ripe old age of 19, that I could be one of those women one day.

Life happens. A finance major turned into an accounting major and a 15-year career at a large public accounting firm. I liked my job but didn’t love it. I had great bosses and wonderful colleagues, but I always knew it wasn’t my forever career.

I stayed on board for a decade and a half, much longer than most in the industry, because the job made a lot of sense on paper. I had tons of flexibility, didn’t hate the work, got paid pretty well, and worked for great people. But during my first 10 years, I passed up opportunities to pursue the partner track, started a blog (this one!) that brought me lots of joy, and regularly reflected on what I actually wanted to do for the rest of my life. Increasingly, over the last 5 years of my career, I knew it was not to stay in accounting.

A combination of events happened at the firm that I called my “permission slip from the universe” to finally do the thing my heart had wanted for so long. In 2020, I left public accounting and hung up my CPA license. I wasn’t entirely sure of my professional plan, but I had two young boys, so I focused on running our family.

While pondering my next steps, I dove into writing more seriously for Honestly Modern and turning it into a full-time income. And after meeting another friend who ran a curbside composting company, something about which I was quite passionate, I decided to do the same.

In August 2020, sitting on the couch in my sister’s house in San Diego, I told a couple of my sisters and brothers-in-law about my idea to start a curbside composting service. I had only shared the idea with my husband on our cross-country flight to San Diego a few days prior. Saying it out loud sealed the deal.

When we returned home, I created a website and some social media pages, found an attorney to start the legal process, and started spreading the word about my new sustainability side hustle.

Since then, I’ve grown the business slowly and steadily with minimal investments of my time and money. I turned down an opportunity for more rapid growth knowing I wanted Honestly Modern to be my primary employment while WasteWell remained a side hustle.

This little curbside composting business brings me dollops of joy, a bit of extra income each month, a sense of agency in our collective effort to curb climate change, and a reliable conversation starter to warmly and relevantly bring climate action discussion into my everyday life.

As our own planet continues to suffer under human-caused climate change, pollution, and overall environmental degradation, I hope more people find pleasure and financial fortitude in a sustainability side hustle.

Maybe you want to start a curbside composting side hustle like I did to serve a small group of your neighbors or those in your larger community. However, there are lots of other sustainability side hustles that you might consider depending on your interests and passions. Here are a few ideas that were top of mind for me, but the options are endless.

  • Sell local honey and beeswax products as a beekeeper and support native bee populations.
  • Raise chickens and sell eggs in your community, maybe even something as simple as a stand at the end of your driveway, depending on where you live.
  • Maintain a vibrant garden and sell local produce at a farm stand or even a stand in your yard.
  • Offer gardening services to help others manage their own fruit and vegetable gardens.
  • Write a blog or create a social media channel to share eco-friendly living tips with others based on your specific niche expertise.

This is the beginning of a new sustainability side hustle series, through which I’ll share tools and resources to help you start a sustainability side hustle of your own if you wish. It’s not about quitting your current job and revamping your entire life. But many of us probably have some passion we could share with our neighbors or our community that can also generate a bit of extra income if we share our skills with intention.

Stick around as we explore how to start a sustainability side hustle. Want to stay up to date on the latest posts and information in the series? Sign up for periodic email updates so you don’t miss anything.

Have a specific question you want me to answer? Just leave it in the comments or send me an email and I’ll do my best to answer it.

Let’s get Finpowered to Protect the Planet.

Jen Panaro

Jen Panaro, founder and editor-in-chief of Honestly Modern, is a self-proclaimed composting nerd and advocate for sustainable living for modern families. To find her latest work, subscribe to her newsletter, Stepping Stones.

In her spare time, she’s a serial library book borrower, a messy gardener, and a mom of two boys who spends a lot of time in hockey rinks and on baseball fields.

You can find more of her work at Raising Global Kidizens, an online space to help parents and caregivers raise the next generation of responsible global citizens.

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