I think we've all wished at some point we had a crystal ball to see the future. My green crystal ball hasn't yet revealed the price of oil next week, but some trends are so large and long term that they are bound to make 2011 a great year for green businesses. Here are 10 of these trends to look for and find the niche to build your business in:
1. The world's population will hit 7 billion in 2011, including hundreds of millions of new consumers. The limits of consumption are increasingly apparent, making the switch to sustainability a necessity, not a luxury.
2. Continued economic growth in the developing world will boost oil demand, driving prices upward. The price of oil could hit $100 per barrel or higher in 2011, driving gas toward $4 a gallon again. When the cost of gas spike in the summer of 2008, millions of people carpooled, shared rides, and used mass transit.
3. The rising price of oil will boost sales of greener transportation options coming to market like the Nissan Leaf, Ford Focus Electric and the Chevy Volt, and drive the search for sustainably produced alternative fuels.
4. Food prices are on the rise, setting records around the world. A trend this big can't help but renew the urgency in the search for sustainable agriculture and food. The spike in food prices as well as gas prices will once again boost interest in gardening, local food, and low meat options to save money and the planet.
5. Rare earth metals and other raw materials are in short supply, driving up prices and the search for other options. To address this need some are exploring "urban mines" in our waste streams and landfills, turning our garbage into gold.
6. Floods, drought, heat and extreme weather around the world in 2010 highlight our vulnerability to climate change, regardless of the political climate. Unpredictable water supplies and a growing population make water a key challenge globally that is in great need of green solutions.
7. Unemployment in the U.S. will stay high for years even with predicted growth, driving more people to stop looking for jobs and create their own. Look for a new wave of entrepreneurship by those targeting the huge 21st Century opportunity to deliver sustainability solutions.
8. Continued economic pressure in the developed world, including debt and the housing crisis will push more people from the consumer economy to the conserver economy, driving consumers toward strategies like sharing and swapping goods rather than buying new ones. The need to save should also encourage greater energy efficiency.
9. Renewable energy will continue to grow, driven by the global need for more energy, and cleaner energy. The National Solar Jobs Census 2010 (The Solar Foundation) found that the solar industry has grown throughout the recession in the US, and is expected to add 26% more jobs in 2011.
10. Our fear will recede as the recession recedes, opening minds and eyes to the green solutions to adapt to our changing world.
Glenn Croston is the author of "75 Green Businesses" and "Starting Green", and the founder of Starting Up Green, helping businesses to go green and grow green.