Groupon for Greenies

You’ve probably heard of Groupon—a mash-up of “group coupon”—which offers deep, daily, online discounts to subscribers for popular businesses, from spas to restaurants, in a particular locale. Since that business model took off in November 2008, a slew of copycat sites have popped up hoping to emulate Groupon’s social networking finesse and swelling customer base. GreenDeals, which launched last fall, is one of the latest shopping sites to follow in Groupon’s footsteps, but with bargains centered on green goods and services.

How GreenDeals Works

GreenDeals' width=Once you register online, you can purchase a GreenDeal coupon to redeem at a business’ site or you can buy a discounted product directly—from organic lotions, to a stay at an eco lodge, to fair trade sandals or a filter-containing water bottle. Members receive e-mail updates whenever new deals become available.

Whereas Groupon offers a deal each day to a particular market, GreenDeals are less frequent. That’s deliberate, says founder Jonah Mytro. “We actually re-developed the website to show multiple deals within a given timeframe instead of one deal per day,” he says. “The initial concept was one deal a day, but we found that people needed a longer time frame to make a decision.”

Each deal runs for 24 to 72 hours, although some may run for a few days longer. Every company featured must offer at least 40% off retail and the deal must be unique in the market.

Many green businesses start small and have limited budgets for advertising and marketing, Mytro says. GreenDeals introduces them to a larger customer base and brings in new customers attracted to the lower prices. Mytro relied on his mom’s advice when founding the company (his mother, Denise Hamler, cofounded the nonprofit consumer organization Green America). In short, each business featured (including Klean Kanteen, Nubius Organics, Sea Glass Organic and Bamboosa) must meet certain environmental criteria.

All advertisers and companies featured on GreenDeals belong to the Green Business Network at Green America—and adhere to standards that include “using business as a tool for social change”; “values-driven” (as opposed to merely “profit-driven”); socially and environmentally responsible; and committed to sustainable and ethical practices.

As of March, the site boasted 135,000 consumers in its database, just a few months after kick-off.

Growing GreenDeals

GreenDeals is similar to Groupon in its focus on reduced prices and collective buying. It’s a fairly new concept in online buying—but one that’s taken off big: the idea of highly discounted deals available for a limited time that appeal to a particular customer base. Karen Barnes, vice president of insight at Shelton Group, a consumer-engagement agency specializing in sustainability, says the idea behind GreenDeals—a website that stresses urgency in buying before the deal’s “deadline” —is a popular model. The site can grow, she adds, by spreading the word, incorporating “a strong crowd-buying call to action.”

And it makes sense for GreenDeals to reach beyond environmentally minded consumers, too—those who are apt to already own a BPA-free water bottle or canvas shopping bag.

There are many mainstream shoppers in need of a green fix. In other words, tell your folks about GreenDeals.