The buzzwords are everywhere – go green, eco-conscious, environmentally friendly – and with good reason. A survey conducted ahead of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference revealed that sustainability is an important purchase criterion for 61% of US consumers, with more than a third of people willing to pay a premium for such products or services. (1) Generation Z and Millennials are leading the charge, and what may have been just trendy practices several years ago are quickly becoming the norm.
The promo products industry needs to take note. A 2020 survey reported that 46% of recipients have a more favorable opinion of an advertiser who gives them environmentally friendly swag. (2) How do you help your customers choose the right product? There are no clear-cut rules about what constitutes a “sustainable” product, and items with a green stance can fall into several buckets. Using the tried-and-true framework of the 3 Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – provides one way to explore Earth-friendly features of some common promotional products.
Reducing environmental impact is one key component of sustainability. There are several ways to achieve this goal, including choosing products made of raw materials that have a smaller eco-footprint.
Some raw materials are inherently “green.” Take cork, for example, which comes from the bark of the cork oak tree. Harvesting does not harm the tree, and actually allows it to absorb more carbon dioxide. Cork forests are biodiverse places, providing a home to more species per square meter than even the Amazon rainforest. Add in the fact that almost all cork items can be recycled, and this durable material rates near the top on the sustainability scale. (3) Other good contenders for low-impact natural components include jute and bamboo.
Sometimes it’s not the raw material itself but the way it’s processed that raises environmental concerns. Paper, for example, is made from a renewable source. However, harvesting practices can make its production unsustainable. In these cases, it’s not uncommon for independent organizations to step in and administer a certification process that identifies responsibly produced materials. With the legwork done, buyers can be assured that an item and/or its components were produced in a responsible way.
Certification from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI®) or Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) is the gold standard in the forestry industry. Three Koozie Group facilities earned these designations in 2021, and we’ve upgraded to either SFI®- or FSC®-certified source stock paper in most of our calendars along with our Souvenir® Sticky Note™ pads and Souvenir® scratch pad products. It’s our way of making sure it’s easy to find products with a recognized sustainability stance.
Another simple way to reduce consumption and waste is to replace disposable products with a reusable equivalent. Some longstanding best sellers in the promo industry check this box. It’s worth pointing out their potential benefits to customers who are searching for eco-friendly choices.
Americans use an estimated 120 billion disposable cups every year, and most single-use cups are made of hard-to-recycle materials. One person using a reusable mug or tumbler for a year’s worth of morning joe could save up to 281 gallons of water, 16 pounds of solid waste, and 1 tree from being chopped down. (4) If end users need further convincing, tumblers with double-wall insulation will keep both hot and cold brews at just the right temperature for hours. That’s a win-win solution.
Drinkware Case Study
A local coffee shop wanted to phase out the use of disposable cups. They purchased the Koozie® Triple Vacuum Tumbler in both the 13 oz. and 16 oz. sizes to add to their retail offerings. Customers received 50¢ off their order every time they brought in their Triple; loaner tumblers were available, with a deposit, for when customers showed up empty-handed. By placing messaging about the environmental impact of single-use cups around the store, participation in the program steadily grew. The coffeehouse now has a goal of eliminating all disposables by the end of the year.
As a side benefit, customers fell in love with the versatility of the Koozie® Triple Vacuum Tumbler. They loved its 3-in-1 design, which means it can function as a cup, tumbler, or bottle/can cooler. Word got around, and the coffee shop saw sales of the tumbler to non-regulars grow by 20%.
On average, a single American uses one plastic bag each day of the year. This habit has several devastating effects on the environment. In fact, experts predict that there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050 without changes to current behavior. (5)
Before the pandemic, a growing number of states and municipalities were passing bans on single-use plastic bags. Some of those efforts were put on hold over the past two years, but action around eliminating throwaway bags is heating up again. (6) These laws are likely to spur additional demand for reusable bags both as promotional merch and giveaways. Taking it one step further, choosing totes and market-sized coolers made of either natural fibers or recycled materials can up the sustainability factor.
The word recycle resonates with many consumers looking to lessen their environmental impact. When it comes to paper, recycling has been around for longer than one might realize. The first paper mill in the United States opened in 1690 and used recycled linen and cotton rags in its production process. (7) Today, paper is one of the most recycled materials, with experts estimating that consumers recycle up to 70% of this everyday commodity. (8)
Two types of recycled paper fiber make it into new products. Pre-consumer materials are by-products of the manufacturing process but never reach an end user. Post-consumer content comes from materials collected from office and curbside recycling programs. From a sustainability standpoint, paper that contains post-consumer content is the preferred choice.
Newer to the recycled material scene is recycled PET (RPET). A growing number of companies, including iconic brands like Converse, now use this material to craft everything from high tops to swimwear to tees. The polyester fabric, made from recycled plastic containers, is equivalent in quality to polyester made from virgin material and takes 59% less energy to create. (9) A growing number of promotional products made from RPET are hitting the market, including these bags, coolers, tech gear, and writing instruments in the Koozie Group lineup.
It’s time to plan your strategy for bringing eco-conscious products to your customers. Use Earth Day (April 22) to get the conversation started; then, head on over to kooziegroup.com and use the 3 Rs to find the perfect products to lessen your environmental impact.