Greener Pastures

As the green movement continues to gain momentum, companies that were once unaware of their carbon footprint are now conscious of their effect on the environment and are increasingly embracing the responsibility of greening their part of the world. No longer negatively viewed as “granola,” the green movement is reaching the masses and forcing us all to be a bit more environmentally aware. In other words, we’ve seen the light, and now we’re trying to conserve it!

The promotional products industry provides countless opportunities to help you paint the town green. From mugs made of corn plastic to recycled denim pencils, the list of eco-friendly products provides a plethora of options to make any occasion and business marketing green.

Promotional products are also an excellent choice for pairing eco-friendly with sensibility. For instance, in an effort to provide its client, the American Marketing Association, with an environmentally-sound promotional campaign with pizzazz, promotional products company Bullpen Marketing suggested a dual pen/USB drive for distribution to attendees of the M.planet industry conference. The twist — the drive came pre-loaded with all conference materials. PowerPoint presentations, articles and seminar materials were made available to attendees, reducing wasted paper.

The pens were an immediate hit, but when conference attendees realized they would be taking home all of the conference materials and presentations on the pen’s flash drive, the buzz surrounding the pens spread even more quickly. AMA continues to get calls from marketing professionals asking about the pen.

As host of the event, the American Marketing Association made an environmental statement while still providing attendees with a practical item that could be used repeatedly. This is the beauty of promotional products. With the help of an experienced promotional consultant, a fairly simple product can help make any event a bit more green.

Another example is the campaign put together for the Georgia Power Company by the Atlanta Advertising Novelty Co. The goal was to commemorate Earth Day and gain support for the day from employees by drawing a parallel between Earth Day and the Georgia Power Company’s commitment to remaining a good world citizen.

Through a series of promotional products, the campaign invited employees to participate in the energy company’s Earth Day activities. One item, a recycled tote bag, was created from old billboard advertisements. Employees who participated in the activities also received a plastic bracelet made from recycled materials.

The recycled tote bags were very popular and became a must-have item among employees and various stakeholders. The program also achieved measurable success. During Earth Hour, when households and businesses are asked to turn off their non-essential lights and electric power, electricity usage was down 2.6 percent for the hour. And with a goal for employees to participate in at least 40 environmental programs, the company saw 67 service projects spring up across the entire state.

Tradeshows are also a particularly ideal setting to include green products. To drive 3,000 attendees to a Web site dedicated to eco guidelines, as well as draw 15 percent of attendees to their booth at the 2009 National Conference on Volunteering and Service, KaBOOM!, a nonprofit organization that helps communities build playgrounds for children, employed the services of Sonic Promos.

Hoping to educate attendees on green practices and collect signed Sustainability Pledges, Sonic Promos came up with two custom promotional items for the event. A seeded paper bookmark (paper infused with real seeds to be planted after use) featuring the Web site address was placed in every conference giveaway bag and, at the booth, aluminum water bottles were given to every visitor signing a pledge. To give an extra nod to their sponsor partner, KaBOOM! requested the water bottle in a popular hardware chain’s signature color.

The selection of the two items could not have connected better with the demographic of the tradeshow attendees. The line to sign a pledge and receive a bottle snaked out of the booth and around the corner and the specially created environmental Web site promoted on the seed cards received excellent traffic from visitors typing in the URL manually (as opposed to clicking through to it from other sites).

The moral of the story is simple. It is important for all of us, individuals and companies alike, to do what we can to preserve the earth, but it does not have to be a strain. For your next event, consider working with a promotional consultant to help fashion an eco-friendly idea that is sure to make your competitors see that perhaps the grass is greener.

Steve Slagle is president of the Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) in Dallas.

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Richard Blanchard
Rick is the Managing Editor of Corp! magazine. He has worked in reporting and editing roles at the Port Huron Times Herald, Lansing State Journal and The Detroit News, where he was most recently assistant business editor. A native of Michigan, Richard also worked in Washington state as a reporter, photographer and editor at the Anacortes American. He received a bachelor of arts from the University of Michigan and a master’s in accountancy from the University of Phoenix.