Sustainable Mail? — A Q&A With Mal Warwick
EB: How did you move toward sustainable direct mail?
MW: Direct mail is in many ways an environmentally wasteful procedure. We were conscious of that from the beginning. In the mid-’80s, our newly hired production manger laid out a plan for us to do everything we could to pioneer something approaching sustainable direct mail. So we were one of the early advocates and users of recycled paper. We used soy-based inks that were less toxic on the environment. We placed a very high value on merge/purge when there were still a lot of people in the business who were using that only selectively.
From the outset, we were convinced that, both for practical and ideological reasons, that we did not want to engage in mass mail. We never wanted to work with an organization that was going to send out tens of millions of packages per year. We knew that was a way to make a whole lot of money, but we thought that was a very wasteful practice and not acceptable.
Recently, we have adopted an environmental policy that is very extensive. We’re also consulting with one of the top environmental scientists in the country about the possibilities for first reducing our carbon emissions and then offsetting them through some appropriate means.
EB: It must be enormously satisfying to see the green movement pick up such momentum, just in the time since your book was published.
MW: Oh, absolutely. It’s one of the most important things that’s happening in the world today: the growing consciousness of the environmental damage that the human race has perpetrated on this planet. But I can only hope that it runs deep enough and fast enough, and that the action taken is thorough enough. We really do face a crisis not of historical proportions, but of almost geological proportions. We are on the brink of causing the ecosystem of the earth to tip in a direction that is irreversible and will have profound, if not fatal, consequences for half of the species on this planet, including us.