Encouraged by green prospects, pushed by the DMA and sometimes impelled from within (perhaps to simply slim down a package), many mailers already have begun to test into green packages. Some, however, don’t know where to begin. So, whether you consider these baby steps or giant leaps, here are three ways to create the green mail piece.
1. Make a New Year’s resolution
As if hit by a green tidal wave, many direct mailers feel overwhelmed by the new information. Fortunately, the DMA helps with two significant resource materials. First is the DMA Environmental Resource for Direct Marketers (www.the-dma.org/environmentguide), updated in 2004 and available for download from its Web site. “If you want to educate yourself on what’s happening and what’s being discussed and what the issues are, the appendix in that book will give you endless armchair resources,” says Meta Brophy, director of publishing operations at Consumers Union and a member of an action committee that helped produce the book.
The second resource is the DMA’s Environmental Planning Tool (www.the-dma.org/envgen), available on its Web site only recently. In May 2007, the DMA’s board of directors passed an environmental resolution to put members on the path of continuous environmental improvement in five key areas — list hygiene and data management; mail design and production; paper procurement and use; packaging; and recycling and pollution reduction — all of which relate to the mail package.
2. Start a better paper trail
Buying paper with high postconsumer recycled content helps reduce global warming pollution, saves forests, conserves water, reduces emission of toxic air pollutants, supports municipal recycling collection programs and diverts usable materials from incinerators and landfills. “When buying paper, first maximize postconsumer recycled content, then ensure that any remaining virgin wood fiber is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) as sustainably harvested,” urges Darby Hoover, senior resource specialist at Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in San Francisco.
While several forest certification programs now exist, the FSC is the only one the NRDC considers credible. “Making a commitment to test and use sustainable forestry-certified paper may be applicable at first to only a small portion of a business’ total paper buy, but it begins the dialogue with paper brokers, printers, manufacturers or other paper sources to see what’s available and affordable in the grades necessary,” explains Brophy.
While some parts of the mail package require virgin offset sheets for high-end printing, many elements — such as lift notes, flyers, brochures and even letters — can be moved to a so-called high-yield “groundwood” sheet, which doesn’t have a long shelf life but consumes far fewer resources to manufacture than offset paper, according to Brophy.
Will such purchasing changes drive up the end cost? Not necessarily. “Generally speaking, I’ve found that using less, costs less,” she says. For example, by using lighter basis weights, such as moving from a 60 lb paper to a 45 lb paper, you’re lessening the cost and weight. Using fewer pages and reducing the trim size for certain mailings, like magalogs, also can help.
3. Green other parts of the package
Of course, the mail piece isn’t only composed of paper. Inks, polybags and adhesives also are included, and today more environment-friendly alternatives exist. Nonpetroleum inks, such as soy-based and vegetable oil-based inks, are much more commonly used and don’t emit the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that contribute so heavily to air pollution. Biodegradable polybags also are available. Meanwhile, more “benign” adhesives that are less toxic and don’t gum up inking facilities are coming on the market.
This article appears in the January 2008 issue of insidedirectmail. For more, go to www.insidedirectmail.com