Eco-friendly gifts (or merchandise, swag, goodies, freebies, giveaways etc…) is a term being used frequently these days. Many organisations are becoming increasingly aware of their environmental footprint and are doing all they can to cut back any unnecessary use of resources. Eco-friendly branded merchandise is a broad term so it’s important to understand exactly what this means. To qualify as an eco-friendly gift, the item must fall into one of 2 categories:
- Manufactured from materials that are sustainable or don’t cause damage to the environment. A good example of this is using paper that is produced from FSC managed forests (sustainable forest management program)
- Manufactured from materials that have been recycled or can be recycled after use. A good example of this is our Recycled Pin Badges produced from recycled CD cases and fridge parts
Essentially, the item must be manufactured from materials that are good for the environment or can be reused again in the future. However, the other big factor to bear in mind is how the item is actually manufactured. There are hundreds of merchandise products manufactured from bamboo or wheat straw but the vast majority of them will have been produced in a factory in China and you have no way of knowing what the workers are paid, if they are given sick leave and a yearly holiday allowance. The most eco-friendly products are manufactured in Europe and the UK. There are several manufacturers whose entire factory is powered by green energy (one has a modern watermill in the river running beside their factory) and this instantly makes the item you’re buying much more friendly to the environment.
Why buy eco gifts?
That’s a very good question. Eco-friendly merchandise is usually priced higher than ‘traditional merchandise’ so is the increase really worth the cost? In a word yes, the usually (small) cost increase is worth every penny because eco-friendly merchandise gives you 2 big advantages:
- You’re playing your part in helping to save our planet. It’s a well-known fact that every day we dispose of large quantities of waste that could have been avoided or recycled into new products. By using eco-friendly merchandise you’re choosing a product that can either be reused or recycled. Cutting down on unnecessary waste can only be a good move and will show your customers that you’re playing your part in helping to save the planet
- Which leads neatly into point number 2 – a large section of your customer base will be very conscious of their own environmental impact and will be actively cutting back on items that end up in the landfill bin. These customers are expecting big brands & businesses to follow suit and reduce/remove any unnecessary waste from their product packaging. This also applies to promotional items/swag/freebies/goodies. The days of handing out a plastic pen & business card are quickly fading and many brands are opting to invest in sustainably sourced or recycled promotional products. Not only
How can eco-gifts help my brand and marketing?
They allow you to tell a story. Eco-friendly merchandise gives you a great opportunity to connect with your customer base by telling the story of how the item was produced – people love to hear the ‘backstory’. If your notebook has been manufactured of waste from the apple juice production process (Eco Apple Notebook) then tell your customers – they will connect with this story much quicker than just stating ‘the notebook is produced from recycled materials’
The second reason is that recipients are much more likely to keep & use a quality eco-friendly item which will extend the brand exposure of the merchandise product. Branded merchandise often has a reputation of being ‘throwaway plastic tat’ which will be used once and then disposed of. This defeats the main object of branded merchandise – continued brand exposure over several weeks or months! Supplying good quality and useful eco-friendly merchandise gives you the double benefit of long-term brand exposure and supplying a product that you know is kind to the environment.
Helpful hints & tips for buying eco merch
- Pay attention to the country of origin. A lot of so called ‘eco-friendly’ products are manufactured in China. While they are manufactured from renewable materials (eg. bamboo, wheat straw, recycled paper), the carbon produced from transporting them around the globe usually offsets the benefits of the eco-friendly materials. Fun fact – ships account for more than 3% of our annual CO2 emissions. With this in mind, look for products that have been manufactured closer to home with a much lower carbon footprint. Europe is always a good starting point – there are several manufacturers across Europe who are producing great products from recycled/eco-friendly materials. Examples include the Eco Apple Notebook from Italy, Prodir ballpens from Switzerland and Eco Sports Bottles from Netherlands. We also have a great range of products that are manufactured right here in the UK cutting their carbon footprint even further. UK manufacturing also benefits from quick lead times and supporting UK jobs. Examples include the Recycled Cappucino Thermal Mug, Eco Spiral Notebook and Recycled Pin Badges.
- Check how sustainable the product/material really is. There are hundreds of products that claim to be ‘sustainable’, ‘produced from sustainable materials’ or ‘manufactured from recycled products’ and it’s always worth checking if these claims are actually true. Any helpful merchandise supplier will be happy to provide evidence from the manufacturer that the item in question is actually helping our planet
- Get samples – rule number 1 when buying merchandise is to get your hands on samples to check you’re happy with the quality and feel of the product. Pictures can look great but you really need to touch and use a product before buying to make sure it fits with your brand values and campaign objectives
Eco-friendly branded merchandise ideas
Recycled Pin Badges – manufactured in the UK from recycled plastic from CD cases and old fridge parts
Recycled Lanyards – manufactured from recycled plastic bottles
Organic T-Shirt – manufactured from organic cotton
Biodegradable Sports Bottle – manufactured in the EU from biodegradable plastic that will break down in landfill within 1-5 years
Eco Apple Notebook – manufactured in Italy from waste apple peel & selected vegetable fibres
Superb Bio Ballpen – manufactured in Germany from renewable PLA material