Figuring out how to promote your products or services on a budget in the start-up phase is a challenge for all growing businesses. Between cold-calling and ad buys, you may consider branded small business promotional items to improve brand awareness and loyalty. PPAI says 83% of consumers are more likely to do business with a brand after receiving a promotional item. It's no wonder why then that a 2017 Promotional Products Association International Study showed the promotional products industry was worth 23.3 billion and growing.
The obstacle is many promotional items on the market may not sustainable or desirable to your audience. Without careful planning and consideration, your promotional items may not get you a return on your investment. According to PPAI, 1 in 5 people throw away unwanted promotional items, but if the product is useful, 69% of customers said they would pick it up.
With this in mind, it might seem logical to buy a cheap, popular, useful promotional item such as t-shirts. However, large amounts of cheap, plastic or nonbiodegradable products contribute to our already mounting environmental concerns. The National History Museum estimates about 4.8 to 12.7 millions of tonnes of plastic collects in the oceans annually. Consumers care about how sustainable promotional products are. A Cone Communications study showed 88% of customers would be more loyal to a company that supported environmental issues.
The solution then is sustainable small business promotional items. We have a list of recommendations. This way, you have options to make the earth, your customers and your budget happy.
Here are sustainable alternatives to small business promotional items:
1. Jute Tote Bags
(instead of plastic or polypropylene tote bags)
This tote bag's fibres are made out of a plant called jute which is fast-growing and biodegradable, making it a sustainable material. Plastic tote bags are not biodegradable and paper tote bags contribute to deforestation.
2. Stainless & Aluminum Bottles
(instead of plastic or glass)
Avoid nonbiodegradable plastic and hard-to-recycle glass. Stainless steel and aluminum are 100% recyclable when not coated with or mixed with other materials. Aluminum is cheaper than stainless steel on average.
3. Apparel made out recycled materials
(instead of new material such as cotton)
Cotton may be a natural, biodegradable fibre, but that doesn't mean it's 100% sustainable. A lot of water is used to make cotton apparel, about 2,700 litres for a single cotton t-shirt according to WWF. Many cotton producers also use harmful pesticides which runoff into nearby rivers and soil.
4. Silicone Freezer Bags
(instead of plastic freezer bags)
Surprisingly enough, silicone freezer bags are available as promotional products in the USA and Canada. Contact your regional promotional product supplier for more information. These clever replacements for plastic freezer bags are new and trendy. An option if you want to surprise your customers and help them save money on food storage at the same time.
5. Seed Paper Business Cards
(instead of traditional glossy cardstock business cards)
Seed paper business cards are a sustainable alternative to regular paper that contributes to the clear-cutting of old-growth forests. Plus, the cards are zero waste and 100% plantable after use.
6. Seed Paper Corporate Gifts
(instead of plastic-based items such as key chains and pens)
Seed paper is made from recycled material embedded seeds and is 100% biodegradable. When you plant it soil, the paper composts away and the seeds grow so no waste is left behind.
As a paper product, it is extremely versatile and there are tons of product options for all budget sizes. It's an eco-friendly option that can be used in place of a variety of promotional products made with harmful plastic and nonrecyclable materials.
Checklist to Review Before Buying Sustainable Promotional Items:
- Is the product useful, long-lasting, or does it create and experience?
- Is the product certified as non-GMO, organic, fair trade, or eco-friendly?
- Is the product recyclable, refillable, biodegradable, and/or compostable?
- Is the product free of substances that are harmful to human health or the environment?
- Do the workers at the company work in fair/kind conditions that abide by labor laws?
The promotional products industry is under pressure to make sustainability changes to survive, which we cover in this paper. Sign up to download the resource to learn more about the environmental impact of unsustainable promotional items, what to look for in sustainable promotional products before you buy, and why sustainable promotional items are a smart marketing tactic. There are also many reasons why businesses use seed paper which we cover in another blog post.