Some Thoughts for Earth Day

How You and Your Clients Can Be a Little More Earth Friendly

By Published on .

Noelle Weaver Noelle Weaver
As an industry we're so focused on the big picture and end product that we forget about the process, tools and materials of how to get there.

Sure, a great "green" campaign might move your client up the ladder in the eyes of the socially conscious. And yes, companies and businesses are thinking about ways to "reinvent themselves" by changing to energy-efficient light bulbs and starting a recycling program or committing to a Corporate Social Responsibility program. But how are you truly helping your clients conserve energy, reduce pollution and waste to help to make their (and your) business operations more environmentally friendly?

A few tips:

Print client communications materials on "treeless" and recycled-content papers.
Annual reports, analyst reports, internal communications, sales collateral, direct mail, etc. By sourcing post-consumer paper on behalf of your clients, you are helping to save trees, energy and water in addition to keeping paper out of landfills and encouraging new agricultural development. In recent months, companies across many niches of the industry have adopted green paper policies, including Victoria's Secret, Williams Sonoma, Staples, FedEx-Kinkos and Random House.

While you're at it, use a green printer.
We often don't think beyond paper. But printing matters too! When you choose green printing methods you can also eliminate a lot of waste in the printing process -- from the choice of non-toxic inks and efficient processes to dry offset printing -- to help reduce emissions that cause air and water pollution. It also improves worker health and safety.

Use targeted direct-mail lists
Direct-mail waste reduction is an area where environmental concerns and shareholder interests coincide with a growing number of "anti" direct-mail sites (GreenDimes, Catalog Choice and 41Pounds) biting into the industry. Make sure your clients are practicing "good data hygiene" and using targeted, updated mailing lists to help maximize dollars and print effectiveness (good for business) as well as reduction of duplicate addresses and non-responsive households (good for the environment!)

Communicate without paper
Seems like a no brainer. In 2004 the United States used 8 million tons of office paper (3.2 billion reams). That's the equivalent of 178 million trees!

Don't have money for a complex intranet system with project-management functionality? That's okay. The web will do it for you. Online project-management systems such as BaseCamp, Clarizen, Planix and PlanHQ are all available to help you and your teams virtually collaborate to do things such as send messages, share files, manage tasks, track time spent on tasks, set milestones, budget estimates and upload creative files for real-time discussion, editing and approval with that client that works four states away from yours.

And while we're on the topic of communicating without paper, how many boards did you go through during your last creative presentation? How many of those same boards are now in the trash? Nuff said.

Packaging and design
The concept of environmentally friendly packaging has come and gone before. But, this time it's a bona fide trend, gaining impetus daily, thanks to the efforts of companies like Wal-Mart, General Mills and Method. According to BestWay Disposal located in Colorado Springs, Colorado, almost 30% of all plastics produced are used for packaging. Each American uses about 190 pounds of plastic per year -- and about 60 pounds of it is packaging we discard as soon as the package is opened. Packaging that is part of the product? Packaging that is made from post-consumer waste? Packaging in bio-plastics? Are you taking into consideration the eventual disposal of your client's packaging and more importantly, factoring in the reduction of waste and possible cost benefits?

A few more simple things:
  • Donate old office equipment and art studio supplies to a local school on behalf of your clients.
  • Telecommute and Teleconference. Prevent carbon pollution from planes, trains, and automobiles.
  • Plan ahead, avoid air and rush shipping
Here's one other thing to think about. Non-profits, government and educational institutions are always under the spotlight when it comes to the environment and more and more for profit-companies are expanding their CSR programs. During that next new-business presentation show your client that you've thought everything through -- not only did you think about the "Big Idea" -- you've also thought about how to help your client with more sustainable business practices that ultimately help the environment in addition to helping the bottom line.

And lastly, for as much as we as an industry tout the green campaigns we create on behalf of our clients, there has yet to be any one front runner in environmental leadership on our end. If we all would become just a little more green, we'd find out for ourselves that our bottom lines would actually strengthen through operating efficiencies (less energy, less waste), we'd have better employee morale and health in the work place and a few of us would also gain an edge over the competition. And selfishly? We could all feel good about doing something good for a change.

Happy Earth Day everyone.
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