How to Choose Sustainable Promotional Items for Your Business

Instead of printing your name on cheesy plastic, why not distribute your business presentation on  a handsome and eco-friendly bamboo flash drive like this one?
Instead of printing your name on cheesy plastic, why not distribute your business presentation on a handsome and eco-friendly bamboo flash drive like this one?

Ever go to a trade show and come away with armloads of  – excuse me – crap?  Little junky plastic things that make you feel guilty because of all the time and resources wasted in their production and distribution?  Stuff that clutters up your home and office and, when you do finally throw it out, will continue to kick around the environment for about a billion years?

Now it’s time to promote your business, and you find yourself paging through catalogs of the very same trashy plastic junk you couldn’t wait to get rid of when it was given to you!  Do you really want to put your name on that kind of stuff?

Promotional items are a fact of business life.  Done right, they can help keep you top of mind as well as calling attention to the benefits you offer.  Fortunately in this day and age there’s no reason you have to sacrifice your principles or annoy your prospects by splashing your brand all over plastic garbage only to have it chucked in the dump.

How to choose promotional products that are not just Green but “sustainable to the max”

There are two ways to define “sustainable”  promotional products:

One is  “green” promotional items.  These are items that don’t damage the environment in their manufacture and/or disposal – or at the very least are  significantly better for the Earth than traditional options.

The other refers to sustainable economics.  Does the item make sense from an economic point of view?  Will it return more in terms of business gained than you spend for it?  In other words, is it effective?  (Because if it isn’t, it’s not a sustainable venture for your business.  Get it?)

When choosing your promotional items, keep these three principles in mind:

  1. Choose promotional  items that really will get used and/or appreciated. Be honest here.  When you’re racking your brains trying to come up with green promotional product ideas it’s real easy to con yourself into believing that your prospects will really grab your cheesy flying ring instead of their favorite Wham-O next time they take their kids to the park.  (They won’t.)  Spend the extra time it takes to come up with something truly useful to your prospect.
  2. Choose products that support people and the planet. There are now plenty of eco-friendlier alternatives to plastic promotional items, including items made from bamboo, corn starch, and recycled materials.  Or how about organic, fair trade and/or local food items, or natural objects such as plants, seeds or beautiful stones?
  3. Choose promotional products that tell stories and/or reflect and highlight values. This could mean your values, the value of doing business with you, or your value to the community.  For example, let’s say you’re a builder who recently completed work on a local senior center.  Why not find out if there are seniors in the center whom you could commission to create small gift items in the shape of  a house for you to give to prospective clients?  Such a gift would help support the center and your community, highlight one of your past successes, and tell a heart-warming story about your business and how it helps improve people’s lives.  (You could even extend the item’s power by featuring the story on your website, complete with little bios of the seniors so people could “get to know” the face behind the gift they received from you.)

Choosing eco-friendly and fair promotional products demonstrates your integrity as a business.  Done thoughtfully, it’s a smart move, not just for the planet and the people on it, but for your company’s profits as well!

How to find green promotional items for your business

Anne Michelsen is a freelance writer who helps Green and renewable energy companies enjoy increased attention and greater sales through dynamic sales copy and insightful content.

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