Product Spotlight: "Green" Promotional Products

Product Spotlight: "Green" Promotional Products

"Green" eco-conscious promo products are more popular than ever. Here's a look at how they began.

Rick Cundiff

A very wise frog once said it’s not easy being green. That may be true for Kermit, but when it comes to “green” eco-friendly promotional products, it’s never been easier.

While you might think awareness of ecological concerns is a relatively recent phenomenon, its roots go back much farther in history. Let’s take a look at how ecological awareness developed, and later, at how “green” promotional products have developed.

Early Days

Before the mid-1960s, recycling wasn’t a common word, but that didn’t mean people didn’t do it. It just happened in a different way than what we think of today.

When we say “early days,” we’re talking really early. There’s evidence that paper recycling took place in Japan as early as 1031 A.D. Paper was a scarce resource, so recycling made it more accessible.

Paper recycling came to the New World in Philadelphia. The first mill that reused linen and cotton rags for paper opened in 1690.

American Recycling

In the era before mass production, household goods were often hard to come by, expensive or both. Clothing, furniture and other items had to last, and serve multiple functions over their lifespan. They were constructed to do so.

Shirts and dresses could be repaired, or even refashioned by a tailor. When they finally wore out, they could be turned into quilts, rugs or even cleaning rags.

By the early 20th century, municipal trash pickup was becoming common. Just as they do today, many cities separated items that could be reused from those destined for a landfill. Such efforts gradually declined by the 1920s, but the Great Depression led people to keep things longer and use them up fully before discarding them.

World War II brought drastic changes. To support the war effort, American companies switched from manufacturing consumer goods to producing military equipment and supplies. In addition, the war cut off critical supplies of materials such as tin and rubber.

That led to a massive national campaign to promote recycling of tin, rubber, scrap metal, paper and more. Contributing to the war effort in this manner was hailed as a patriotic act. Millions of people sacrificed and contributed such products to help support the U.S. soldiers, sailors and marines fighting overseas.

Earth Day and Beyond

By the 1960s, interest in environmental matters began to pick up. The first Earth Day celebration in 1970 brought massive attention to the importance of environmental protection. Over the succeeding decades, the event has grown into a worldwide phenomenon.

The original Earth Day was born of the tumultuous political upheaval of the 1960s Movements led by young people were the order of the day. Now, environmental consciousness extends over multiple generations. Yet today’s younger generations, particularly Millennials and Generation Z, are leading the way in planetary stewardship.

“Green” Promotional Products

As with so many other products, modern custom promotional products have embraced the green movement in many ways.

Paper products are one example. Promotional calendars, notebooks and other such items increasingly use recycled paper. More and more plastic items are made with recycled materials as well. It’s not uncommon to see plastic items such as pens made with partially or totally recycled plastic.

Some pens even forgo plastic completely. You can buy a custom-imprinted pen with a barrel made of bamboo and tip and clip made of wheat straw. If you want to get your logo into people’s hands in a way that shows your commitment to sustainability, it’s hard to do better.

Some products you might not expect to do so have gone green. For example, TJM offers a trucker hat made of 70% organic cotton and 30% recycled polyester. They look as great as our standard caps.

Products such as those make it easy to switch to green products. They look, work and feel just like their non-eco-friendly counterparts.

Equally important, many items are now designed to be recyclable. They don’t have to be just thrown away at the end of their life cycle. In some cases, as with the pens mentioned above, that means taking plastic out of the equation all together.

Custom reusable tote bags are a good example. More and more customers are turning to them as an alternative to plastic bags for grocery and other shopping. By using them instead of plastic, consumers reduce the amount of plastic in the waste stream. With a large surface area for printing a custom logo, they bags are also an excellent promotional tool.

Another popular product many people have turned to in recent years is custom tumblers and mugs. They’re a green alternative to disposable water bottles and paper or Styrofoam cups. Some have even developed a trendy reputation as a status symbol.

Walk the Walk

With the right products and a commitment to ecological awareness, green products can produce a greener bottom line. But it takes dedication to make it work.

If you want to maintain credibility with eco-conscious customers, just giving them green promotional products alone isn’t enough. Your business needs to be committed to being environmentally responsible in every aspect.

That means recycling office paper, or better yet, replacing it with electronic forms instead. It means running the most energy-efficient operation you can. It means not using toxic chemicals or processes if cleaner alternative are available. If possible – and economically feasible -- it means alternate-fuel delivery fleets.

Today’s consumers, especially younger consumers – who are becoming the majority of the population – are more concerned about the environment than every before. They won’t hesitate to switch to a brand that offers a greener alternative to yours.

With the right products and a commitment to ecological awareness, green products can produce a greener bottom line. But it takes dedication to make it work.






Rick Cundiff

Rick Cundiff

Content Director, Blogger

Rick Cundiff spent 15 years as a newspaper journalist before joining TJM Promos. He has been researching and writing about promotional products for more than 10 years. He believes in the Oxford comma, eradicating the word "utilize," and Santa Claus.