Environmental concern has re-emerged as an important issue for the direct marketing industry in the past few years. And the use of recycled paper is one of the issues that has been at the forefront of the resurgence.
U.S. catalog companies mailed about 17 billion catalogs last year, using 3.6 million tons of paper, according to the Alliance for Environmental Innovation (AEI), a national nonprofit organization focused on environmental protection.
“Catalogers are more aware of the environmental impact of their paper use and increasingly understand that reducing waste, maximizing recycled content and protecting forests are the right things to do,” says Victoria Mills, AEI’s project manager. “The really smart catalogers recognize that these steps also make business sense.
“Catalogers who are proactive and seize the opportunity to improve their paper practices,” Mills continues, “will have a much better story to tell their customers than those who do nothing.”
Catalog companies such as Patagonia, Sundance, Omaha Steaks, Planet Dog and Norm Thompson Outfitters have taken such measures by using recycled paper and evaluating their paper suppliers’ forest management and manufacturing practices.
Following are actions you can take in your own operations.
Simply Use Less Paper
“Saving paper equals saving money, so wise consumption is a natural [solution] for direct marketers,” says Derek Smith, corporate sustainability manager at Norm Thompson Outfitters, a multititle catalog company based in Hillsboro, Ore. Since Norm Thompson has begun coupling environmental factors with its business decisions, it has more efficiently trimmed catalogs, eliminated envelopes, complied with customers who request fewer catalogs and consolidated package deliveries.
One program alone has effectively saved Norm Thompson more than $400,000 in packaging expenses last year. The Ship All Together program, started in 2001, asks customers if they’d prefer to receive their entire orders in a single box — that is, if they’d rather wait to get in-stock items with backordered products. Says Smith, “[The program] provides an opportunity to communicate our environmental commitment to customers.” In addition to reducing environmental impact, the program contributes to corporate-wide savings in packaging materials, freight and labor.
Online marketing is another way to reduce paper usage. Catherine Frost, sales and marketing director at Planet Dog, a multichannel marketer of pet supplies, suggests that catalogers eliminate ineffective and expensive prospecting via direct mail and use promotions to collect e-mail names.
Ask How Your Paper is Sourced
Work with your paper supplier to account for your fiber sources, suggest PublishExperts’ Janie Downey, a print and production consultant and a former paper buyer for L.L.Bean.
Ensure that the fiber comes from certified, sustainably managed forests, adds Smith.
To learn more about forest certification systems, visit:
Forest Stewardship Council, www.fsc.org/fsc ;
Canadian Standards Association, www.csa.ca ;
Sustainable Forestry Initiative, www.aboutsfi.org ; and
America Tree Farm System, www.certifiedwood.org.
Increase Your Use of Post-consumer Recycled Paper
When Norm Thompson Outfitters announced in 2001 that its catalogs would contain a minimum 10-percent post-consumer content, it received thousands of appreciation letters from consumers. Now the company has increased its target objectives and plans to use an average of 30-percent post-consumer recycled content by 2007.
Moreover, through extensive testing with its paper suppliers and printers, Norm Thompson found it could use recycled paper without impacting cost, response rates or print quality.
In addition to utilizing recycled paper in your catalog, consider it for ancillary literature, such as order forms, blow-ins and order envelopes, suggests The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) in its third edition of The DMA Environmental Resource for Direct Marketers. (See “For More Reading”)
Examine Your Paper Mill’s Environmental Performance
Use what Smith terms a “life-cycle filter,” that is, ask about the environmental impact of the mill’s manufacturing processes, particularly bleaching, air and water emissions, and greenhouse gas contributions.
Also look for the mill’s investments in pollution-prevention technologies, and how efficiently it uses energy and water. Also look at its releases into the environment, as well as trends over time, suggests Mills.
If you still have questions, enlist the expertise of your printer, suggests Planet Dog’s Frost. “Just be sure they know your requirements.”
A sample form for paper mill evaluation performance can be found at www.environmentaldefense.org.
Recycle Your Own Paper and Packaging
“Recycling is a loop,” says Mills. “Making it work effectively means both buying paper made with recycled content and recovering paper after it’s used.”
Planet Dog recycles all of its white paper and cardboard, and it uses recycled products in its packaging.
Encourage your customers to recycle by posting messages on your Web site, offers Smith. Or use The DMA’s RecyclePlease logo (www.recycleplease.org) on your catalogs to show your support of environmental issues. Encourage your customers and prospects to learn more about recycling.
U.S. Paper Recycling Facts
- Americans recovered 49.3 million tons of paper for recycling in 2003, representing 50 percent of all paper consumed in the United States.
- More than 37 percent of the raw material used to make new paper products comes from recycled paper.
- Nearly 80 percent of all U.S. papermakers use recovered fiber to make new paper products.
- Every ton of paper recovered for recycling saves 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space.
- More paper currently is recovered for recycling than is landfilled.
Source: American Forest & Paper Association
For More Reading
The DMA Environmental Resource for Direct Marketers
Available from The Direct Marketing Association
The Direct Marketing Association’s third edition distills key environmental concepts down to practical steps to help businesses operate in a more environmentally friendly manner. Additionally, it provides practical information for learning about the source of paper supplies; designing mailings and targeting lists to minimize waste; paying attention to packing materials; and other areas in which to minimize environmental impact.