Going Green? Know The Facts
By: Stan Breckenridge, MAS, Chairman, PPAI
May, 2008 - Promotional Products Business Magazine

When I first heard about green products, I was quite excited that there may possibly be a new putter to help my golf score. I quickly realized green is a new label for environmentally friendly products. It refers to any product or service that has a neutral or, better yet, a positive impact on the environment.

While visiting our friends to the north in Toronto at the recent PPPC Show, I was privileged to join the roundtable sessions. The debate about whether green is a fad or here to stay was quite lively. The panel concluded that green may, indeed, be here to stay. We are certainly experiencing a proliferation of green throughout our industry shows, advertising and product offerings. Many suppliers are jumping on the bandwagon and rushing to the market with new ideas.

Setting aside the debate over the green movement’s longevity, we might all agree that going green is a sound investment in our future. My sense is that if something is this important, we must not lose its vitality.

One of the questions that immediately comes to mind: Do green products cost more? Not necessarily, but oftentimes they can. The Department of Environmental Protection states: “The price of recycled and reusable products may be lower, higher or the same as virgin products, depending on market conditions.” In our industry, more and more suppliers are seeking out catalog printers who use post-consumer recycled paper and nontoxic inks. Buyers will consider the cost of a green product compared to what they use now or have used previously. Perhaps the initial investment for a green product is more costly, but the payback is worth it.

There is an education side to green. Natalie Erman Russell (as reported in Parade Magazine) wrote an interesting book about “green fakers.” She writes that “some products and services touted as ‘green’ are actually far from it.”

Ellis Jones, author of the Better World Shopping Guide, which grades companies on eco-performance, shares tips on how to shop smart.

1. Do your homework. Says Jones: “If a big company…suddenly (says it’s) green, review the claim (and any proof) carefully. Don’t just assume it’s true.”
2. Buy products labeled, “post-consumer recycled content,” not just “recycled.” The former tells you it actually was recycled in the way you’d expect.
3. Look for certification. “Words such as ‘biodegradable’ aren’t government-assigned,” Jones says. “So if it isn’t followed up on the package with an icon showing certification, it’s likely greenwashing.”

Greenwashing is an exaggeration of a product’s measure of green. When in doubt, ask for certification. Ask specific questions and seek answers about green products. Much information may be verified through the available Material Safety Data Sheets.

If you’re trying to decide between two materials, each with its own positive and negative impact, consider your options. Is it better to have products that are reclaimed, recyclable or reusable?

Reusable: Many of our industry products (such as coffee mugs) are designed to be durable and used repeatedly. Choosing reusable over disposable (products that are thrown away after one use) is a green option. Seek out and offer quality products that last.

Recyclable: In short, this item becomes part of a “cycle.” The item is discarded, collected, reprocessed into a new product and returned to the market.

Reclaimed: Existing material from a product has been reused. The basic composition is not altered but has been re-cut and reused to make a new product.

Whatever we have yet to learn about going green, two courses of action are clear. One, seek out and buy quality products that will last a long time. Two, take the initiative to research the green movement. Education is the first step toward making better decisions for a greener tomorrow.

want to know more? see below:

Defining Green: What's Hype? What's Real?

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