Sept. 3 2008 10:29 AM

Environmental concerns are changing your business environment, and eco-friendly practices are more important than ever. Everything you do to preserve the environment can reflect on your business and impact your bottom line.


Some believe that direct mail is not eco-friendly and should be avoided. But direct mail can be greener than you think, and green direct mail practices can give marketers an opportunity to demonstrate their environmental responsibility through certified materials and initiatives.


It's one thing to be aware of one's negative environmental impact, but it's much more important to work to decrease it. Diligent marketers can take some very simple steps to ensure their direct mail is both eco-friendly and effective. Direct markets have the opportunity to take the initiative and become more eco-friendly in their customers' eyes. Always print environmental certifications clearly and honestly on your mailpieces, and remind consumers to recycle direct mail. Environmentally sound direct mail practices are really about the little details. Here are four practical solutions you can take today.


1. Greening the List

Every year, US businesses send billions of pieces of mail that are undeliverable-as-
addressed (UAA). By taking steps to maintain a clean, up-to-date list, your business can reduce its amount of UAA mail. You'll be producing fewer mailpieces and less paper, ink and energy. There are resources available to help hone your lists:


>>ZIP Code correction ensures that mail is delivered to its proper recipient

>>Address standardization eliminates address errors

>>National Change of Address Linkage System corrects addresses before mailing

>>U.S. Postal Service Address Change Service corrects an address after mailing


There are steps marketers can take to fine-tune their lists:

  • Merge and purge mailing lists often to remove invalid names and addresses

  • Provide frequent, clear opportunities for customers to opt-in and opt-out

  • Maintain a "do not mail" list to prevent unwanted communications

  • Allow customers to specify their preferred method of contact

  • Target mail efficiently using segmentation and modeling to select recipients

  • Personalize your message to increase relevance and reduce waste


    2. The Many Faces of Paper

    Almost every direct mail piece is printed and mailed using paper. Depending on the piece, certain characteristics may be required of the paper itself, including brightness and coatings. Marketers can reduce their environmental footprint significantly by using non-traditional kinds of paper. There are many opportunities to make direct mail more eco-friendly:


  • Use paper containing post-consumer waste

  • Print on the lightest weight of paper

  • Investigate papers made of alternative materials, such as sugarcane

  • Choose paper made using chemical-free processes (chlorine-free, for example)

  • Experiment with formats that require less paper and packaging to reduce paper use and overall weight

  • Work with paper mills that use environmentally friendly production practices and use/encourage sustainability practices to renew forest resources


    3. Inks and Coatings

    An overlooked opportunity to spare the environment is through the inks, varnishes and coatings. Some inks have a greater environmental impact than others. Marketers looking to become greener should pay attention and research their impact on the environment. Here are some things for marketers to consider:

  • Printers are excellent sources of information and should be consulted about different inks and coatings

  • Look for agri-based inks and use them   whenever possible

  • Opt for less ink usage/coverage (fewer colors usually mean fewer chemicals)

  • Research different coatings and the impact of each on the environment


    4. Production and Partners

    Printers aren't the only ones to consult during direct mail production. With the help of production partners, you can discover additional practices that will help you become eco-friendly:


  • Print on both sides of materials to maximize communication space and minimize paper usage

  • Seek out partners near your letter shop/mail house to minimize transportation, reducing cost and using less fuel

  • Take advantage of print-on-demand technology instead of printing large quantities and warehousing them until they're needed

  • Use production methods that reduce print overruns, waste allowances and in-process waste

  • Find vendors that use renewable energy sources

  • Collaborate with printers to ensure the best use of press size; sometimes a slight alteration of the mailpiece can allow more to be produced from each press sheet


    There are many shades of green. As a marketer, there are steps you can take to make your direct mail a little greener to have less impact on the environment and a greater impact on your customers.


    For more information, please visit the U.S. Postal service online at


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