Direct Mail Does its Part for Planet Earth

Most print service providers recognize being environmentally conscious is important. They switched to recycled paper and non-toxic inks and chemicals a long time ago. Printing companies partner with environmental organizations like the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and have pledged to follow certain environmental guidelines. In-house practices, such as recycling waste and packaging, are also common strategies printing companies employ to help the environment.

These are important steps to take. EarthColor is a staunch supporter of environmental sustainability and we work with our customers to lower the environmental impact of projects we handle for them.

Recycling is Great – But There is More to Do

Another aspect of environmental stewardship is sometimes overlooked. Direct mail pieces with little or no chance of achieving the campaign’s objective contribute to the impact a campaign has on the environment. Duplicate mail pieces, poorly targeted messaging, inaccurate or non-existent personalization, or inadequate address list maintenance can contribute to hidden environmental effects.

Whether raw material for paper comes from trees or recycling, the manufacturing, transportation, and mailpiece production steps are almost the same. These steps have an environmental cost too. If mailers can avoid unnecessarily creating and transporting worthless documents, their recycling strategy is fortified and they will have helped the environment even more.

After paper is made, freight trains and trucks running on diesel fuel move the product from the mill to a distribution warehouse and print production facilities. After printing and addressing direct mailpieces, trucks and planes carry mailpieces to distribution centers and eventually to individual addressees. Furthermore after delivery, many of those mailpieces make their way back to the recycling facility or landfill via trucks and trains. None of these steps are different for mail made of virgin or recycled fibers.

The care and consideration used to choose paper and ink makes no difference on the amount of fuel or electricity consumed in efforts to move, store, or process the paper throughout most its lifespan. This an aspect of paper communication that isn’t as obvious as the composition of the paper used for direct mail projects.

Mailing Intelligently

One way to boost environmental accountability is decreasing unnecessary mail. Trimming the deadwood from mailing lists at the start of a project means less paper is ordered and shipped. Of course, fewer pieces are manufactured and then handled multiple times by the postal service. Fewer addressees will dispose of unwanted mail.  By not creating useless mail at all, the environmental consequence of the entire project will improve.

Mailers can easily fall into the habit of sending identical pieces to all members of same lists with every mailing. It’s easy. There are no extra steps, and no delays waiting for someone’s approval to deviate from established precedents. From an environmental perspective, this is not such a good idea. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Undeliverable Mail – Mailers do not always update their mailing lists. They may get feedback from the USPS or their mailing service provider about invalid addresses, but never update the source files. As a result, the same undeliverable pieces are produced over and over.
  2. Progressive Obsolescence – About 12% of the population in the USA moves every year. To meet regulations for preparing presorted mail, service providers update address changes on the fly. However addresses not updated at the source will eventually drop off the USPS national change of address file (NCOA). At that point, mail bearing old addresses will never again reach the intended recipients.
  3. Irrelevance – Sending the same message to an entire list of contacts makes little sense. Prospective customers on these lists are not all exactly the same. They may have different size budgets, live in geographically diverse areas, or be different ages. With modern methods it isn’t difficult to craft versions or offers designed to appeal to groups with different interests. Matching the offers more precisely will generate more responses and less wasted mail.

If your organization is concerned about the environment, take the next step beyond recycled paper. Intelligently targeting mail pieces and trimming unlikely responders from lists can further your commitment to the environment by extending your contribution beyond your recycled content guidelines.

Contact us today to take the next steps in being environmentally conscious.

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