NATIONAL REPORT—Just as the lodging industry has made significant strides toward sustainability since 2008, so too have two promotional product companies, each launching in that year and since expanding their green product offerings to thousands of items. The two companies include Green Promotional Items, Danvers, Mass., and Eco Promotional Products, Inc., Vernon Hills, Ill. The two distributors carry pads of recycled paper, pens, USB flash drives, mugs, apparel, water bottles, solar powered calculators, awards/plaques, magnets, name badges and many other items. Each item makes its own unique green statement—whether in a guestroom, at the front desk, during a trade show or meeting, or as rewards or gifts for employees or customers.
Green Promotional Items, Eco Promotional Products, and other companies like them go beyond gimmicky—think bouncy balls with lights and batteries inside, or foam stress squeezies—to sell products with a “conscience.”
“A more sustainable way of doing business is something you see every way you turn,” says Gerri Weiner, president, Corporate Accents Unlimited, of which Green Promotional Items is a division. “It is not a trend that is going to go away tomorrow.”
While there was a time when green promotional products cost more than their traditional counterparts, Weiner says that is, for the most part, no longer the case.
“It used to be there was a price difference but now the price is very competitive—especially with the novelty items,” she says.
Michelle Sheldon, president of Eco Promotional Products, says the promotional products industry has been undisciplined when it comes to environmental responsibility. That is why her company and others like it are working to change the industry for the better.
When one goes shopping on the Eco Promotional Products website, product descriptions include up to eight green icons. The icons include: Reusable, Recycled, Organic, Eco Friendly, Energy Efficient, Biodegradable, Renewable Resource, and Made in the USA.
Eco Promotional Products, like Green Promotional Items, screens the items it sells based on environmental and social responsibility criteria. While the goal is to offer products made close to the point of sale—in the United States—that is not always possible. Sheldon cited USB flash drives as an example. The memory chips are only made overseas. Sheldon’s company ensures that those drives, however, are encased in renewable material.
Just because an item is made in the United States does not necessarily mean its carbon footprint is less. If a product is not bulk shipped from a U.S. location, its footprint can potentially be greater than an item bulk shipped from overseas.
“There are still many products that I consider to be sustainable that are not from the U.S.A.,” Sheldon says.
Making Misleading Claims Not a Good Idea
While greenwashing is always a possibility, Weiner says suppliers would be foolish to do so.
“It makes no sense for a vendor to be misleading,” she says. “The word would get around.”
Weiner says that, if needed, she can secure documentation from a supplier to back up its green statements.
With so many suppliers now providing green promotional items, there are always new ones that come along. “Grow items,” for example, have been popular lately. These include biodegradable paper products with seeds that, when planted, grow flowers. “It is gift that keeps on giving,” Sheldon says.
Green Promotional Items and Eco Promotional Products both customize and personalize items that they sell. Both companies are also women owned businesses.
Glenn Hasek can be reached at email@example.com.