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Do Plastic Envelopes Undermine a Green Mailing?

Recently, I was privileged to participate on a judging panel in an international printing contest. One of the categories was environmental printing. In that category, an entrant had submitted a very interesting postcard made of 100% recycled paper and containing seeds in the paper fiber, enabling the postcard to be planted.

The message was environmental, and the use of 100% recycled stock and the ability to plant the resulting postcard and return it to the earth made a strong environmental statement. But the paper was fragile, so the postcard had to be mailed in a clear envelope to protect it during the mailing process.

As a marketing piece, the entry was impressive. But as an environmentally friendly mailing? I had to strongly disagree. I felt that mailing this piece in a clear plastic envelope (much like those above, although not from the same company) undermined the environmental message completely.

Of course, the plastic could have been made from recycled material, but I doubt it. The plastic was perfectly clear, like glass. Recycled plastic is used to make some transparent plastic substrates, but they aren’t flawless as this one was.

This raised the question: If a postcard is made of 100% recycled substrate, has a great environmental marketing message, and encourages people to plant the mailer and grow living plants, and yet is mailed in a plastic envelope, is there still environmental value? Or is the environmental value neutralized by the plastic envelope? It was a lively debate among the judges.

What do you think?

Image Credit: Univenture

Written by Heidi Tolliver-Walker

Heidi Tolliver-Walker has been a commercial and digital printing industry analyst, feature writer, columnist, editor, and author for nearly 20 years. She is known for her meticulous research and no-nonsense perspective. In addition to having written thousands of industry articles for top industry publications, she and Richard Romano have been the face of the well-respected industry research firm The Industry Measure (TrendWatch Graphic Arts) for many years. In her more than 13-year tenure with the firm, she has written countless reports on digital printing, 1:1 (personalized) printing, Web-to-print, personalized URLs, and other hot industry applications. She is also a long-time contributing editor and columnist for Printing News, for which she writes two monthly columns, including "Personal Effects," which features monthly analysis of 1:1 (personalized) printing case studies. She is also the author of three titles for the National Association of Printing Leadership: Designer's Printing Companion, Ink & Color: A Printer's Guide, and Diversifying Via Value-Added Services. As a small, niche publisher (Strong Tower Publishing), she is active in utilizing these technologies in her own business, as well.

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