I may have mentioned a time or two, I pretty much love Earth…leaves, butterflies, oxygen…love…all of it. So, yes, I’m pretty passionate when it comes to sustainable marketing practices.

Before I became the CEO for @redbridge, I was a marketer of energy-efficiency programs. I called what I did, saving the world one kwh at a time. Anyway, when you promote energy-efficient products and choices you need to lead by example or people get skeptical. Nobody wants that.

My 10+ years of sustainable marketing practices can be boiled down into 3 simple steps. Here they are:

1. Think “green” brainstormy thoughts!
2. Design to make green “the new black”.
3. Buy green. It’s just nice. :)

Have I wowed you with my brilliance yet? Well…I hope NOT because I can talk about this ALL DAY! So, here I go, the 3 secrets revealed in 5…4…3…2…1…:

1. Think “green” brainstormy thoughts!

In my perfect world, a marketing plan serves as a road map for upcoming marketing activities. You’ve planned out as far as a year in advance. Relaxed brainstorm sessions happen in the quarter prior to the deliverable’s deadline allowing you to glance out further in the timeline to see if there are other materials forecasted that can be combined. I also have a pet unicorn in that world.

In my real world experience, you plan out as far ahead as possible and stay flexible. So the more you can think green thoughts on the fly, the better Earth is going to get. Whether your next item is well-planned, or a marketing emergency, consider what you’re trying to accomplish and how the end result can be created, greenly. For instance:

  • Email vs. Direct Mail: Get email addresses for your target audiences and send email campaigns versus direct mail. They have similar return rates, AND e-mail can be re-purposed easily for a follow-up emails. It’s also got analytics for capturing data and saves paper and ink.
  • Web ad vs. Print ad: Think about it…you can be more targeted, include animation and capture analytics. I’m giddy just thinking about the possibilities! Animate a .gif, or better yet, add flash or link to a video that shows your audience how much you love them. Expand your advertising dollars by linking your ad to an even more targeted page inside your website etc., etc. That’s…uh-mazing!
  • Web-based contest vs. Print: Printing can be both beautiful and expensive. Why not create a wildly exciting web-based contest solutions and encourage users to forward their invite to non-participants? Use Scvngr and create a web-based n hunt and get your participants interacting in all sorts of picture-taking, webby goodness. Or, maybe create a video contest. Here are some cool samples of how others like are doing it. Go @Zappos!Web based contests can increase activity without increasing budget. You could have a full-fledged viral contest without adding labor resources or printing dollars. Analytics provide direct return on investment results. And, by letting technology do the work, your resources are freed up to focus on the next great thing.
  • Online forms vs. Printed forms: This one should go without saying…direct input to database…genius and earth-friendly. And think of the paper you’ll save! You stand to benefit from real-time data and your customers will love that you’ve sped up rebate processing times. It’s a Win-Win. Even Steve Covey would love that!
  • Less deliverables vs. more: Why create a multiple pieces that serve the same purpose as one. Sustainable marketing encompasses more and lasts longer. Think “timeless content and multi-use materials” and watch your marketing dollars stretch.
  • Online events vs. In-Person events:Cloud computing has enabled conference hosts to stream live audio, video and collaboration of events.  Companies like Social 27 have created full-fledged ways to share valuable knowledge over the world wide web while saving attendees travel expenses. It’s the ultimate “green” conference.

2. Design to make green “the new black”.

You know black. It’s always in, always sexy, and always in demand. Well, let’s bring green’s sexy back, yes?

There was a time when making green materials meant spendy and with some quality sacrifices. But great news…those days are history. There are so many cost-effective and beautiful marketing alternatives that are eco-friendly. And not just digital solutions, marketers have an opportunity to take green marketing to a whole new level. From concept through production, there are tons of things that can be considered.

  • Size to maximize paper usage. Yes, bigger is big, but take creativity to the next level. Instead of producing a single sheet 8.5×11, consider minimizing content at half the size. Work with your printer to find out what sheet size the project is printing on in order to get the most from one sheet. If you can get two by reducing the size by a 1/2″, why not? You’ll save materials and cost. :) Uh…yay!
  • Paper materials. Recycled paper stocks are available for all sorts of things. Eco-friendly doesn’t have to mean that your materials look like chipboard, even though chipboard can be pretty, too. @NewLeafPaper produces Reincarnation paper stocks that print beautifully, and feel like velvet…velvet. Recycled paper is available in cover and text weights. There are also biodegradabe substrait substitutes for Banner materials and event very beautifully done event displays – all earthy-goodness. Whoda thunk?
  • Design for long-life. As you’re developing your marketing plan, look at the current materials, but also see what you’ll be developing further out to see what you’ve got on the radar. Consider what materials could be combined into multi-use items.

3. Buy green. It’s just nice. :)

Everyone says buy green, right? And it means a LOT of things to different people. Here’s my interpretation…

  • Use recyclable materials. If you’ve got a short-term promotion, create marketing materials that can either be reused or will easily break down into the environment. Vendors usually have recycleable substrate options on hand or easily accessable, so ask for an environmentally friendly option.
  • Consider environmentally friendly promotional products. Think about what products can be both useful and and memorable to your end user and work with a vendor to see what sustainable products are available that fit your needs. Stress balls and those little flashlights are inexpensive and fun, but when we’re 100, there’s a pretty good chance, they’re still going to be in a landfill.
  • Give love to local. Local vendors mean a few things…support for local businesses and no shipping. And, look for FSC Certified vendors…that’s gold star worthy. Establish ways to dispose of used materials in sustainable ways. Include messaging on your materials to let users know where they can recycle.


So there you go — 3 steps — planet…saved. Feel free to comment with additional ideas! And if you’re interested in greening up your marketing, let’s connect! Ooh…and if you want to know if I’m paid to promote the companies/products mentioned my answer is…Nope. I just love what they do and how they do it. Earth does too.