Adam T. Sutton

Backing Up Green Messages – Part I

Adding a dash of green can do a lot for your marketing — as long as your claims are valid. But don’t market yourself as environmentally friendly if you’re not, you’ll give fodder to activist groups and others who could paint you as a “green washer.”

Going green can also build employee affinity.  A 2003 Stanford University Graduate School of Business survey of 800 MBAs from 11 leading North American and European schools found that 97% were willing to forgo financial benefits to work for an organization with a better reputation for corporate social responsibility and ethics.

This post is the first on how to help back up a green marketing message by lowering your company’s carbon footprint. I talked to Tim Sanders, author of Saving the World At Work: What Companies and Individuals Can Do to Go Beyond Making a Profit to Making a Difference. Sanders and a team of graduate students studied how businesses large and small are lowering their environmental impact.

Here are a few practical ways to cut down on your paper usage, including at the receiving end of your documents.

-> #1 Illegalize virgin paper

Eliminate all paper from your office that is not at least partially recycled. As the percentage of post- consumer recycled content goes up in paper, the environmental impact of its production decreases dramatically. Here’s a paper calculator to see the numbers.

“The price increase of 30% recycled or 100% recycled paper is almost negligible,” Sanders says. “It’s less than a few percent now at most major paper providers and it doesn’t jam printers.”

-> #2 Use duplex printers

Duplex printers print documents on both sides of a sheet of paper. It won’t cut your paper production in half, but it can make a serious dent.

“The city of Seattle adopted duplex printing and cut its paper consumption 25%. Not all documents can be done that way, but the ones that can, it’s a big deal,” Sanders says.

-> #3 Reuse all paper internally before recycling

Create a scratch paper box in your office. Use it instead of post-it notes or notebook paper when taking notes during a phone call or meeting.

-> #4 “Make every page beg for its life”

Always preview before your print. Reformat your text, spacing and margins to squeeze more content onto fewer pages. Ask the your graphic designers and layout specialists for advice.

You can encourage others to do the same by putting “think before you print” signs up near your printers.

Many documents that leave your office electronically are printed on the receiving end, especially long documents that are cumbersome to read on screen. You can really help bolster your green efforts by lowering the chances those documents will be printed, or if they’re printed, that they’ll use fewer resources.

-> #5 Reduce page count on outgoing content

The principal of making every page beg for its life works here, too. Send external documents with as few pages as possible, especially mass marketing materials with a high number of recipients.

“When I send a bloated 89-page PowerPoint slide deck that’s not even loaded in handout view, I should assume that at least a third of the time people just hit the print button and they gasp at about the 50th page. Happens all the time. Same thing with PDFs,” Sanders says.

-> #6 Discourage printing your documents

Put little notes in your outgoing electronic documents that suggest recipients help the environment by not printing. This could be as simple as a sentence in your signature written in green text.

GreenPDF.com is a free tool that will load an applet into your PDFs that will serve a pop-up that discourages people from printing the document. The site’s easy to use and will help lower your company’s indirect carbon footprint.

-> #7 Use branded flash/thumb drives

A flash drive is a mini-hard drive that plugs into a computer’s USB port. They’re easy to use and are getting cheaper all the time. For companies that typically send a ton of documents, they’re a cost-effective and environmentally friendly way to avoid using a ton of paper. And they’re cheaper to ship.

You can get branded, two-gigabyte flash drives that wil hold the equivalent of 20 trees in pages for about $8 a piece wholesale, Sanders says.

Stay tuned for another post on influencing your business partners and promoting your efforts.

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