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Going green: recycling and direct mail

Updated: Jan 25

The need to be more environmentally friendly is very real. Unless you have been living under a rock, we need to do more to look after our planet. Now.


Using less paper to halt and recover the eradication of trees is one huge climate change point amongst many others with equal importance. Likewise, decreasing landfill is an urgent matter worldwide. How does this sit with direct mail marketing – often referred to as ‘junk mail’. Can direct mail really be green?


The short answer is yes – it can. Whilst ditching direct mail and all paper-based communications would no doubt be the best approach, it’s not realistic for many organisations just yet. Direct mail also has many plus points for delivering a message effectively (see ‘Direct Mail isn’t dead’) and recycling and the push to be greener can be one of those messages, no matter your business or charitable appeal.


Recycled paper


There’s more to delivering environmentally friendly direct mail than printing on recycled paper. That being said, this is an obvious first step. Whether you opt for the rough gsm paper type (mil-broke) or a smoother affair, make it clear to your reader that you use recycled paper and you take it seriously. On average paper can be recycled between 5 and 7 times so you can really make an impact by switching to this and you don’t need to dump the glossy brochure effect. Recycled paper has come along in leaps and bound and can still deliver that high-end look.


‘Green’ inks.


Alongside the paper, ask your printers to use water-based inks which make paper easier to be recycled. You can also opt for organic and vegetable-based dyes and colours. To ensure your envelopes are truly green, also choose those which use non-chlorinated glues.


‘Freebies’ and incentive gifts.


If you are including free gifts in your direct mail, make sure these are also environmentally friendly in nature. If your direct mail asks for a call-to-action that will deliver a gift (such as a t-shirt), make sure you use recycled cottons and materials. You could also consider an incentive that for each returned form or donation, you will pledge towards a green campaign. Have a look at The Woodland Trust’s tree-planting campaign.


Personalise and address mail correctly.


The number one reason direct mail goes straight to the bin is that it is incorrectly addressed. Most of the time this is because the recipient has moved on. Ensure you keep in touch with your donors and customers frequently and make it easy for them to opt-in or out (as per GDPR) and easy for them to notify you of change of address. Don’t be tempted to resurrect that customer list from 3 years ago – not only may you break GDPR regulations, you are far more likely to waste money and paper and find it ends up in landfill with little to no response.


Call to green action.


Let your reader know that you are moving to a green approach and that the paper they are holding has been produced in a sustainable manner. For many charities this will tie in well with existing long-term campaigns and development aid messages. Use a recycling logo and messaging consistently through-out. Your copy tone of voice can work well towards this and directly ask readers to put any paper into recycling rather than landfill. This is also a great way of invoking a more emotional connection with your target audience.


If these tips have given you food for thought, check out the DMA’s ‘Recycle Please’ campaign and guidelines. The Green-15 toolkit asks organisations to pledge to reduce their eco-footprint and is a good source of inspiration and information on how to be greener in your marketing.

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