Care About Sustainability? Make Your Content Valuable.
In a post about optimism in the early days of COVID, our CEO said “As optimists, our job is to address the challenges in front of us and to adapt to this new ‘best possible world.’” Our philosophy on optimism influences everything we do, from how we approach our clients and our work to our beliefs around sustainability.
It’s no secret that we believe in climate change and our role in doing something about it (see previous blogs here and here). Our views have ruffled more than a few feathers and even lost us a client or two. But being an optimist requires honesty, transparency, and a clear-eyed view of reality. It means accepting the world as it is—even as we work to make it better—because we can only address the problems we see.
As a business, we strive to use our resources and our expertise to slow the effects of climate change, and we have taken steps to align our operations with our environmental values. We could talk about renewable energy, chlorine-free pulping, VOC-free inks, and alternative fiber papers (all of which we use), but this is nothing new. These steps are really a baseline for any printer with an ounce of social responsibility. The real opportunity when it comes to sustainability is helping our clients create things that are valuable—content that’s worth keeping.
First, a quick science lesson: Trees absorb water and carbon dioxide and break it down through photosynthesis to release oxygen. Notably, trees are able to hold onto the carbon they absorb even after being made into paper. As long as paper doesn’t decompose or burn, it captures that carbon, keeping it out of the environment. The longer we hold onto printed products (or recycle them responsibly) the longer that carbon is sequestered.
We can approach printed products much in the same way we approach plastics. Is it single-use or reusable? What kind of shelf life will it have? Is it worth holding onto or does it go right in the bin? Print has the potential for permanence if it is used for amplifying content with enduring value.
Most promo items businesses give out are made of plastic—and honestly, who needs another stress ball? We’ve worked with clients to create printed alternatives that are more useful and lasting than your average promo item, not to mention more environmentally friendly since paper, unlike plastics, is a renewable and sustainable resource. Think custom puzzles, notebooks, personalized stationery, Christmas ornaments, coasters … the list goes on.
Last fall, we were researching options for our holiday gifts. We could have gone with one of the usual suspects, but we ultimately decided to create a cookbook of crowdsourced recipes from our community of employees and clients. Talk about enduring content (anyone who has ever leafed through a 50-year-old church cookbook knows what we mean—they have a way of sticking around).
While there are plenty of applications for single-use print, especially in marketing, there are also opportunities to create something valuable that will last more than a day or two. Helping our clients see and take advantage of those opportunities is perhaps the most important sustainability practice we’ve embraced.