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Susanne Antonucci November 19, 2019 4 min read

There IS an Environmentally Friendly Way to Do Print Communications

Using a marketing approach is part of our 10-key approach to effective benefits communication. Along with using feedback, prioritizing simplicity, and targeting messages, using multiple channels to communicate throughout the year is critical to promoting benefits successfully. In fact, we’ve seen the biggest changes in benefits engagement when organizations increase the frequency with which they communicate and add more channels to their communications mix.

Several of the channels we frequently use for our clients involve printing and mailing printed communications. Many of these materials are mailed to employees’ and plan participants’ homes. We also create desk drops and printed signage for worksites, and we’ve even printed things like customized paper popcorn bags, placemats, and coffee cup sleeves for client campaigns.

We’re not the only ones who still love print materials. The Columbia Journalism Review hails print as “the new ‘new media,’” noting that many successful digital publications are also venturing into print.

Even younger generations like print. One study revealed that Millennials pay more attention to print advertising via direct mail (77%), retail inserts (73%), catalogs (54%), and magazines (51%) than to digital ads through emails (51%), the internet (50%), and mobile text (48%).

That’s because print materials can create stronger impressions and feel more genuine.

In a world where everything is digital, receiving something at home in paper can make a big impact. It’s a cost-effective way to drive action and reach family members, who often are the ones making the benefits decisions. But a lot of organizations believe that mailing paper materials is inconsistent with their efforts to go green.

Can you be green and still get the benefits of direct mail and other paper channels? We think so.

The Environmentally Friendly Way to Do Print

There are many myths surrounding the environmental unfriendliness of paper, but these days paper is often produced in a sustainable environment.

Paper is made from a natural resource that is renewable, recyclable, and compostable, and more paper is recycled than any other commodity in the U.S. municipal waste stream. Sixty-eight percent of paper was recovered in 2013. Paper recovery is higher than the recycling of plastic, aluminum, and glass combined.

In recent years, paper mills have had to navigate stronger environmental protection regulations and increased public scrutiny. In response, they’ve taken initiatives to curtail greenhouse gases and reduce their environmental impact. Many also buy energy credits to compensate for the negative impact their energy use has on the environment.

By working with printers that prioritize sustainability and by choosing recycled content or certified paper, you can do your part to be environmentally conscious while still choosing print communications.

Recycled Paper

Recycled paper contains recovered material, including post-consumer waste content and pre-consumer waste content.

Post-consumer waste paper is manufactured from our paper waste (magazines, newspapers, Amazon boxes, and so forth).

Pre-consumer waste is made up of paper products that are discarded during the manufacturing, printing, or binding process—before the product reaches the consumer.

Paper is available with recycled paper fiber ranging from 10% to 100%, and today most paper has at least some recycled content.

We suggest you print on recycled paper. You decide whether or not to include a recycled paper symbol on whatever you’re printing (e.g., magazine, brochure, postcard). When you use the recycled paper symbol, you are telling people that the paper or envelope you’ve chosen was manufactured using recycled fiber, which could be a good message to send.

Certified Paper

FSC certification is another environmentally responsible printing option. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an independent not-for-profit organization that was developed to shift the market to eliminate habitat destruction, water pollution, displacement of indigenous peoples, and violence against people and wildlife that often accompanies logging.

When your printed piece bears the FSC logo, people know that the paper your product was printed on came from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social, and economic benefits. The trees are grown just for paper production. Paper that is FSC-certified will also have some degree of recycled content.

Your Choices

Not all papers are FSC-certified, but there is a wide range to choose from. Should you choose FSC-certified paper or just recycled paper, and will you want your printed piece to bear the relevant symbol? You have a lot of recycled paper options, too, and different price points to consider. Ultimately, the design of your communication and personal preferences will come into play when you make your paper selection.

Print is an important option in your quiver of communication channels. It remains one of the best ways to communicate with hard-to-reach employees and plan participants. Being thoughtful and conscientious in your choices—including who you work with and the materials you choose—is how you can use print and be green, too.

Production Manager