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Will lower direct mail volume save trees?

With an increase in consumers’ awareness of eco-friendly business practices, the pressure is on for marketers to decrease the environment impact of their output.

April Smith
Project manager for the National Wildlife Federation
Manages Catalog Choice, an online mail preference service

Direct mail requires the use of paper — a lot of paper. Unfortunately, paper production has a wide impact on the environment.

According to the Environmental Defense Fund’s Paper Calculator, one ton of virgin uncoated offset paper (similar to that used for letters, forms, and envelopes) requires three tons of wood, or 24 trees. The manufacture of this same ton of paper uses 38 million BTUs of energy, emits 5,960 pounds of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, uses more than 19,000 gallons of water, and produces 2,300 pounds of solid waste. Even a test mail panel of 25,000 would use more than 2,000 pounds of paper, so think about how much a rollout might use.

Better targeting, using the best list hygiene available and respecting con­sumers’ mail preferences can improve environmental performance. Increasing the use of environmentally preferable paper by selecting FSC-certified and maximizing recycled content improves direct mail’s eco-profile. By using paper more efficiently and by using less, mar­keters can reduce pressure on forests, cut energy use and climate change emissions, limit water, air and other pollution and produce less waste. Also, by diverting more marketing online, multichannel marketers also reduce acquisition and retention costs and redirect savings into other channels.

Robert Muma
SVP of sales and marketing for National Envelope Corporation
Former chairman of the Envelope Manu­facturers Association

Close examination of the direct mail production process reveals that companies and their suppliers are dedi­cated to a clean environment and run sustainable operations.

The production process for paper begins with the forest product compa­nies that harvest trees. Most of these companies participate voluntarily in independent “chain of custody” certifi­cation programs that both monitor and assess the industry’s sustainable prac­tices through the manufacturing cycle. On average, these companies plant four to five trees for every one they harvest, with US Forest Service data showing that US forest inventory has increased by about one-third since 1952.

If less paper is produced, forest product companies may decide to plant fewer trees. Fewer trees means less carbon dioxide absorbed by forests, an important component in the battle against global warming. The Society of American Foresters reports that one ton of wood grown in a forest absorbs 1.47 tons of airborne carbon dioxide.

In addition, the Envelope Manufac­turers Association, the Direct Market­ing Association and the Magazine Publishers of America partnered last year to encourage consumers to recycle their paper products. The American Forest & Paper Association reports that paper recovered for recycling or reuse in America last year reached 56%.

DMNews’ decision
As marketers look to be more eco-friendly, there are many things to consider. While cutting down on paper production certainly will help save resources, it is not always black and white. The production industry has the potential to give back by planting trees. The best way for marketers to both ‘be green’ and reach consumers is by using relevant channels.

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