Cover Story: Green Mission
Last season, Consumers Union was able to roll out with a self-mailer piece that was more than 50 percent lighter than it had previously been, because it cut text pages and basis weight. The results proved well worth the effort.
"Our paper consumption dropped enough to save us hundreds of thousands of dollars, while our response rate held strong," Brophy says. What's more, "Less paper means less fiber, less energy, less waste and less trucking."
When it comes to the materials Consumers Union uses, quantity isn't the only issue. A material's environmental qualities matter, too. So choosing products that are biodegradable, more conducive to recycling, or that generate fewer harmful emissions during their production or use is a top priority.
When selecting paper, Associate Director of Publishing Operations Steve Schiavone says Consumers Union wants to know what it is buying. "Now we ask printers and paper suppliers more questions: Can you use recycled content if it makes sense economically and environmentally? What is your third-party certified content percentage and what scheme are you certified to? What is your energy profile? It's asking a lot of those questions and getting feedback," he explains.
In addition to using lighter-weight paper, Consumers Union's environmental focus has prompted it to consider postconsumer or de-inked, high-yield recycled paper for various mail pieces. Schiavone says the organization also uses higher bulking coated groundwood papers and high-yield groundwood papers. These consume fewer resources in their manufacture, making them environmentally preferable alternatives to virgin offset sheets.
Of course, paper alone does not make a mail package, and Consumers Union is constantly evaluating other earth-friendly components. It uses biodegradable poly, inks that are low in volatile organic compound emissions and environmentally benign adhesive, Brophy says. The latter is used for repositionable labels, which are included in some mail packages as involvement devices. Environmentally benign adhesive makes recycling less complicated and more economical-in addition to improving the quality of recycled paper-because it can be easily removed from recovered paper during the early stages of recycling.