Eco Sense

The Ultimate Guide to Eco Friendly Promotional Products

This Ultimate Guide to Eco Friendly Promotional Products provides our current understanding and thinking. It will be updated on an ongoing basis I’m sure!

Eco Friendly Promotional Products is a product category that has been available through the last decade. But with an explosion of consciousness & awareness demand is sky rocketing.

The difficulty is the complexity and confusion over making the right choices.

The Confusion starts here...!

Eco Friendly Promotional Products covers a multitude of interconnected factors, often in conflict, consideration needs to be given to:

  • Raw Materials
  • Production – energy, water usage
  • Country of Manufacture
  • Factory credentials
  • Transportation
  • Packaging
  • Longevity of product
  • Re-usability
  • Life Cycle Analysis – End of Life & Recycling

This quite literally is the conundrum that a marketer is facing. To meet a company’s CSR policy of buying eco friendly and ethically produced products.

Is the Bamboo pen, made in China, shipped to the UK better than a virgin plastic pen made in Germany or Spain? Obvious? No!

It is the same for Supermarkets and sectors across all business, there is a current rush to avoid plastic. Environmental think tank the Green Alliance has recently commented: “companies are on the verge of switching from plastics to materials with a greater environmental impact because of plastic pressure.”

Raw Materials

Working alongside one of our preferred suppliers they created the following list of raw materials found in the promotional products they sell. With those raw materials considered greenest at the top working its way down to the least.

Image shows a list of raw materials that make up promotional products in order of how green thought to be

The highlights for me were, Natural Bamboo versus Processed Bamboo, and while it was no surprise that plastics (Polypropylene and ABS) were below metals, paper and wood, obviously Bio Plastic propping up the list was a big surprise.

Processed Bamboo

I will write a separate blog post about the benefits of bamboo. In short it is the perfect eco friendly plant. It is fast growing, absorbs more CO2 than other trees/plants. It grows naturally pesticide free, and requires no irrigation and prevents soil erosion.

So as a raw material it is close to perfect.

However, there are very few products which are pure Natural bamboo. Products such as a Bamboo pen, a Bamboo cup are made from Bamboo fibres and processed with plasticizers. Effectively creating a plastic product that will conform to a mould thereby creating a pen or a cup.

So while the inputs are better than a raw plastic product, essentially these products are plastic. They will not compost or biodegrade as some assume. They will breakdown over a long period, just as virgin plastic eventually will. Either in landfill or they will be incinerated, unless they are recycled.

There is a further question in terms of footprint, is a processed bamboo product more or less energy efficient to manufacture? 

Bamboo absorbs a lot of CO2 in it’s growth, but how does the processing, manufacture in the Far East, transportation from China compare with an oil based virgin plastic product made in Europe?

Bio Plastic

This was a controversial one for me, in many sectors Bio or PLA is being pushed as a plastic solution. I find myself questioning the popularity of Bio Plastic. It is a material we have until now been promoting as an eco friendly solution and using ourselves for our own Printed Promotional Pens.

The problem with Bio Plastic or PLA, (polylactic acid) which is a vegetable-based plastic material commonly using sugar cane as the raw material is:

  • firstly this is farmland being used to create a plastic rather than feed humans or animals
  • the product is often marketed as being biodegradable in domestic compost conditions or being buried in the soil. The truth appears to be that PLA requires moisture and heat over 140F to begin to degrade and such compost conditions are very specific
  • No curbside collection facility is available for industrial compost
  • Lets say a pen or bottle reaches a waste sorting facility, what characteristics do these products show to say they are suitable for industrial composting should this option be available, they will be identified as plastic – landfill or incinerated.
  • Eco Friendly Promotional Products, branded merchandise, SWAG is by its nature over-printed with company logos using inks in order to create marketing materials. Do we want inks entering the food chain through industrial composting, i don’t think we do!
  • Bio Plastics are being promoted within the pen sector, if we ignore the printing inks above, how often will a pen be broken down to its component parts of ink refill + clip + spring (the non PLA plastic parts) and the PLA barrel so that only the PLA heads to compost? Not buying that one? me neither.

So having given raw material some consideration, let’s review the other interconnected factors.


Here we just need to consider & be mindful of the production processes that take our raw materials and turn them into product, raw materials + process + energy + transportation will all create a carbon footprint.

I am a humble Promotional Product salesman, I am not a chemist, physicist, biologist, materials or energy expert.

But I think I probably lean on the side that a European made pen from virgin plastics originating in a sustainable, renewable powered factory probably has a far lower carbon & environmental footprint than some “eco” offered alternatives.

But perception is everything, and consumers are wanting to be seen as doing something, something different, which isn’t necessarily the right thing!

Country of Manufacture

Above I asked, ” Is the Bamboo pen, (you now know made from Processed Bamboo) made in China, shipped to the UK, better than a virgin plastic pen made in Germany or Spain?”

It’s a current conundrum and the assumption is Bamboo, but as both will end their lives as plastic waste, I think the eco credentials for those Pen factories in Spain (Bic) and Germany (Senator) are probably better than those made in China.

So many interconnected factors & not often aligned who thought buying Eco Friendly Promotional Products was going to be easy!


From raw materials to transport of product to the UK, where it may be decorated, and then shipped on.

Unfortunately we don’t make pens in the UK (we do make pencils) but pens transported by road from Germany & Spain to the UK will have a lower Carbon footprint than those from China.

Is your eco friendly promotional product of interest available from a UK manufacturer? While pens are not an option you will be surprised how much UK made product is available, there are lots of drinkware options such as the Americano Takeaway Coffee Cups or the Sportsman Range of Bottles, UK product will be a later blog post.


Packaging of finished promotional products is under the spot light, as in all sectors, Amazon makes us very aware of the stupidity of box sizes and overuse of packaging, this is a consideration on top of the eco friendly product itself.

One such quick fix is the use of adhesive paper packing tape rather than petroleum based plastic tapes that we are all probably guilty of using. Paper tapes are biodegradable, recyclable and repulpable.

One Packaging dilemma which is causing a headache is poly bags. To protect printed merchandise in transit items are often cellophane bagged in order to prevent them rubbing against themselves and subsequently scratching the printed message.

This is necessary but with plastic being perceived as the devil’s work alternative packaging methods are being sought as the product has to be protected.

The trouble is the alternatives might have better PR spin, but for example a paper bag (recycled or not) is not necessarily the overall ‘green’ solution. Think trees, energy to recycle, water usage, comparative weight in transportation and subsequent energy / CO2 use etc etc.

It isn’t a simple answer to say find me an alternative to a plastic bag, but I fully understand the irony of eco friendly promotional products being delivered in plastic!

The simple answer is I believe that such bags can be recycled. They are cheap, efficient, low energy consuming and quite possibly therefore green when compared to other alternatives. If we dispose of correctly with a recycling collection depot that accepts carrier bags and plastic film then maybe we actually have the perfect solution already.

Is this a Guide...?

Yes, products are coming, sorry!

But I think it is really important to understand the interconnected factors that need your consideration before we assume that bamboo (for example) = green & good.

Green-washing is most definitely a thing.

A gesture towards “being green” may suffice, cheap cotton shopper bags instead of poly carrier bags for appearances for example. Or a deeper thinking may be what is required / wanted.

The 5 Rs of Eco Friendly Promotional Products

Some say there are 3, when you start to research there is any number you want that fit your narrative!

I’m going with:

  • Re-think
  • Reduce
  • Re-Use
  • Re-fill
  • Recycle


We are as a global society being forced to rethink. The way we travel, the way we shop, the food we eat, the energy we use, the energy we buy, the clothes we buy, the way we recycle etc etc.

The way we run our businesses, run our operations, use our marketing materials is all under question.

Eco Friendly Promotional Products, branded merchandise, SWAG has the potential to make incredible impacts and support new thinking, but is equally capable of producing a lot of cheap plastic tat with limited thinking.

Incredible impacts and support new thinking? Just consider the impact of the Bag 4 Life and massive reduction of single use carrier bags. Consider the current impact of re-usable promotional water bottles & take-away coffee cups. This industry at its best, creating desirable, retail inspired, useful products that promote your message.


Less cheap tat, more higher quality, retail inspired, useful products that add value to your brand, to your customer’s life and to the planet.


Such high-quality items that your customers can reuse again and again is far more sustainable than recycling old products into new ones. A well-chosen product that can be reused is the most favourable when it comes to its sustainable credentials, these are the products we wish to promote to the CSR marketer.


I’ve added re-fill as I want to introduce the idea of sending your clients re-fills for the printed promotional pens you give them, see below.


Current media chatter is promoting Reduce & Re-use in that order with recycling last, and for good reason, it encourages greater thought than “oh, it’s ok, this plastic widget can be recycled next week!”

Take such plastic recycling, the process of melting used plastics down to form new products releases harmful fumes into the environment and adversely affects air quality.

This process also produces carbon dioxide, so while we look to reduce waste and landfill we go and contribute to global warming instead!

To add to the problem, recycled plastics are invariably degraded by the process, a term referred to a ‘downcycling’.

In other words, recycled products are not suitable for the production of quality mouldings unless a significant amount of virgin polymer is added to this mix to restore some of its chemical characteristics.

What’s more, remelting recycled plastic products normally results in a totally unusable material that has to be incinerated or dumped in landfill & the challenge for waste plants is identifying & separating virgin plastics from recycled.

The Ultimate Guide to Eco Friendly Promotional Products!

Now that we have considered raw materials & other factors, & we know we want to buy useful products that have a longevity to them, let’s have a look at some of our ideas.

Hurrah, he’s got to the product bit!

I’m going to start with Four Product Categories – I will add more but it’s a starting point and we are more than happy to show you others outside of the narrative of this blog that will meet your specific brief.

  1. Pens
  2. Drinkware, water bottles & take-away cups
  3. Bags
  4. Clothing

Eco Friendly Pens

If we go in budget order for Ultimate Guide to Printed Eco-Friendly Printed Pens, then we would start at the fountain pen.

The Fountain Pen

The ultimate Pen 4 Life is the fountain pen, with refillable cartridge, the only waste is a glass pot of ink. While some schools are re-introducing this is sadly a bit niche for the merchandise sector but as a VIP gift there are lovely offerings from Cross, Parker, Waterman etc.

Parker Urban fountain pen

The Gift Pen

There is a wide range of pens then available in the £5.00 to £20.00 price point.

Metal ballpens or rollerballs, these pens are of such a high perceived value that they are unlikely to be thrown away and contribute to the waste problem, the user will always be inclined to order a refill from the stationery provider, WH Smiths on the high street, or Amazon.

These are not of course what you are thinking is the obvious Eco-Friendly printed promotional pen, but if your objective is to avoid pen waste then they should be. Re-use, Re-fill.

Promotional Gift Pens
Parker Jotter Stainless Steel Ballpen (PP-WH84), Sheaffer 100 Ballpen (PP-WI71), CROSS Coventry Ballpen (PP-YA13)

The lower cost pen

If we look at the Sub £1.00 budget we now will find the low cost, lower perceived value plastic pens and their new ‘Eco’ alternatives that we find ourselves discussing most in the eco-friendly pen category.

First off I would consider any of Dan’s recommendations when asked “if you can only sell 6 different pens, which would you choose?” His answers can be found here.

Again, not ‘Eco’ as such, but going back over the above messages, each of these pens is a nice quality pen for the budget of under £1.00 and all can be refilled.

Dan's Top 6 Printed Pens

Two Key Messages

The key two messages at this price point that we think are important:

  1. Refills are available
  2. Recycling is available Nation-wide through Terra Cycle, for any make of pen, for more information see here.

If you are a company providing pens to your clients and you are conscious of waste and perception then you can offer pen refills to your clients. Either steering them to a refill web site or alternatively encouraging customers to come back to you and asking for a refill.


Why not use as an email printed on the pen, wouldn’t it be great to know the individual wants to keep using your pen and makes contact? & by providing the refill you extend the effectiveness of your marketing materials.


Return, Replace, Recycle as an alternative solution, encourage your customers to return a used pen which you can either refill or recycle through Terracycle, and you can send the client a replacement pen

Eco-friendly Materials

I believe the jury is out as to the effectiveness of the alternative pen materials.

Recycled materials such as rPET where single use plastic water bottles have been recycled into pens is a good recycled option I think.

But for me the environmental benefits of creating plastic out of processed bamboo, Sugar Cane (PLA) or wheat are slightly unclear and I think it is important we understand what we are buying.

A Bamboo contour (other styles are available!) is a nice alternative to oil based plastic if we / the end user re-uses the pen, if it’s single use then it’s still a plastic pen that will be landfill or incinerated if someone does not use a service like Terracycle.

A Sugar Cane (PLA) pen is sold as a biodegradable pen. But I see no route to getting this product to a compost facility, no service where a pen is broken to its component parts, and I do not believe putting barrels with printed inks on them is a good idea to enter composting and subsequently the food chain.

Wheat plastic is a new entrant for 2020, the industry has gone mad for it! In the UK ‘wheat waste’, the stalk of the wheat plant is a valued commodity either for animal bedding or to be ploughed back into the fields as organic matter. Apparently in other countries it is considered a waste product, collecting it, transporting it and manufacturing it into plastic is apparently an environmental solution. I don’t know enough at this point to offer a judgement, but ultimately, end of life, this will still be plastic for landfill, incineration or hopefully recycling.

Perception wise however these ‘natural’ ingredients are easy to market as an eco-friendly solution, and the market place is filling up with them. 

Bic’s Media Clic Bio, Senator’s Bio Super Hit, or Skeye Bio ballpens are premium brands and cover different price points.

The Bamboo Contour is another (I feel better) alternative which as the Contour barrel shape has been the best selling pen of the past three years is probably a good choice! It’s a pen that I think lends itself to the encouragement of being refilled, and bamboo is the ultimately green plant.

As demand increases the product offerings is increasing exponentially, please contact the team for the latest materials, styles and shapes.

Recycled, PLA, Wheat, Bamboo

My favourite Eco-Friendly Pen!

Bic is a great company, the factory is environmentally friendly, all waste recycled, they use renewable energy to power the plant, and operate to ISO 14001 certification.

The Bic biro is obviously world famous and few write better.

The 4-in-1 provides 4 pens for the price of 1, I have replaced the refills to extend the life of the product as the Black & Blue run out before the red and the green. It’s my go to pen as the 4 colours make it so useful and when the mechanisms eventually break I will recycle with TerraCycle.

Eco Friendly Drinkware

Within drinkware there are two leading sub categories within the ‘Eco’ conversation at the moment:

  1. Alternatives to single use water bottles
  2. Alternatives to single use take-away coffee cup

Branded Water Bottles

Some say the branded water bottles are not necessarily ‘Eco’ in their own sense, just as many bags for life were not of an eco material. The ‘Eco’ category being the switch away from single use plastic.

However I would counter that these bottles are made from Stainless Steel, a fully recyclable material, so yes the raw materials are not eco, but it will certainly refll, reuse and at the end of life will recycle.

Now it has to be said that in comparison the raw material, energy, transportation etc of these products has far more impact on the environment initially than a single use plastic bottle.

These bottles will need to be used 50+ times (disclaimer, I haven’t found a researched figure to reference yet) to counter the single use plastic.

But the focus at the moment is less on whole life cycle analysis and all about plastic waste, which is making these a very popular product choice right now. But with that they need to be a good quality, they need to be desirable and they need to be used regularly in order that they serve their purpose and do good.

The below bottles are the number 1 shape that people just love, just as the Contour pen grabbed people’s preference as the pen of choice, these bottles are the shape that everyone seems to want to use.

From different sources we can supply 12 different colours of the Mood Bottle. Alternatively from a UK decorator we can supply from just 90 pieces – pantone matched EeVo-Therm bottles in satin, gloss or metallic finishes, and full colour printed from 30 pieces.

These are double walled (12 hours hot / 24 hours Cold) food grade Stainless Steel bottles, a metal that of course is durable, re-useable and at end of life recyclable.

Mood Bottle Range

Alternatives to single use Coffee Cups

Two leading alternatives to the single use take-away coffee cups that Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall so publicly called out as causing huge amounts of waste.

The Americano

UK made, available in 3 different sizes, with huge colour choices, screen-print or full colour decoration options we think this is a great product. It is plastic itself although recycled material as it becomes available is being added, and it is recyclable, but we feel this is a great Mug 4 Life just as the Bag 4 Life reduced carrier bag usage.

Americano Thermal Mug Range

Tulip Thermal Tumbler

Offering a non-plastic alternative the Tulip Thermal Tumbler is a food grade stainless steel option, 330ml capacity which is the same as a Cambridge printed ceramic mug. Pantone matched from 90 pieces, Full Colour (and infusion full wrap prints as below) from 30 pieces.

The Tulip tumbler has a clear spill-proof lid for use on the go. There are many many different styles of drinkware available, these are just two that are popular right now, do contact the team for more ideas, images, samples and/or our catalogue for inspiration.

Tulip Thermal Tumbler

Eco Friendly Bags

The Bag 4 Life has been around for a long time now and the need for anymore cotton shoppers must be questioned. The effectiveness of giving another cotton shopper as a promotional item, this is not going to be new or useful to the receiver and it’s life span & usage now limited.

But within this product category three highlights, there are many many alternatives, many materials, shapes & sizes and the team will be happy to help you find the perfect solution.

But for the purpose of this blog, two initial ideas:-

Newchurch rPET Tote Bag

If a tote bag is something that you need to provide exhibition materials or other items conveniently to your audience then the Newchurch has a good story.

This bag is a recycled 6.5oz Cotton Tote Shopper. The fabric used to manufacture this bag is 70% recycled cotton from off cuts and waste from a sheet manufacturer blended with 30% rPET polyester which is recycled fabric from plastic bottles, giving it extra structure.

It’s a really strong, tough bag as a result.

The supplier of these bags is also donating to who are focused on trying to erradicate plastic waste from the oceans and with the recycling of water bottles into the Newchurch it obviously makes a nice fit.

Newchurch rPET Tote Bag

The Boxley foldup backpack

The Boxley is a foldup backpack, made from 190T ripstop polyester, yes its polyester which is not an ‘eco’ product but it folds down into a pocket and opens up into a really strong backpack that will carry dinner and a bottle of wine home from the supermarket!

As such it makes for a really useful Bag4Life alternative, how often are these left in the boot of the car and a bit too bulky to carry on, but the Boxley fits in a coat pocket or a handbag and as such has become a firm favourite of the Sussex Promo team.

Boxly Foldup Backpack

Eco Friendly Clothing

Clothing is a huge topic, just to start cotton is a massive consumer of water, before farming, manufacturer, transport is taken into consideration.

Clothing is typically also farmed & manufactured in some of the poorest parts of the world.

As such it is important for those companies introducing CSR policies to ensure their clothing requirements come from fair, sustainable and eco-friendly sources.

The Neutral® brand

We believe the clothing brand Neutral® is the best fit for such companies.

Neutral® is premium quality apparel for men, women, kids and babies, manufactured and certified in accordance with the highest social, ethical and environmental standards in the world.

Defined and monitored by external organisations, the certificates guarantee that every Neutral® product is made with true regard for people and planet, from cotton field to final product.

Image shows the Neutral brand of clothing label and eco credentials

If you would like to know more about the clothing brand Neutral® then please contact the team, or review Neutral’s website first for an overview.

We can source all of the Neutral range of clothing and have it decorated & finished as is required by your brand.

This blog is first written in January 2020, it will be edited as new product ideas are released & new thinking is shared. The opinions are my own based on readings, industry dialogue and my own thinking of the Promotional Product marketplace. Comments below are welcome or you can contact me directly. For customers we hope this is helpful, for suppliers I would welcome your thoughts, ideas and inputs.

Thank you.

Andrew (01273 493618)

Eco Sense

Trying to make eco sense of sustainability

There is currently a mad rush to ditch all plastic as Sustainability becomes the buzz topic for the next decade. It seems some alternatives might not be such a good alternative. So as a starting point to try to make eco sense of sustainability let’s start with a jargon buster!

Let’s dive into some of the terms we’re hearing and that you might come across as you research eco friendly promotional products and beyond:

Promotional Product Raw Materials

Product Material Sustainable Credentials Sustainable Considerations
The Good and the Not So Good

Bioplastics are plastic-like materials made from natural sources like vegetable fats, oils, starches, straw, wood chips and sawdust. The Good

Made from natural materials which are renewable Does not contain toxic chemicals or compounds Biodegradable and compostable under the correct conditions

The Not So Good

There is A LOT more research needed on this material and its sustainability credentials.

A call for evidence was recently published by the UK government on the sustainability of bio-based and biodegradable plastic and they are now considering the responses.

At the moment, there is a question mark on whether this product is adding to the plastic issue or helping to solve it. Bioplastics are a product of farming and take up valuable capacity that could be used for growing much-needed food

Most types are not recyclable

Local authorities have no way of recycling bioplastic, meaning it will end up in landfill or being incinerated – causing further release of CO₂ and pollutants into the atmosphere. We contacted our local authority on this point and they have confirmed that bioplastic cannot be recycled. Their letter can be found here

Only some types of bioplastic are compostable and those that are require industrial composting facilities. They cannot be discarded in domestic compost bins

The use of compost can be compromised by any ink printed on the product, as this could pass into  the food chain


When recycling bioplastic pens, remove the refill and spring

Remove the ink from the product where possible

Remember that composting requires a set temperature In the promotions industry, we have mainly seen pens and bags made of this material

Printed pens and packaging should not be placed in composting bins as the print will contaminate the compost heap and, if the compost is used as fertiliser, contaminants will enter the food chain


Organic farming promotes ecological balance and biodiversity by not using harmful chemicals in the growing process.

There’s a long-standing joke that organic food is what your grandparents called food! That’s because we’ve become reliant on pesticides and chemical fertilisers to grow crops on a commercial scale.

The Good


Better taste

Contains high levels of antioxidants

The Not So Good

Organic farming requires more labour and higher production costs than pesticide-assisted farming, resulting in an expensive end product

It cannot produce enough food for the world’s population


Bamboo is a renewable natural product and the fastest growing plant on Earth. The Good

Naturally pest-resistant – requires no nasty pesticides!

Requires far less water than similar plants

Regrows to adult size in 3-5 years (it can grow 2 feet in 1 day!)

Absorbs 5 times more carbon dioxide than similar plants

Produces 35% more oxygen than similar plants

Bamboo fibres that make up the natural element of processed bamboo products reduce the amount of plastic required

The Not So Good

Some bamboo products use a chemical process to convert the material into the end product

Processed bamboo products only contain bamboo fibres and the rest is made up of polymer

Processed bamboo products cannot be recycled and must be put in a landfill or incinerated

Processed bamboo products cannot be composted


If the product is made from processed bamboo and is used to store food or liquid, it should have tests completed prior to use to ensure chemicals are not released when heated

Presently, we see products made from processed bamboo across our industry


Recycled materials are products made from discarded or no longer needed products or materials. The Good

This product will have been made up of one or more materials from an item previously used and no longer needed

The Not So Good

Product quality or colour can be impacted

There is no universal standard for accreditation


Trusting your supply chain is key here to ensuring the products are as described

Post-consumer recycled material is the best form of recycled product


Recyclable materials can be reused in order to make new materials. See Sustainable Considerations for “Recycled”

Plastic is made from non-renewable resources like fossil fuels to create a solid material.

The most popular plastics are:

PET: Polyethylene Terephthalate
PE-HD: High-density Polythene
PVC: polyvinyl chloride

PET plastic – Highly-recyclable material accepted by 94% of UK councils.

PE-HD: High-density Polythene – collected by 92% of UK councils. PVC: polyvinyl chloride – Not generally collected from households for recycling, which could explain why PVC use is in decline.

PE-LD: Low-density Polythene & PP: Polypropylene – Not generally collected for recycling, but mixed plastic recycling is expected to be under way within five years.

PS: Polystyrene – Not generally collected from households for recycling with the exception of some commercial polystyrene.

LDPE – Only recyclable at specialist facilities.

The Good

Cheap Strong & long lasting


Can be sterile

The Not So Good 


Impacts wildlife and marine life if not disposed of correctly

Takes up landfill space

Not all plastic can be recycled, so contact your local facility before attempting to recycle it

Plastic cannot be recycled an infinite number of times

Recyclability isn’t always clear or consistent


Contact your local authority

Plastic products have a long shelf life when made well

Reusable plastic products are still a great sustainable choice because they will not be thrown away, so choose wisely when buying plastic products

Wood A natural, renewable material commonly used in construction and product design. The Good 





Biodegradable in its raw state

The Not So Good

The use of wood in manufacturing contributes to deforestation, leading to loss of habitats and increased carbon emissions


Make sustainable choices by opting for FSC® certified or reclaimed wood

The EU has introduced legal measures to protect forests. Wood from outside the EU may have originated from endangered species and tends not be supported by replanting initiatives

Be aware that some wood treatments can compromise the biodegradability of the wood

Paper A versatile material made from pressed pulp fibres, commonly derived from wood sources. The Good



Usually derived from natural sources

Recycled paper production saves more energy than the production of virgin paper

The Not So Good

Directly contributes to deforestation

Toxic chemicals are used to recycle paper

When decomposing, paper releases a harmful greenhouse gas called methane

Paper production requires very large volumes of water


Always opt for paper from sustainable sources like the FSC®

Remember that paper is only recyclable when clean – it cannot be stained with grease, foodstuffs, paint or dirt

Be sure to remove any plastic wrapping from newspapers and magazines before recycling. This must be recycled separately

To determine if paper is recyclable, scrunch paper up. If it remains scrunched and doesn’t spring back, it is suitable for recycling.

Promotional Product Processes

Process Sustainable Credentials Sustainable Considerations
The Good and the Not So Good

A substance or product that is able to decompose by exposure to bacteria or other living organisms. The Good

Biodegradable products reduce carbon dioxide levels and greenhouse gas emissions

Break down naturally and don’t release harmful compounds when doing so

The Not So Good

Depend on certain weather conditions to break down properly

Do not decompose in water, so they won’t solve the issue of marine pollution


Remember they must be disposed of very specifically


A natural process in which microorganisms, bacteria and fungi break down organic matter into a nutrient-rich substance. The Good

Creates a natural, organic fertiliser

Reduces landfill waste

Improves soil health

The Not So Good

Not all compostable products are suitable for domestic compost bins

Compostable items cannot be placed with your standard recycling

Recycling Widely Recycled: can be recycled at 75% or more of UK facilities

Check Locally: recyclable at 20-75% of UK facilities

Not Yet Recycled: Recycled by less than 20% of UK facilities

The act of converting waste materials into new products to avoid sending the waste to landfill. The Good

Recycling ensures a secure supply chain by processing non-biodegradable plastics that are already in circulation and turning them into new products

Conserves valuable non-renewable resources

Reduces landfill waste

The Not So Good

Some areas do not have access to recycling facilities or simply can’t afford them, so are forced to use landfills as a cheaper alternative

Recycling and manufacturing products from recycled materials uses energy


Not all products that you might assume are recyclable are actually recyclable, so always check the symbols carefully

Renewable Energy Renewable energy works by harnessing power from renewable resources like sunlight, wind, rain, and tides so that we’re not relying on depleting or damaging sources. The Good

Sustainable and abundant

Takes advantage of power that would otherwise go to waste

Low-maintenance systems

The Not So Good

Can result in air pollution

Requires a lot of energy to produce

Can be dependent on seasons

Popular Accreditations

Name What the Accreditation Stands For

Forest Stewardship Council Any product that is FSC® Certified has met the environmental and social requirements of the council.

This makes FSC® paper and card a great option for sustainability, as the organisation ensures that all wood harvested for use is replaced to protect against deforestation.

Choosing FSC® products also guarantees that certain sections of forests and woodlands are left completely intact to protect wildlife and their habitats. All products can be traced from store to source.

Fair Trade

The symbol of a person triumphantly raising one hand in the air means better pay and trading standards for producers in developing countries.
ISO14001 ISO14001 is the international standard that specifies requirements for an effective environmental management system (EMS). It provides a framework that an organisation can follow, rather than establishing environmental performance requirements.

Some Eco Terms in Promotional Products

Biodiversity: the level and variation of life in a particular environment. High biodiversity means that plant and animal life is thriving, while low biodiversity suggests that only a small amount of natural life is supported.

Bioaccumulation: the accumulation of materials within an organism. Over time, chemicals and pesticides build up in certain organisms – often at a much faster rate than the organism can get rid of those substances…

Carbon Emissions: released when fossil fuels are burnt, causing harmful greenhouse gasses to be released into the atmosphere.

Carbon Footprint: determined by the amount of carbon
dioxide a person, product or organisation emits.

Climate Change: climate patterns caused by an increase in carbon dioxide. This has a knock-on effect on the environment and causes global temperatures to rise, leading to the shrinking of glaciers and disruptions to natural habitats.

Corporate Responsibility: In terms of eco-sustainability, corporate
responsibility refers to the self-regulated goals of a company or
organisation to reduce their carbon footprint and adopt sustainable
business practices regarding use of materials and managing waste.

Deforestation: the removal of trees from forest areas to make room for other things that certainly aren’t forests… When deforestation occurs, habitats are lost, and greenhouse gases are increased.

Eco: an umbrella term for anything that is beneficial for the environment. It also refers to any product or practice that is less
harmful than non-eco alternatives.

Global Warming: the warming up of the planet over time as a result of greenhouse gas emissions and carbon dioxide.

Greenhouse Effect: gases in the Earth’s atmosphere trap heat from the Sun, causing the Earth to get hotter. This process is similar to the
heat-trapping phenomenon experienced with actual greenhouses.

Greenwashing: This relatively new term that suggests that an
environmental claim is misleading and has just been made in order to make the manufacturer appear to care about the planet.

Sustainable: we’ve come full circle in our discussion of sustainability jargon. The word itself means maintaining something at a certain level, so in terms of the Earth, we want to make sure we are using processes and materials that we can continue to use over a long period of time in order to cause as little damage to the environment as possible.

Eco Sense Us & Community

Planting trees with Trees for Life

Update Dec 2019: Trees planted to date 549

Trees for Life is Scotland’s leading conservation volunteering charity. Founded in 1989, the vision is to restore Scotland’s ancient Caledonian Forest to the Scottish Highlands.

Trees for Life plant trees and restore wetland habitats on land which is intended for permanent forest restoration. Planting sites include Corrimony RSPB Reserve, Glen Affric National Nature Reserve, and land owned by Forestry Commission Scotland and National Trust for Scotland. In 2008, they purchased Dundreggan, an area of 10,000 acres of wild land near Loch Ness, to expand the forest restoration work. Almost all tree planting is carried out by volunteers, connecting people with Scotland’s nature whilst helping to ensure its future conservation.

The Sussex Promotions Grove

In 2007, Sussex Promotions started a Corporate Grove with Trees for Life, funding a total of 178 trees. The trees for the grove were planted by conservation volunteers at the Corrimony RSPB Reserve near Glen Affric. The grove comprises of native species, mainly Scots pine and birch with a mix of eared willow, alder and rowan, planted in natural distribution patterns. Once they reach seed-bearing age, natural regeneration will expand these trees into rich and diverse woodland which offers maximum benefits for biodiversity.

Progress at Corrimony

Corrimony was acquired by the RSPB to restore native Caledonian pinewood habitats to benefit rare birds, particularly black grouse, It consists of an upland site of 3,828 acres situated just over 20 miles south-west of Inverness. The reserve lies close to the Glen Affric National Nature Reserve and Dundreggan Estate. There are a number of habitats on the reserve including bog, heath, semi-natural birchwood and plantation woodland.

The intention of the management plan is to return around half of the reserve to native pinewood through a combination of active tree planting and natural regeneration, and to restore wetlands. Since forests and wetlands are both important carbon sinks, this conservation work will help to have a positive impact on climate change.

Since 1999, Trees for Life has worked in partnership with the RSPB to plant over 100,000 trees at Corrimony, including the Sussex Promotions Grove. Other conservation work has included removing non-native species and restoring the reserves mires and bog pools. As a result of expanded and improved habitat, the number of male black grouse has increased from 16 to 53. Surveys are also being carried out at Corrimony by Forest Research to monitor the effectiveness of the reserve for woodland carbon sequestration.

Why this conservation work is so important

The ancient Caledonian Forest once covered 3.7 million acres of the Highlands. It was Scotland’s equivalent of the rainforest, but has been reduced to just a tiny fraction of its former range. Most of the surviving forests now consist of old trees reaching the end of their lifespan, with no new trees replacing them because of grazing pressure from deer and sheep. As a result, many forest-dependent species are at risk of extinction in the UK.

Trees for Life plants trees in a target area of 1,000 square miles of mountains and glens to the west of Inverness. This work helps to expand and link native Caledonian pinewoods, creating a balanced healthy ecosystem where wildlife can roam freely again.

Planting trees and restoring wetlands makes a valuable contribution towards addressing the issue of global warming and gives our natural world the chance to adapt to climate change.

Trees for Life planted its one millionth tree in May 2012 and is now heading to 2 Million.

Eco Sense Merchandise

Love Island’s Personalised Water Bottles are this summer’s must have.

From the Gululu water bottle that uses the old idea of the Tamagochi virtual friend to the buzz around the personalised water bottles on Love Island, it looks like water bottles are the must have promotional products accessory of the summer.

I’m not watching Love Island, honest 😉 my sons are!

Personalised Water Bottles

Love Island seems to have seized the public imagination like never before this year, and is inescapable on social media where the ins and outs of the relationships on the dating reality show seem to be always trending. However, what seems to have really caught the imagination of twitter users is not the sexual shenanigans but the water bottle from which the uniformly attractive daters drink.

Like Coke’s hugely successful ‘share a Coke’ campaign, these personalised water bottles have become an absolute must have and are selling through the show’s accompanying app for £15 each. It’s a price the show’s legion of fans seem more than happy to pay. The bottles themselves are unremarkable, but it’s all about the personalisation and the close identification with the show.

Exactly like the successful Coke campaign, Love Island is targeted squarely at teens and Millennials and the personalised water bottles act on the idea that, in the Age of You, such personalisation is completely irresistible. However ironic the interest in Love Island and its personalised water bottles may be, the interest they have generated serves to give viewers their own little piece of the brand.

Image of the Love Island bottle within the TV show's bespoke App store.

Make a Friend

Where the Love Island works on teens and Millennials who want a piece of the island lifestyle through a personalised accessory, the Gululu is aimed squarely at younger children who may not drink enough water, which can lead to cognitive impairment and poor health. Trying to persuade your offspring to stay hydrated can be a struggle for any parent – research shows that around 50% of children and young people don’t drink enough liquid – but a bottle that helps an animated pet to grow is sure to help.

It works like this: your child chooses a virtual pet from the Gululu website and as they drink from their water bottle, their pet develops becoming a proper companion and expressing a range of emotions from sadness and loneliness to happiness. The more often your child remembers to drink, the happier their virtual friend will be.

And the application of technology doesn’t stop there. Kids can shake their bottles together to make their Gululu friends pals with each other, while parents can track water intake on the smartphone app. To put it simply, Gululu just might be the tech savvy way to encourage your child to make good health choices.

Summer Fun

There’s no doubt that focusing your summer advertising campaigns around a promotional water bottle is a smart move, because when the thermometer climbs everybody needs water. Therefore providing your customers with reusable water bottles will create a positive connection and lasting memory because you’ve fulfilled a need.

Branded water bottles give you a substantial space on which to print your logo on a promotional product that everyone will be happy to have in the summer. They also have an extraordinary reach, being useful for both the office and for leisure activities like going to the gym or a day at the beach.

Image of the Tutti Frutti personalised water bottles range available for branding by companies by Sussex Promotions
The Tutti Frutti water bottle available in white plus four alternative base colours with a company logo or message printed

Expand Your Brand Awareness

The number of impressions your branded water bottle will make notwithstanding, the water bottle is an exceptional promotional product because it’s eye catching and functional and will help to drive the message that your company promotes healthy choices.

The range of events for which you can use water bottles is endless and there’s a style to suit every budget, from metal bottles to BPA free plastic bottles that come in a wide range of colours – and many resemble the much sought after Love Island model.

We have a wide range of shapes, styles, materials and colours – the catalogue collection can be found here.

Though not as inexpensive as a branded pen, a logo water bottle plays into the exclusivity of the personalised bottle and its sheer usefulness makes it a must have in hot weather.

Stay Safe in the Sun

Of course staying adequately hydrated in the summer isn’t the only safety precaution you need to take, and if you want to take the water bottle one step further you could put together a ‘summer sun safety kit’ for favoured customers, top employees or even as a prize in a social media contest. Alongside the branded water bottle you could include branded sunscreen to protect the skin, sunglasses for the eyes and a large logo golf umbrella to act as a sunshade.

Putting together this kind of a pack – you could also include a first aid kit and a safety whistle – not only shows your appreciation for clients and employees but puts your brand out there wherever people are having fun. And when the recipients apply lotion or slip on their shades they’ll be creating favourable impressions of your brand with a product that never seems to go out of style.

Drinkware is one of our favourite product categories from printed mugs, branded sport bottles, thermal mugs and cups – they make great gifts and due to their usefulness they generate massive impressions of your brand every day with your target audience.

Please do contact the sales team for quotes and visuals of promotional drinkware for your next campaign this summer.

Eco Sense

The Grass is Greener and more sustainable with eco promotional products

Wimbledon Tennis walks the talk in sustainability and hosting an eco-friendly tennis tournament, lessons for all of us intersted in eco promotional products.

It’s that time of the year again, when men and women in pristine white take to the impeccable emerald turf of Wimbledon. During this Wimbledon fortnight a whopping 28,000 kg of strawberries will be consumed, with a fair proportion being provided by a nearby urban farm that lies 179 steps beneath street level in a disused WWII bomb shelter at Clapham Common Underground station.

This is not the first time that Wimbledon has taken steps towards sustainability – in 2016 the 12,000 kgs of smoked and poached salmon and over 16,000 portions of fish and chips came from sustainable Fish Cities. The point is that Wimbledon understand that linking their prestigious name with sustainability is a smart way to position the tournament as being as green as its tennis courts.

By choosing eco promotional products for your next promotion, you’ll be contributing towards sustainability whilst boosting brand recognition in a way that consumers particularly appreciate. However, because promotional products have such a long lifespan it’s important to think carefully about the impression that your giveaways create.

Match Your Promotional Products to Your Sustainability Goals

Try and choose products that support your sustainability goals and initiatives. For example, if your organisation has a waste reduction target, then use promotional items that are reusable, like eco-cotton tote bags. If recycling is a key goal then select items created through recycling.

Think about distribution routes for your promotional items that help to reflect and support your sustainability goals. You could distribute recycled bags to supporters of your charity fundraising efforts, include them in direct mailers and use them to deliver food to the local foodbank.

What Does ‘Green’ Mean Anyway?

Green doesn’t always mean what you think it means, and the level of recycled products in an item can be astonishingly low. It’s always worth talking to your supplier to see how much information they can give you in order to make the most eco-friendly choice available.

If sustainable promotional items are going to form a central plank of your company’s promotions, then acquaint yourself with what ‘green’ terms mean. What’s the difference between ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘organic’? And which one is the best fit for your business? Some research at the buying stage can avoid embarrassing issues later.

Take the Holistic Approach to Sustainability

Sustainability is about more than just the products themselves but the entire lifecycle, including manufacture, packaging and delivery methods. If you want to aim for an end to end green campaign, don’t use environmentally unfriendly packaging methods. Aim for FSC or similar approved paper and water based, environmentally friendly inks, and even consider the parcel tape being applied.

If you want your recipients to know that you’re making a serious commitment to sustainability, then looking at the end to end greening of your campaign creates a great impression. Make sure your customers are aware of the environmentally responsible steps you’ve taken and promote your promotional products.

Encouraging all your coffee loving customers to take their reuseable Americano cups to the local barista, not only will the they get a discount but the planet has one less single use cup a deal to deal with!

Image shows a great example of eco promotional products - a branded Americano re-useable take-away coffee cup
Eco Promotional Products: The Full Colour Wrap Printed Americano Take-away mug

Match Perception and Execution

Eco promotional products convey a high perceived value which will boost your brand image without costing the earth. However, promotional items like eco friendly USB drives and powerbanks will continue to be highly prized and convey a particularly positive message about your company. If you want your organisation to be thought of as innovative and forward thinking, then using innovative products to reflect that is savvy marketing.

Be Transparent

The public are notoriously astute at sniffing out inauthenticity, especially when it comes to a marketing campaign. Do your research and source ethically and your use of green promotional items will be seen as a seamless integration with your organisation’s goals and targets. But be honest about where you are on your green journey, and turn a weakness to an advantage by creating a strong, green narrative that clearly outlines the steps you are taking. Savvy consumers are quick to spot ‘greenwashing’, so don’t hype achievements that don’t exist.

Something for Everyone

The good news is that there’s an eco-friendly promotional item for every recipient that will help you to boost brand recognition while sending a clear message about your environmental awareness. Even if your organisation isn’t showcasing a particular commitment to sustainability through working towards a set goal, you can show your customers that you care enough to make an eco-friendly choice.

For the office, products created from hypoallergenic and environmentally friendly bamboo are increasingly popular, as are journals created from FSC certified or recycled paper. And never neglect the humble printed pen – biodegradable writing instruments, or those created from recycled materials send a very powerful message about leaving a mark without making a mark on the environment. Whatever the products you choose you’ll create positive brand associations.

For the gym, eco-friendly water bottles are a great way of promoting a health and fitness business with the message that you take care of the environment as well as mind, body and general wellbeing.

For the great outdoors, T-shirts, fleeces and caps made from organic cotton, bamboo or recycled materials are one of the most appreciated of all giveaways. They send a strong message about your commitment to sustainability while creating hundreds of impressions when worn repeatedly by satisfied recipients, because green looks good on everybody. Add a recycled or organic tote bag and you create a perfect promotional giveaway that is functional and practical and adds value for your recipients. They’ll find it useful enough to use repeatedly and you’ll reap the benefit of repeated impressions.

Game, Set and Match

Whatever the occasion that you choose to promote with promotional items, be that giving away branded tennis balls to celebrate Wimbledon, or printed water bottles that recipients can take on court or out on their bike, promotional items are an excellent strategic marketing tool. Even the branded pen allows you to significantly boost brand recognition through low cost per impression items. Make those items eco-friendly and you’ll showcase your commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility – a very powerful message that’s win-win, or game, set and match for any business.

The team at Sussex Promotions are proud to be preferred distributors for the Green & Good range of ethical & eco promotional products, please call the sales team on 01273 493618 and talk with one of our promotional product experts for more information.