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Plants from Pencils for Holidays

22 Oct

From Sprout email this morning.

Just one single plantable pencil can make a corporate gift stand out?

It’s true. We know it due to all the feedback we receive every year around Christmas from our company clients. Keep it coming, we love to hear from you.

It seems that both employees, partners or clients get surprised when they see the Sprout pencil. It’s such a strong conversation starter. It’s something to remember. It’s a gift that gives back.

You can customize both pencil and single card or get your order faster and choose our standard design.

Learn more about Sprout at

If you are interested in Sprout products to promote your own business, or if you wish to see some samples, email for information and pricing.

And as always, if you really want to do something sustainable, do not buy promotional products. All products are consumption at one level or another. So if you must buy, 1) Buy local (i.e. made in USA), 2) Buy useful, long lasting items, 3) Buy sustainable/recycled/recyclable products if possible.

The United States Playing Card Company

4 Feb

Do you play cards?

Have you ever really looked at a deck? For the marketing world, I like to think about a deck of cards as 52 little billboards taking your message into the world.

And who has ever tossed away a set of cards? I was in a rental cabin in Northern Virginia once, that deck was missing an Ace, two 4s, and the Queen of Diamonds, and it was still there, being used as best we could.
greenPlaying cards simply make a great long-term marketing investment.

So with all the options out there, why choose to go with The United States Playing Card Company (aside from the totally boss name). Let’s take a look at the list.

Their cards have been made in the USA since 1885. Their cards are made from sustainable forest papers. They use a starch based-laminate, that is gentler on water use and the environment. They use vegetable-based inks, also better for the environment.

knobcreekAnd of course there is the fact that you likely have been already playing with these cards your entire life, seeing how The United States Playing Card Company is the maker of such universally recognized brands as BEE®, BICYCLE®, KEM®, AVIATOR® and HOYLE®.

Here is the pitch for playing cards direct from their website,”playing cards offer 56 instant and creative impressions for your message. Each card can deliver a different communication point, visual or fact that is representative of your overall brand and objective.”

With the option of an individual custom impression on the front and back of each card, playing cards make great tools for training (got to learn beginning Japanese, put a phase on each card),  product education (Toyota, each suit can be a car class; Trucks, Luxury, SUVs, and Sedans, with each card a different car model), tourism (come see North Carolina, here are 52 suggested locations), really, if you get creative, the marketing uses are nearly endless.

So let’s get creative 🙂

If you are interested custom cards to promote your business or organization, contact Proforma Green Marketing or email for information and pricing

And as always, if you really want to do something sustainable, do not buy promotional products. All products are consumption at one level or another. So if you must buy, 1) Buy local (i.e. made in USA), 2) Buy useful, long lasting items, 3) Buy sustainable if possible.

FDA Considers New Sunscreen Labeling Rules

29 Jun

Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI) sent this note out this afternoon. We are reprinting with links for our readers. We are also awaiting comment from Tom Whaley, CEO of Aloe Up Sun & Skin Care Products, one of the leaders in our industry for eco-friendly sun products.

FDA Considers New Sunscreen Labeling Rules

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering implementing new guidelines for retail and promotional sunscreen later this year, potentially updating standards that have been in place since 1978. As part of its proposals, the FDA is looking at stricter rules to prevent misleading labeling, while also developing a rating system to measure a sunscreen’s effectiveness against ultraviolet A rays. “The FDA has been talking about new labeling for sunscreen for a dozen years,” says Bijan Hosseini, president of HandsFree Sunscreen (asi/59523). “I do think a rating system would be effective because of the technology that exists today.”

If the current proposals become regulations, companies would be banned from using terms like “sunblock” and “all-day protection” on labels. The maximum sun protection factor (SPF) that a product could claim would be capped at 50+ and a multi-star ranking system would be established, with a one-star rated sunscreen offering the least protection and a four-star rated sunscreen offering the most. “I think you’ll see a move to improve formulas,” says Larry Wilhelm, CEO of Custom HBC (asi/47934). “Sunscreens will be updated to provide broader spectrum coverage. We’ve done that with our sunscreen over the last year in anticipation of these rules.”

Since 2007, when the latest proposals were first discussed, the FDA has received thousands of comments from companies, including large retailers that are lobbying for testing standards that would benefit their individual product lines. Within the promotional market, the real concern about the proposals relates to the scope of the enforcement. “The FDA is vigilant and very thorough,” says Mel Ellis, president of HumphreyLine (asi/62050). “The system for domestically sourced product is sophisticated. The problem is there’s no apparatus for international sourcing.”

Besides updating sunscreen guidelines, the FDA is also considering approving the use of Tinosorb M, a popular ingredient in sunscreens found in Europe. Tinosorb M and similar ingredients appear to be effective against ultraviolet A rays, which cause wrinkles and cancer. Compliant and improved sunscreen products could be on the American market by 2012, according to an FDA spokesman.

Kraft Paper Lunch Bag Setting New Standard

26 Jun

Claims that brown bagging can save money and improve health are more and more common these days, and many companies and schools are working on brown bag programs to assist their employees and students in both areas.

From the aspect of a green marketing solution brown bagging lunch cuts down on fuel (no need to drive away from office) and waste (most sit-down and fast food meals have a lot more paper/trash associated with each meal). For marketers working on brown bag lunch programs, the Cadillac of brown bags has arrived from Debco.

The TO7256 Kraft Paper Lunch Bag from Debco is a grown up version of the classic brown bag. To begin with the kraft paper is laminated onto non-woven polypropylene, the same material used for most grocery totes. Second, the bag has a foam insulated main compartment with silver colored liner. Lastly, each TO7256 Kraft Paper Lunch Bag comes with a hang tag listing its pro-environment properties. The TO7256 Kraft Paper Lunch Bag is easy to wipe inside and outside clean with damp cloth and even has an outside carry pouch.

EQP on these units is $3.30 with one color imprint. Not a bad price for a reusable lunch tote of this quality.

If you are interested in these items to promote your own business contact your local promotional items vendor or email for information and pricing.

If you are a promotional items distributor looking for more information contact Jeremy Rich at Debco.

Teslin® Substrate Equals Printing on Sand?

15 Jun

This is a guest post by John Simonetta, owner of Proforma Green Marketing, an eco-friendly promotional items consultancy (see John’s blogs are designed to keep us up to date on the “greening” of his industry.

Ever heard of Teslin?  I was helping a client with a run of key fobs, you know those customer loyaly cards that you place on your key rings, and noticed a curious link on the SSI website.

SSI Technologies boasts on their website that they are “the leading technology-based gift card manufacturer in the world”. That is likely very true as the work they produce is outstanding. Something the website does not particualry boast about is that SSI is using Teslin for many of their products, workhorse items of the promotional products industry like gift cards, library cards, loyalty cards, gaming cards, key tags.

And just what is Teslin and why is it considered an eco-friendly material?

Teslin is produced by PPG Industries and is used in many commercial, retail, and it seems, promotional items. The PPG website lists uses ranging from “specialty print, tag and label use, to technology-focused applications, such as e-Passports and radio frequency identification (RFID) cards and labels”.

Teslin is a non-toxic, non-cellulose, recyclable material that is 65% by weight inorganic filler (silica – derived from sand). In our industry I think of Teslin as a printable, durable material that is not plastic (no petroleum pollution)  and not paper (no trees destroyed).

The material is currently recycled in bulk to form items such as plastic lumber and industrial signs and according to the PPG datasheet, “incinerates in an atmosphere of excess oxygen to yield only water, CO2, energy, and a clean ash (from silica filler)”. If products made from Teslin do reach a landfill there is really nothing to leach into the groundwater, as the material is mainly sand and is free of heavy metals.

PPG does not give a lot of background on the manufacturing process of Teslin, saying only that “Teslin grades are manufactured under strict corporate guidelines for environmental compliance and waste minimization.” A vague enough statement that additional questions should likely be asked by Ecopreneurists looking to use this new material.

However on the whole Teslin seems to be one of the new materials like Repreve® recycled polyester that is slowly changing the way promotional items are produced.

To learn more about Teslin itself contact PPG. If you are ASI and interested in the full list of Teslin products offered by SSI Technologies, I suggest you email Jeff Ames. If you are interested in items printed on Teslin to promote your own business, contact your local promotional items vendor or email for information and pricing.

Organic Cotton Umbrellas From Stromberg

6 Jun

This is a guest post by John Simonetta, owner of Proforma Green Marketing, an eco-friendly promotional items consultancy (see John’s blogs are designed to keep us up to date on the “greening” of his industry.

Stromberg Brand has been selling umbrellas since 1942 and is recognised as a leading manufacturer of umbrellas for the promotional products industry.

This year Stromberg has entered the eco-friendly promotional products field with their first green umbrella, the Eco Umbrella – Automatic Folding #82ECO.

Stromberg is known for their quality products and imprinting – indeed Stromberg has won 3 Gold Medals for screen printing – and the Eco Umbrella does not disappoint for quality or craftsmanship.

The 46in  canopy of this automatic folder is made of 100% natural, 100% biodegradable cotton. The  steel shaft and frame are recyclable metals and the handles are made of wood instead of plastic. I would have liked to have seen an organic cotton canopy and bamboo instead of hardwood used for the handle, but all in all this is a very good first try from an industry leader.

At EQP $11.50 with one color imprint the Eco Umbrella is competitively priced to similar quality traditional umbrellas.  The umbrellas have a 7in x 7in good size imprint area, and come in Enviro Green, Black, and Natural.  As the name suggests this is a one touch automatic opening umbrella. A matching case, which can be imprinted, is included with each unit.

The umbrella might be an overlooked idea in the promotional items market, however it must be said that umbrellas offer a large, highly visable graphics area, and are practical as giveaways, since a quality umbrella is often an item that is held onto for years.

The ECO Umbrella would work well as a giveaway or even branding tool for Ecopreneurists working in the hotel and travel industries, as well as a nice item for corporate retreats. Good quality. Eco-materials (looking for better in 2011). Large imprint to cost ratio. Certainly worth a look.

To learn more about the long history at Stromberg and their reasoning for the ECO Umbrella, contact President Helen Stromberg. If you are interested in umbrellas to promote your own business, contact your local promotional items vendor or email for information and pricing.

Organic Cotton Sales Up 35% in 2009

1 Jun


2009 survey from the Organic Exchange (OE) reports that despite the 2009 global economic turndown “global retail sales of organic cotton apparel and home textile products reached an estimated $4.3 billion, representing a 35 percent increase from the estimated $3.2 billion market in 2008.” In addition the figure is little different from the 40 percent annual average growth rate for organic cotton sales for 2001 to 2009.

These numbers are for the total industry of organic cotton of which promotional shirts and totes are a minor, yet growing, segment. It is interesting therefor that Anvil Knitwear, a supplier of apparel to the promotional industry, made the list of top ten buyers.  The report names the largest buyers of organic cotton as C&A (Belgium), Nike, Inc. (Oregon, USA), Walmart (Arkansas, USA), Williams-Sonoma, Inc. (California, USA), H&M (Sweden), Anvil Knitwear (New York, USA), Greensource Organic Clothing Co. (Washington, USA), Levi Strauss & Co. (California, USA), Target (Minnesota, USA), adidas (Germany), and Nordstrom (Washington, USA).

What is the big take away for the ecopreneurist from the survey? First that “the continued rapid expansion of the global organic cotton market was driven in large measure by consumer interest in ‘green’ products”, meaning there is a strong, growing, consumer demand for eco-friendly items. Second “companies increasingly became certified to traceability standards such as the OE Blended or OE 100 standard,” meaning the industry and suppliers are getting better at using third party processes to show their items to be what they claim them to be.

As summer approaches the promotional products industry will kick into high gear for tee shirt sales. Festivals, concerts, family reunions, summer sports leagues, vacation destinations, all are big consumers of printed tees. For those ecopreneurists looking to make the swtich into an organic tee the AnvilOrganic® line is a good place to start.

The Anvil 420 AnvilOrganic® Tee is thought by many to be the the work horse of the industry when it comes to organic promotional shirts, and likely goes a long way towards Anvil’s ranking in the Organic Exchange (OE) survey. New for 2010 Anvil has added two ring spun organics to their line, the 490 AnvilOrganic® Ring Spun Tee and 498 Ladies AnvilOrganic® Ring Spun Tee. With their softer touch both ring spun units are sure to be crowd pleaser’s this year. All three shirts come in a number of colors, while it is the NATURAL non-dyed tees that really scream eco-friendly.

If you are looking for USA made organic shirts, Bayside Manufacturing located in Anaheim, California, is producing a line of organic tee shirts under the name BAYSIDE ORGANIC. The shirts are pre-shrunk and made in the USA from 100% USA certified organic cotton. These are the first USA made mass market organic cotton tee shirts that I have come across in the industry, and I am very happy to have found them. The standard 4200 Organic Tee comes in S-4XL with the 4280 Organic Juniors Crewneck running XS – 3XL. Both styles come in eight colors, Black, Ocean Blue, Olive Green, Chocolate, White, Natural, Charcoal, Navy and Yellow.

If you are in the business and have questions about these organic tees please visit the website listed above to contact the manufacturer directly. You might also look to buy from a broker such as Marc Seiler of Bodek & Rhodes. If you are interested in printed organic shirts to promote your own business or event, contact your local promotional items vendor or email for information and pricing.

Kanata Sport/Travel Blanket Now in ECO Fleece

18 May

Kanata Blanket is now offering their popular Sport/Travel blanket in ECO fleece material. The Kanata ECO fleece line is made from Repreve, a 100% recycled yarn avaible in filament polyester, filament nylon, or spun polyester. I have seen Repreve in more and more promotional items lately, and frankly I am very impressed with the material.

The Kanata Blanket Sport/Travel blanket in ECO fleece is another example of a well-established company in our industry moving towards a greater use of eco-friendly materials. Established in 1993 Kanata Blanket originally focused on a Heritage Collection of heirloom quality wool blankets. Kanata was also one of the first in our industry to offer the very popular premium fleece throws.

In their ECO fleece collection Kanata is now offering their ECO fleece Scarf, ECO fleece Blanket, and ECO fleece Sport/Travel blanket, all of which are a blend of virgin polyester and Repreve® recycled polyester. There is more detail on these items on the Kanata Blanket website.

For Ecopreneurists working on spring and summer marketing projects I think the ECO fleece Sport/Travel blanket with an EQP of $25.75 is the way to go. The ECO fleece Sport/Travel blanket is available in seven pantone dyed colors including Antique Blue (pantone # 647C), Black (pantone # 426C), Camel (pantone # 466C), Charcoal (pantone # 432C), Moss (pantone # 5753C), Red (pantone # 202C), and Navy (pantone # 296C).

The ECO fleece Sport/Travel blanket folds out to a full 50×60 in measure with branding options on both the slip cover and the body of the blanket. Branding options can be mixed and include embroidery, patches, and lasering.

Lasering is actually an option I had not heard of before, and is a unique way to decorate fleece by “burning” a logo onto the material itself. This enables “greater detail than embroidery with smaller detail being clearer. It also provides a clean backside to the fabric while also maintaining the integrity of the fabric. The logo will appear a shade or two darker than the actual fleece, providing a tone on tone appearance on darker colors”.

Blankets are rather personal items and I think the lasering option provides a more subtle branding option for the end user.

Ecopreneurists targeting the travel industry (airlines, trains, cruises) all might want to think about these items. Of course none of those industries are particularly known for being eco friendly, but maybe this item might be a small, small step in the right direction. Travel lodges and company trips are also great audience for these items, so HR director take note.

If you are in the business and have questions, Shirley Lee at Kanata Blanket is the contact to talk to. If you are interested in ECO fleece items to promote your own business, contact your local promotional items vendor or email for information and pricing.

Paper USB Drives Come to Market

14 May

This is a guest post by John Simonetta, owner of Proforma Green Marketing, an eco-friendly promotional items consultancy (see John’s blogs are designed to keep us up to date on the “greening” of his industry.

Recycled paper seems to be the latest eco-friendly material being used by flashdrive manufactures in the promotional products industry. The new USB 2.0 Recycled Paper Drive GP from All-In-One is a sample of these new bodies, and I have seen similar ideas from other manufacturers, including a tube style Papel Recycled Paper USB Flash Drive from Hirsch Gift.

The green case from flashdrives, regardless of their outter casing, goes like this: you can load a drive with a lot of data that would otherwise need to be printed out. It is cheaper and uses less resources to mail a 2 gram drive, than a 60 pound binder. And as a consumer electronic product, all drives sold by our industry are ROHS certified which means they are free of lead, cadmium, mercury, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyl (PBB) and polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants.

That the cases are made from recycled paper, bamboo or recycled plastic, is simply a plus. Lastly as a promotional product, flashdrives are great. People might erase their content, but most people will never throw away a flashdrive.

The USB 2.0 Recycled Paper Drive GP is available in memory sizes from 512MB – 8GB, with an imprint area on the drive body of 1 1/2”w x 1”h and on the cap of 1/2”w x 1”h. Having printing available in both locations is allows a smart artist to design images that utilize the full imprint area. Maybe an image with a person’s body on body of drive and face on the cap, maybe a design with a box that seems to “open” when the cap is removed. I don’t know, I am not a really smart designer, but others might use the space with more flourish.

Pricing on these drives changes nearly weekly, as flashdrive pricing is tied to the fluctuating cost of computer memory. Excepting your best price to memory ratio on 1GB and 2GB drives as those seem to be the most produced memory sizes. Currently the 1GB Papel Recycled Paper USB Flash Drive from Hirsch is running $11.85, 2GB for $12.45. All-in-One does not post pricing, I assume because of the constant fluctuations.

If you are in the business and have questions, Karen Cohen at All-in-One is the contact to talk to.  At Hirsch Gift ask for Robert De Veau. If you are interested in flash drives to promote your own business contact your local promotional items vendor or email for information and pricing.

Poly-Pak 400% Solution Bag

7 May

This is a guest post by John Simonetta, owner of Proforma Green Marketing, an eco-friendly promotional items consultancy (see John’s blogs are designed to keep us up to date on the “greening” of his industry.

Poly-Pak Industries has come out with a basic event tote they are calling the 400% solution bag. The bag is designed as an option to the more common poly-propylene bags that are just about everywhere in our industry. Don’t get me wrong, I like the reusable, #5 recyclable propylene bags. The problem, as we have learned and some readers have pointed out, it is very hard to locate a recycler that can actually recycle #5 bags. So #5 are still strong and reusable, but in reality, currently, not so recyclable.

Enter the 400% solution bag. Why the name? Because these bags are being marketed by Poly-Pak as 100% reusable, meeting all state and local US laws for re-usability, 100% recyclable, so drop in any collection bin, 100% degradable made with D2W degradable additive, and 100% economical at less than half the price of a non-woven bag.

The 400% solution bags have an enormous imprint area at nearly the full size of the this 18in x 20in x 4in bag. The 400% solution bags are offered in three handle styles, soft loop handle, patch handle, and fold over dye cut (so handle is cut into the material itself). With only a 4in gusset this is really not a shopping tote, but it is a excellent promotional or event bag, especially with that huge imprint area.

This is the first time I have come across the D2W degradable additive (see the D2W website for an explanation of this material). Basically this is an additive that does not weaken the bag but does allow it to break down, even if the bag simply becomes litter. From the D2W website, “The degradation process commences with any combination of heat, light and stresses acting as catalysts and affecting the speed with which it progresses. Once the process is initiated it will continue even in a landfill, if the plastics are caught in the branches of a tree or in a fence, or if they are under water.” Also adding D2W does not effect the recyclability of the material it is added to. Interesting.

Poly-Pak was the first company to bring this new D2W to my attention, and I am interested to see what the industry will do with this material moving forward. The 400% bags are actually so new they are not yet even listed on the Poly-Pak Industries website. Minimum runs on these bags start at 5,000 units at a cost normally less then same size nonwoven bag.

If you are an ASI member with questions Melissa Cantor at Ploy-Pak is the contact to talk to.  If you are interested in the 400% Solution bag to promote your own business contact your local promotional items vendor or email for information and pricing.

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