Towards a Greener Catalog

From Greenbiz, an article, complete with case studies on Norm Thompson and Dell, about the costs and benefits of companies greening their consumer catalogs. Writer Deborah Fleischer aptly demonstrates how companies like these have enhanced their brand, differentiated themselves as “environmental leaders in the field,” and even saved money by insisting on recycled-content paper in their catalogs, and have even joined forces with environmental groups like Environmental Defense and the Forest Stewardship Council to promote greener catalogs.

I found this piece particularly interesting because it got me thinking about “next steps” businesses can take in displaying their products to consumers while achieving even greater environmental stewardship. First, I have to wonder if paper catalogs aren’t outdated to some degree, since the same thing can be done on the Web. Secondly, if the printed catalog is still a necessary marketing tool (and I’d love to hear some more informed discussion on this), are there ways to go beyond paper? I’m thinking particularly of the argument William McDonough and Michael Braungart make in Cradle to Cradle (affiliate link) about thinking more broadly in terms of materials and design. They demonstrate these concepts with the book itself:

In addition to describing the hopeful, nature-inspired design principles that are making industry both prosperous and sustainable, the book itself is a physical symbol of the changes to come. It is printed on a synthetic ‘paper,’ made from plastic resins and inorganic fillers, designed to look and feel like top quality paper while also being waterproof and rugged. And the book can be easily recycled in localities with systems to collect polypropylene, like that in yogurt containers. This ‘treeless’ book points the way toward the day when synthetic books, like many other products, can be used, recycled, and used again without losing any material qualityβ€”in cradle-to-cradle cycles. (link)

Is this kind of rethinking, going “beyond paper,” a possibility for catalogs and other forms of direct marketing? I know cost has to be a major issue…

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