How to run eco-friendly print ads

  • Direct mail marketing
  • Environment
  • Printing tips and advice

Direct mail campaigns can be powerful marketing tools but there is a perception that they’re not so good for the environment. The reality is that their impact will be directly controlled by the people in charge of the campaign. The decisions that you make throughout will affect how eco-friendly your materials can be.

As a business, Pepper is committed to minimising our environmental impact. This means that we encourage our clients to execute their campaigns in the most sustainable ways possible. We’ve gathered some of our main tips together in this blog post.

Tip #1: Use sustainably sourced paper

A direct mail marketing campaign will inevitably use a lot of paper. If you’re running a big campaign, the amount of paper that you use could potentially be incredibly damaging to the environment. However, eco-friendly alternatives exist that allow your business to mitigate its environmental impact. Obtaining paper from sustainable sources is one of the best ways to ensure that your campaign is environmentally friendly.

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is a major organisation responsible for the conservation of forests around the world. Choosing a supplier with credentials from the FSC or a similar organisation will ensure that your campaign is not inadvertently funding deforestation and the exploitation of workers. Pepper is more than happy to print your materials on eco-friendly paper if you ask us to.

Tip #2: Use vegetable-based ink

The other major material required for the production of direct mail materials is ink. Unlike paper, ink isn’t known to be an environmentally damaging substance. However, it has the potential to be very harmful.

Standard printer ink is made from petroleum, a product of crude oil. Crude oil is a fossil fuel that the world has a limited supply of. Refining it to the point where it can be used in ink takes a lot of energy and creates harmful by-products.

What’s more, the finished ink can produce vapours of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can be harmful to both the ozone layer and humans that breathe them in. In small quantities it won’t make a significant impact but it’s the kind of damage that can build up over time. In large quantities it can be very dangerous.

Alternatives to traditional ink do exist. Again, Pepper is happy to source and use them for you. The alternative that we prefer is vegetable-based ink, which is created from natural, organic substances. This ink doesn’t damage the ozone layer, doesn’t release toxic fumes and doesn’t come from a diminishing fossil fuel supply. A further benefit is that it’s easier to wash off of paper than normal ink, making it easier to remove in the recycling process.

If you’re looking for ways to make your printed materials more eco-friendly, investing in vegetable-based ink is an excellent idea. When combined with sustainably sourced paper, it will make each flyer much more eco-friendly than it would have been otherwise.

Tip #3: Minimise waste from the campaign

Manufacturing your promotional materials from sustainable resources is one way to make your campaign more eco-friendly. Another is to place an emphasis on minimising waste at every point.

During the earliest planning stage of a new campaign you can take steps to minimise waste. If you’re granular with your targeting and focus on making the campaign as relevant as possible to its recipients you’ll be able to ensure that you’re printing just the right number of flyers. This means that you won’t be wasting any materials in manufacturing and your campaign should be better received by your target audience.

At the design and pre-press stage you can minimise waste by ensuring that all of your design files are optimised for the flyer size you’re printing on. Getting this right early on will reduce the risk of mistakes being made on the test run that would cause a whole batch of flyers to be thrown out. Pepper’s design team can help you to ensure that all of your design files are properly formatted before you go to print.

You can also reduce waste by removing out of date and irrelevant addresses from your list. Pepper’s data bureau helps to manage your data, ensuring that everyone on the list is the current resident at the address you’ve got down. This will prevent the flyers from being sent to addresses where your recorded resident is deceased, moved or absent for another reason. A good data set means your flyers will provide much more value for your audience, leading to less waste overall.

Tip #4: Encourage your recipients to recycle the flyers

Finally, at the end of the campaign you can complete the eco-friendly cycle by encouraging customers to recycle any part of the flyer they don’t need. If it contains a physical voucher they can cut that off and recycle the rest. Or, if it contains a specific URL to visit, encourage them to recycle the leaflet once they’re finished with its information.


It may seem counterintuitive to encourage your audience to recycle the flyer that your team has worked hard to design and distribute but doing so will increase the sustainability of your campaign and show your audience that your business is environmentally conscious. With a bit of thought you can phrase and present the message in a way that is positive and on-brand.

Doing everything that we’ve suggested above might seem unrealistic, especially if you’re new to print marketing. If you’re not sure how to go about making your planned campaign more eco-friendly, get in touch with the team at Pepper. We’ll be happy to discuss how to make your campaign a success for your business and for the environment.

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