Zero-Waste Approach to Branded Merch


Zero-Waste – More than a trend

How much of the branded merch you create for your company is actually used by the recipient? Does it end up becoming ‘brandfill’, thrown out or passed on to a second-hand store? It doesn’t have any marketing benefit (or eco-benefits) to your company in a landfill or tossed in a donation pile.

The best way to help ensure that your giveaways and gifts are used is to take a zero-waste approach to branded merch. Looking for more eco-friendly, durable or higher quality gifts ensures people are likely to use rather than throw away your merch. Zero-waste in the promotional products industry can also mean using your budget for custom merch on items that encourage re-use so your staff and clients can reduce their own footprint.

Here’s our quick guide to being more conscious of your branded merch investments and choosing items that align with zero-waste goals.

What is Zero Waste

Zero waste is about changing our habits and product consumption to reuse as much as possible. It’s about changing how materials flow through our society and produce no waste. The first step is to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Zero waste initiatives aim to take that further to achieve zero waste.

When properly implemented, a zero-waste system means less pollution and reduced costs for raw materials. It ends up being great for our environment and our bank accounts.

When we use the term zero waste in the mech industry, we’re talking about finding ways to more responsibly use branded merch so that it’s not thrown away. It’s also about sourcing products that can be responsibly recycled or reused when it’s no longer useful.

Miir Branded Water Bottles
Miir reusable bottles are designed beautifully and built to last.

Be mindful of how much you buy

There are many options when it comes to branded merch. To help you narrow your options, we suggest being mindful of what and how much you decide to buy to avoid wastage. For example, does your small 5-person business really need 5000 branded pens?

Instead of purchasing large quantities of cheaply built and priced merch that people end up throwing away anyway, we suggest investing the same budget on fewer but higher-end products. Most companies will hand out one-time use branded merch at tradeshows. But, what if you selected a few key prospects from your show and gifted them an eco-friendly bamboo cutlery set and travel bag or a polo shirt made from rPET (fabric fibres made from recycled plastic bottles) fibres instead? That’s more valuable from a marketing perspective and contributes to less waste.

everywhere sustainable clothing
Everywhere prevents tonnes of clothing from ending up in landfills and provides us with the most sustainable tee’s.

Use merch that promotes lowering your eco-footprint

One of the best ways to promote zero-waste gifts for business prospects is to get branded merch made from items that people will actually use rather than throw away, which supports lowering our eco-footprint.

This means merch that is reusable (not one-time-use) or is made from recycled or eco-friendly materials. Here’s some great inspiration:

Reusable Cutlery
One-time-use cutlery creates significant waste in our landfills. What if we all carried a set of reusable cutlery in our bags. These travel-sized cutlery sets are often made of eco-friendly materials like bamboo and come in handy carrying bags or hard side cases to protect them.

Reusable Straws
Our company is based in Vancouver, Canada, and our city has already banned plastic straws, forcing beverage and fast food retailers to turn to paper straws, which many find unappealing. We’ve seen many community neighbours bring their own stainless steel or silicone straws.

From a branding perspective, it’s easy to brand a carrying case for reusable straws with your logo and colours. Some reusable straw kits come with a small cleaning brush too. This is a gift that your recipients can get lots of use from.

Reusable Lunch Bags
It’s no longer cool to “brown bag it” for lunch. More and more people are turning to reusable lunch and snack bags, and we’ve seen some great lightweight bags made of sustainable cotton, neoprene, and rPET. They’re also made with velcro, snaps, and zippers.

(What is rPET? This is plastic made from old plastic bottles that have been cut into tiny pieces and re-melted into fibres used to make fabrics. It uses 50% less energy than manufacturing with PET plastic.)

Tiffins and Takeout containers
When a fabric snack bag isn’t enough, you may need a stronger container for your foods. Food containers made from durable glass, ceramic, stainless steel, and bamboo make for great higher-end branded merchandise that your recipients will get good use of for years to come. Wheat straw is also a material growing in popularity for food containers.

Mesh Produce Bags
Have you ever struggled to open those plastic bags in the produce department? It sometimes feels near impossible. Offer your prospects a reusable mesh produce bag, and they’ll never have to face that struggle again. And, every time they fill up on their apples, carrots, or bok choi, they’ll see your name and think of you.

Shopping bags
Many cities are starting to ban plastic shopping bags, making us so happy because they’re so wasteful. Instead, people turn to reusable shopping bags and totes for their groceries. You can put your logo on a cotton tote or drawstring bag. There is also a great “Tuck and Toss Nylon bag” that folds small enough to fit inside a purse or store in a glove compartment. That is the ultimate convenience!

Drinkware is a popular mid-range branded merch item. Because it’s reusable, we’ve included it in this zero-waste round-up. Stainless steel makes a durable mug, tumbler, or cold cup. You could also get one made from lightweight bamboo or other recycled plastic and post-consumer products.

Zero Waste Starter Kits
Merch is excellent for new employees too. Show them how much your company cares about limiting its eco-footprint by gifting new employees a welcome kit with branded eco-friendly merchandise.

Zero-Waste Magazine
Updated for 2022 – Check out your zero-waste must-haves.

Our ethical guide to better-for-you merch

When you’re trying to avoid buying that nasty “swag” merch that so many companies peddle at trade shows, here are some ideas for you:

Avoid the swag: Consider doing more experiential giveaways like a photo booth, event tickets, food, movie tickets, repair stations, or something that uniquely matches your brand and messaging. Be creative!

Upcycle or reuse: Look for opportunities that don’t require buying something new. Perhaps you could decorate water bottles or screenprint on items people already own.

Look for useful and ethical: Sometimes, finding 100% recycled or zero-waste merch doesn’t give you what you need. If you must buy “new” products, look for ethically made ones that are actually useful. For example, pens are a useful item and can even be made from eco-sourced materials.

Avoid useless: We’ve all picked these up at events and throw them away when we get home. Items like fidget spinners, foam fingers, and slap bracelets provide your company little value because the recipient won’t hold on to them for long.

Finally, don’t forget that eco-conscious and ethical products are what we specialize in at Fairware. Check out our Zero Waste Lookbook for more ideas and inspiration.