Go Green (or Go Home)!
DON'T LOOK NOW, but—POOF!—the promotional products industry just went green. Green meaning, of course, eco-friendly—not violently seasick, uncontrollably jealous or oddly monochromatic. No longer is saving the earth simply a topic for college campuses and backstreet beat coffee shops. The environmental sloganeering has been replaced by actual conversation—which, it should be pointed out, never would have happened without the sloganeering—as big businesses wake up to the natural world around them. Suppliers and distributors are singing a new tune that is friendly to everyone’s ears. More importantly, end-users are purchasing environmentally responsible products and supporting conservational business practices. Even if they don’t realize it, or don’t want to admit it, consumers of promotional products are getting greener by the minute.
In addition to the hybrid car and ethanol push, General Electric, Wal-Mart and British Petroleum all have major environmental initiatives underway. And our industry is no exception; suppliers and distributors alike are implementing some unique programs and creating innovative products that do as much to keep the green movement going as the giant monoliths of corporate America. These industry businesses can be seen as shining examples of simple ways to get involved while improving the bottom line.
SOLIO—USING THE SUN TO POWER YOUR CELL PHONE
At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be much that is revolutionary about a solar cell phone charger, but oh how looks can be deceiving. Made by Better Energy Systems of Berkeley, Calif., the Solio, a universal, portable hybrid charger, is truly a step (or two) above. With its unique three-blade design and recycled plastic shell, the Solio eliminates the need for “old-fashioned” wall chargers by collecting and storing solar energy. Then, once the item is imprinted with a company’s logo, end-users simply can plug in a wide array of portable devices, such as cell phones, MP3 players, digital cameras and PDAs. For those in gloomier climates such as Seattle, have no fear—Solio also comes with a wall charger in case the sun doesn’t shine for some time. While it provides a cutting-edge electronic device (and turns other electronic items carbon-negative), the true benefit of the Solio may be the effect it has on its users. The company doesn’t want simply to provide portable electricity: It wants to change the way people think about the environment. “It’s putting renewable energy in people’s hands in a very personal, renewable way,” said Mike Levin, business development manager at Better Energy Systems. “It’s one thing to put [solar panels] on your roof. It’s another thing to put them in your hand where you use them every single day.” Furthermore, by making solar technology part of the everyday experience, Solio is seeing its users make environmental steps in other areas. “Our research has found that our users are making other environmentally conscious decisions,” added Levin. “We want to break down the barriers of environmental responsibility so people don’t have to make these huge leaps in terms of behavior.” In the end though, the makers of Solio know it isn’t enough to provide a product both perfect for imprinting and environmentally flashy with its green-ness; they need to provide distributors with a device that performs well and stands the test of time. Which they seem to have accomplished.