Happy Earth Day: Go Green With Email

So we here at Return Path will readily admit to being biased toward the power and promise of email. But we don’t think it’s overstating the case to say that email can go a long way towards helping your efforts to be more green. So, in celebration of Earth Day today, we thought we’d share some cool ideas on how to save money and trees by replacing paper with email.

1. Financial services organizations can save a ton of money by sending statements and other information by email. Some companies have made this switch (so check your 401K provider or brokerage and see if you have options), but there are still many that send some or all of their information on paper. Switching to digital versions goes beyond saving paper, postage and money. Many customers complain about the massive amounts of paper that clutter up their homes and offices. Switching over to digital documents delivered via email is a big customer service win, too.

2. Due to the recession, cataloguers may find that replacing one paper catalog per customer per quarter with a few targeted email messages will boost ROI as well as conserve resources. It’s a win for the marketer (more touch points for less money), for the subscriber (promotions can be more targeted and there are fewer catalogs cluttering the house), and for the planet. In fact, many subscribers proactively ask companies to send fewer catalogs since they get email.

3. Non-profit organizations can save money (and increase the number of annual touches) by switching more supporters over to email instead of direct mail for pledge drives.

4. Retailers and others can send coupons via email instead of direct mail. Even printable coupons available online are far more cost-effective for marketers and have far less impact on the environment versus newspaper inserts. For example, check out this “make your own coupon” program from Quizno’s (courtesy of Marketing Sherpa).

5. Publishers can go digital. A great example of this is Reed Business which offers some of its publications in all-digital format. Beyond the green aspect, subscribers also benefit from fully searchable pages and faster delivery. Reed Business cuts costs. Everyone wins! Our friends at Zinio have built a business on digital editions of various publications.

6. Airlines, concert promoters and others could get a lot more aggressive with using e-ticket solutions versus paper tickets. As with coupons, even printable e-tickets are far less wasteful than traditional paper versions. But true green nirvana might be achieved when these organizations can combine e-tickets with some kind of SMS solution to eliminate the need for paper completely.

7. Schools can use email to notify parents of events and general school information instead of mailing or sending home slips of paper (which inevitably get lost). Some schools even email report cards. Not only does this save the school money, it’s a more reliable way to be sure parents get the report card in a timely manner! A few of the more innovative schools are starting to use digital technologies so parents can go online and access all kinds of information in one place – including student homework, grades, and more.

Email can also be part of a coordinated public relations campaign to stay out in front on green issues. In fact, many large companies become targets for activists (for example, Home Depot was targeted regarding sustainable harvested wood, Nike for child labor practices, McDonald’s for Styrofoam clamshells). Email can help these companies in two ways. First, including content that regularly highlights what you already do can help educated your most active and loyal customers and start to engage them before you are attacked. Second, using email to respond to these attacks subtly reinforces your commitment to conservation of resources.

How are you using email and other digital technologies to help “green” your company or your marketing practices? Share your ideas in the comments below.

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