Updated April 2023
One of the biggest trends in the promotional products industry over the past few years: sustainability. Driven by consumer demand for products and packaging made from more environmentally friendly and sustainable materials, promotional giveaways have gotten a whole lot greener over the past few years.
For an increasingly large percentage of the population – especially younger consumers – fast fashion and planned obsolescence designs are officially out. What’s in? Slow fashion, upcycled and recycled products, as well as those built from sustainable, durable, biodegradable, and recyclable materials. Consumers are also increasingly interested in ethically made products and merchandise made using environmentally sound manufacturing processes.
Eco Friendly Promotional Products are Good for your Brand Image
Many marketing managers and business leaders have attributed sustainability’s recent increase in popularity among corporations and consumers alike to the Covid-19 pandemic that began in 2020. According to the 2020 Global Ad Impressions Study published by the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI), “Nearly a third of people 55 and older say they’ve purchased more products with an environmental bent in 2019, compared to 2018. Almost a third of women, overall, reported increasing their environmentally conscious spend last year, relative to 2018.”
When it comes to using branded swag like t-shirts, hats, pens, and coffee mugs in promotional campaigns, choosing promotional items made from environmentally friendly or sustainable materials is a smart advertising choice.
That’s because gifting environmentally friendly promotional items to consumers is an easy way to help boost your brand image. Nearly half of the consumers surveyed by ASI in 2020 reported that they would look more favorably on a corporate advertiser if gifted an environmentally friendly promotional product. Consumers located in Midwestern states like Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota were most likely to report that receiving an environmentally friendly promotional product from an advertiser would cause them to look more favorably at that advertiser.
Eco Friendly and Sustainable Giveaways Require Careful Planning & Commitment
Eco friendly promotional products can improve your brand’s image and help your company build authentic connections with consumers – across all age groups – via their preferred advertising medium.
However, in the years to come, companies will need to work even harder to demonstrate their commitment to their environment. Consumers are increasingly aware of widely used greenwashing tactics and understand the importance of third-party certification (including the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), Bluesign Standard, and WRAP) when shopping. Over the next decade, consumers will be expecting brands to exhibit social and environmental responsibility in everything they do – instead of just trying to cash in on growing eco-anxiety.
Check out our Socially Responsible Corporate Gifts Guide for information on the best ethical and carbon/climate neutral brands to use for corporate gifts and promotional products.
To learn how to reduce environmental waste and cut costs when planning promotional giveaways, check out our Environmentally Friendly Promotional Products and Eco-Friendly Giveaways Guide. This guide outlines strategies for reducing your company’s carbon impact – e.g. which sustainable and recycled materials are best for the environment; how to select recycled packaging for eco friendly merchandise; how to make sustainable design choices; and how to distribute eco friendly promotional items in the most environmentally friendly way possible.
The Best Sustainable and Environmentally Friendly Promotional Products for Green Giveaways
Eco friendly promotional giveaways require great branded merchandise. The best sustainable swag items are made from materials that are better for the earth including biodegradable, sustainable, and recyclable materials like bamboo and cork; organic cotton; and reclaimed and recycled materials such as recycled PET bottles and recycled cotton.
The items that we selected for our list of sustainable swag ideas are also high-quality, durable, and built to last (or naturally biodegrade) – important attributes of the best sustainable corporate swag.
Customizable Eco Friendly Reusable Bags
The Out of the Woods line includes lunch bags, shopper bags, and wine totes made from sustainable, washable, vegan Supernatural Paper. One of our favorite designs is the reusable lunch bag 2.0 in Sahara – this design is a modern take on the nostalgic brown paper bag lunch bag, insulated to keep your lunch fresh. Featuring all-natural cotton webbing to reinforce the handle and buckle strap, this durable, quality lunch bag is sturdy enough to handle a long bike commute to work.
*EcoSmart product. Made from recycled water bottles, this sling bag is one of our favorite recycled promotional items, featuring an on-trend sling bag design, adjustable shoulder strap, and premium lash tab.
This eco-friendly travel pouch is made with fabric woven from sustainably harvested wood pulp and upcycled cotton offcuts. It’s designed to hold cables, toiletries, cosmetics, personal items, and more. The highly functional design features a wide opening that folds out and collapses easily. It also includes a discreet side pocket with magnetic closure and wall pockets for organization.
*EcoSmart product. One of our favorite sustainable conference swag ideas: a classic tote bag made from recycled and upcycled materials. This strong, durable reusable bag is built out of recycled cotton collected from garment cutting waste that is blended with recycled polyester.
*One percent of sales of EcoSmart products will be donated to nonprofits dedicated to protecting the planet, through a partnership with 1% For The Planet.
Recycled Swag for Sustainable Giveaways
Recycled promotional products are perfect for Earth Day or any other occasion. The Boxelder padfolio is crafted with good-for-the-planet sustainable felt from recycled plastic bottles.
Customizable baseball cap made from 100% recycled polyester twill fabric. Hook and loop closure.
A modern and sustainable update to a roomy box cooler using recycled fabric and webbing made from plastic bottles. Features include a front slash pocket for accessories; dual zippered opening; insulated main compartment; recycled mesh side pockets; and adjustable shoulder strap.
48″ Automatic Opening Inversion umbrella features a bold plaid print on the under canopy and a color-coordinated outer canopy. Made from 100% recycled PET material with a natural wooden handle.
Made from Re-Fleece™ yarns (reclaimed materials), this rib knit beanie is comfortable and affordable.
Sustainable Drinkware & Kitchenware
*EcoSmart product. This innovative food storage container has a bamboo lid that can also be used as a cutting board. The container is constructed out of PLA, a compostable bioplastic made from plant starches. The lid and container are held together by a matching band.
The Alpine 17 ounce glass bottle with a bamboo lid is excellent for earth-friendly brands. Glass is a sustainable, fully recyclable material. Bamboo is a biodegradable and sustainable plant. Customize with your 1-color silkscreen logo.
Made out of sustainable acacia wood and natural stone, this cheese cutting board also features a stainless steel handle and blade. An eco conscious gift for foodies and charcuterie fans.
This cutlery set is 100% biodegradable, made from a bio-composite of 15% bamboo fibers combined with 85% PLA (a bio plastic from renewable resources like cornstarch). Bamboo grows faster than most other plants, even without fertilizer or pesticides. This cutlery set includes a fork, knife, and spoon that come in a reusable cotton travel pouch. Free from BPA, PVC, & Phthalates.
Constructed from 90% post-consumer recycled 18/8 food grade stainless steel, this sports bottle features a single-wall design that’s lightweight and portable. The included sport cap features a removable soft silicone spout for easy cleaning. This item is BPA-free and features a chip-resistant Klean Coat™ powder coat finish. Its slim design fits most standard cup holders.
Sustainable Swag Bag Ideas
These trendy stainless steel straws make great sustainable giveaways. Each set comes in its own branded muslin cloth bag with a straight straw, a bent straw, silicone tip cover, and cleaner brush.
One of the best sustainable swag items for gift bags and gift boxes, this sustainable push ballpoint pen features a honeycomb-like casing made from non-toxic, biobased PHA biopolymers. This material is biodegradable without industrial composting.
*EcoSmart product. Great for eco friendly giveaways,the Wheat Straw Ballpoint features a 100% bamboo barrel with 40% wheat straw accents. Wheat straw plastic has a low environmental impact, making it a good alternative to traditional plastics.
*EcoSmart product. The 5.5″ x 8.5″ Recycled Cotton and Cork Bound Notebook features 80 sheets of recycled lined paper. The cover is crafted out of recycled cotton and cork. Cork is a renewable and sustainable plant – cork bark regenerates itself after harvesting. Cork forests also help the environment by absorbing CO2.
*EcoSmart product. Eco swag for health & wellness giveaways! This earthy-friendly Eco Fitness Towel is made from 100% recycled PET plastic. The towel can also be worn as a face mask or bandana.
This handy wrist strap keychain is made out of FSC-Certified, renewable natural rubber. Yulex is the world’s first eco-friendly and biodegradable replacement for neoprene.
Custom Eco-Friendly, Sustainable Clothing Made from Recycled & Organic Materials
Allmade shirts make custom, socially responsible corporate gifts. In fact,Allmade is one of the best custom apparel manufacturers for enhancing your brand image. Allmade produces ethically-made shirts crafted from recycled and organic materials including 100% certified organic cotton. They also use materials and manufacturing processes that reduce waste and save energy and water, including GOTS certified dyes. Their comfortable athleisure designs include short sleeve t-shirts, long sleeve shirts, and sweatshirts.
This zip up hoodie is made from District® Re-Fleece™ (100% recycled fabric). Affordable, comfortable, and never re-dyed, this sustainable fleece is soft and comfy.
Made with recycled polyester sherpa fleece, this super-soft zip jacket is as comfy as it gets. The zippers are made from recycled content, and the cork zipper pull, hip length, and contrast outer collar detail earns it extra style points. It features a woven patch pocket with hidden zipper on the chest, plus bindings on the cuffs and hem. tentree is a Certified B Corporation that plants ten trees for every item purchased.
This affordable t-shirt is made from 100% recycled fabric, never re-dyed. Just add your company logo and colors to create sustainable company swag they’ll love to wear. Available in 10 colors. Adult unisex sizes include extra small-4XL.
Other Environmentally Friendly & Sustainable Promotional Products
Plant-based kits are green promotional items that help promote sustainable living. Modern Sprout Tree Kits are available in Loblolly pine, spruce, and sycamore. The compostable container is made in the USA out of 100% biodegradable upcycled cow manure, which can help heal nutrient-depleted soil. For each kit purchased, Modern Sprout makes a donation to plant a tree.
These colorful patterned fleece blankets are made from 100% recycled post-consumer waste. Using primarily plastic bottles transformed into premium polyester fibers, each one is certified through Global Recycle Standard, which applies to the full supply chain, addressing traceability, environmental principles, social requirements, and labeling. Soft brushed finish and lightweight. Embroidered edge detailing. Reversible design.
This handy hip hugger keeps your necessities secure and organized. Wear it up front on the side or in the back. Every pack is a unique color combination. Made from 100% re-purposed lightweight remnant nylon fabric by Cotopaxi, a Certified B Corporation.
Add your company logo to this trendy fanny pack made from recycled materials. The sustainably made Osprey Arcane Waist Pack is constructed out of bluesign approved recycled materials and features a PFC-free DWR treatment that helps shed moisture.
The Pourigami is the world’s smallest, most durable, and portable flat-pack dripper. Features three interlocking stainless steel panels, with machined grooves to ensure perfect placement for a secure pour over coffee. MiiR is a Certified B Corp known for their durable and sustainable designs.
The Basic Hemp Altitude Hat is made from durable hemp, recycled plastic, and recycled mesh.
Sustainable Promotional Products = Eco-Friendly Branding
Sustainable and environmentally friendly promotional products are more popular with consumers than ever before. Gifting high-quality, recyclable, biodegradable, socially compliant, and sustainable promotional products to your customers and employees is a cost-effective way to remain competitive in today’s increasingly environmentally conscious world.
When it comes to choosing the best eco-friendly and sustainable promotional products for your brand, it is only natural to feel overwhelmed. Contact Metron Branding for assistance with selecting the best sustainable swag ideas for your next corporate event or gifting program.