Updated April 2022
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 got a whole lot greener in 2020 and 2021.
For an increasingly large percentage of the population – especially younger consumers – fast fashion and planned obsolescence designs are officially out. What’s in? Slow and sustainable 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. See our Socially Responsible Corporate Gifts Guide for more on ethical and carbon/climate neutral product brands.
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.
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. These guides help to outline 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.
Available in two color combinations, this eco-friendly pouch is repurposed from fabric remnants that would have been discarded. Using upcycled fabric, this pouch is perfect for keeping accessories organized while traveling.
*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.
Crafted from 100% recycled fabric for a broken-in look, this classic baseball cap is available in 6 earth tone colors including navy blue and black. While not a B corp certified company like Patagonia, The North Face received a Good rating by Good on You for its animal welfare policies, use of Bluesign certified materials, and policies to eliminate hazardous chemicals in its supply chain and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
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.
*EcoSmart product. 42″ Automatic Open and Close Umbrella made from 100% recycled PET material and 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.
This reusable double wall insulation glass bottle with bamboo lid and stainless steel infuser basket is durable, eco-friendly, and stylish. Glass is a sustainable, fully recyclable material. Bamboo is a biodegradable and sustainable plant. Stainless steel is also known as a green material because it is completely recyclable (while the production process is energy-intensive, it is not harmful to the environment). Use the stainless steel infuser basket to make tea or herb infused water – or remove the basket to use as a traditional water bottle.
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.
Multipurpose 12 oz. round glass food storage container. The bamboo lid that doubles as a cutting board.
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 RFID Card Holder keeps an ID or credit card safe from RFID crime. The cardholder is made from a combination of 51% renewable and sustainable wheat straw and 49% PP. PP fiber, a durable, recyclable plastic that degrades more quickly than other plastics, is made from polypropylene through low environmental impact manufacturing.
This notebook features a jute and cork hard bound cover with 80 sheets of recycled paper. Cork is a renewable and sustainable plant – cork bark regenerates itself after harvesting. Cork forests also help the environment by absorbing CO2. Jute is an affordable, breathable vegetal fiber that’s even more sustainable than cotton.
*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.
*EcoSmart product. This notebook features a hemp covered paperboard with 70 sheets of white recycled lined paper.
An inexpensive bag that’s perfect for carrying a bundle of sustainable freebies, these eco-friendly Oxo-Biodegradable plastic bags will degrade under proper conditions when discarded responsibly. The bags feature a non-reinforced die cut handle.
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.
Customizable North Face jackets are extremely durable and long-lasting luxury promotional products. The ThermoBall™ Eco insulation is made from 100% post-consumer recycled content.
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.
One of our favorite personalised eco friendly products, the tentree® Organic Cotton Cable Blanket measures 60″ x 60″ (and 13″ x 13″ when folded). Organic cotton is grown without pesticides from non-GMO seeds using more environmentally sustainable farming practices.
This compact cotton bag conveniently stores all your plastic grocery bags to make recycling a whole lot easier.
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.
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 for your next corporate event or gifting program.