Greening Your Mail Can Reduce Costs, Save the Planet

by Rebecca Smith Hurd on March 17, 2011
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Many entrepreneurs would like to make environmentally friendly choices, but when push comes to shove, the only green they really care about is making money. Business, after all, is about the bottom line. With this in mind, Minnesota-based ecoEnvelopes develops mailing solutions that help companies cut expenses, increase cash flow, and protect the planet at the same time. Its first retail product, due in office-supply stores in April, is a reusable two-way envelope manufactured by Quality Park. It was created specifically for small businesses that seek to streamline their billing processes.

The Double Window ecoEnvelope aims to speed up customer payments and reduce postage costs by acting as both the outgoing and return envelope for an invoice. The ecoEnvelope can replace standard No. 9 and No. 10 envelopes: Pull tabs and perforations in the paper allow recipients to open and reseal the back flap, as well as remove and replace postage (using stamps or a meter). Transparent windows display the addresses printed on the materials inside; ecoEnvelopes provides insert specifications and accommodates stock templates from software programs like Intuit QuickBooks to make sure documents align properly with the windows.

“This is probably one of the more significant innovations or developments in the industry for small businesses that rely on mail for invoicing or direct-mail marketing,” says Gale Ward, the company’s president. “This is the first time that they can use a reusable envelope with existing paradigms.”

A box of 100 Quality Park Double Window ecoEnvelopes sells for $16 to $20 on Amazon. That means each ecoEnvelope is a bit more expensive than sending one traditional envelope, yet less costly than sending two, she says. If you buy 1,000 units, the envelopes come in a reusable cardboard filing box.

In addition to saving money, the ecoEnvelopes are the greenest option on the market, Ward adds. They are 100 percent recyclable and manufactured on SFI-certified paper from managed forests with 30 percent post-consumer recycled content. By eliminating the need for a separate reply envelope, ecoEnvelopes reduce paper consumption by up to half and saves about two cups of wastewater per piece, according to the Environmental Defense Fund’s paper calculator.

“Ultimately, we’re going to see billing migrate to electronic payment methods,” Ward acknowledges. But she believe that, like major banks, the switch will cause other businesses to lose a plethora of customer touch points — and revert back to using direct-mail marketing to cross- and up-sell products and services. Lightening the envelope load makes this prospect greener and less costly.

Meanwhile, ecoEnvelopes practices what it preaches. Ward calls the company a “quadruple green” small business whose products (including its direct B2B offerings) provide a strong value proposition and a quantifiable return on investment. “One, we reduce costs. Two, we benefit the environment. Three, we enable operational savings. And four, we are a minority-owned and operated business,” Ward says, adding that the company has about a half dozen employees and contractors.

Her advice to other small business that want to become sustainable: “You can’t tackle everything at the same time, so you just gain a consciousness of your footprint and approach sustainability one piece at a time.”

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