Where can you find all the right information regarding sustainable materials for your card program?
Where can you find all the right information regarding sustainable materials for your card program?

Getting the right information to make the important decisions can be daunting, to say the least. Most of us do not have the hours and hours of time it takes to research products, talk to vendors, decipher what the manufacturer’s claim really means, not to mention the research and development capabilities to ensure your chosen product would yield a beautiful, functional gift card.

PLI has put a ton of resources into doing exactly that. We constantly research and hunt for sustainable materials. Once we find one we like and think you will like, we test the heck out of them. I’ll share how we test and the effort that goes into it in another post. In this post, I want to share how we identify materials we think are great for our planet and will be great for your gift card program’s ROI.

When we look at a material, there are many factors to consider while staying extremely flexible and open minded. There are so many avenues these products can take and many, many benefits to consider. For example, I was looking into a compostable material thinking it’s going to be one of the “greenest” materials out there. I then learned that as it breaks down, it emits carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. So what is more important now? Do I stick to the “but it’s compostable, you can’t get better than that!” story or do I move to something that is recyclable and does not release any CO2? And, compostable may not be very shelf stable. So if you don’t use your inventory fast enough, it is wasted, which is the worst thing you can do in your green strategy. Sigh, it is exhausting! So yes, flexibility is key while prioritizing.

I like to prioritize sustainable material based on the order of this list:

  1. Recyclability – is it recyclable or reusable
  2. Material content including Post and Pre-Consumer Waste (PCW)  Does it contain harmful materials? Does it have any PCW? Is the material compostable?
  3. Renewability/Sustainability – A good example is Bamboo or hemp; they both renew hundreds of times faster than wood.
  4. How the material is manufactured – is it energy efficient, does it pollute water, is the water used in the process cleaned and reused?
  5. Availability and location of the material – is it local, in the states, overseas? Will it take thousands of gallons of fuel to get here?
  6. Durability – in both the production process and everyday use – if the product can be reused over and over again for the purpose it was created to do and not thrown in the landfill after a couple uses, that’s pretty green!

To help you navigate the decisions ahead of you, we have developed a reference guide to help compare the relative sustainability metrics of the various card production alternatives. It’s a few pages that covers substrates, inks, coatings, carriers/backers, packaging, and distribution. It is formatted very simply to help you quickly decide the right product for your program. Please reach out to your sales rep for an electronic copy. You can also email me at I’d be happy to send it to you and answer any questions you may have.



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