Every Time You Grab A Free T-Shirt At A Conference, Think Twice

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promotional items & environmental impact

If you are anything like me, at least 50% of your wardrobe in college was just free shirts handed out by fraternities, groups and companies. And for some of us – it still happens to be a majority of our wardrobe. 

It should be no surprise that those promotional items actually have a much larger impact on the environment than we usually can think/see when picking up free swag. 

However, our focus is not to tell you to stop buying promotional items or picking up this free swag that companies are handing out just because of the “environment”. We live in a world where we can leverage technology and innovative supply chain solutions to make our buying habits cleaner without us having to change anything as individuals. 

That’s why we started to dig into a company called Imprint Genius – a company that claims to help businesses buy promotional items without the guilt of giving out products that are going to end up in a landfill contributing to the severity of climate change. 

Now typically when it comes to analyzing companies like Imprint Genius that claim they are “green” and “environmentally friendly” when it comes to selling their promotional product catalogue.

On the surface – it seems pretty legit: 

  • They claim saving up to 70% on wasted water on the shirts they get made
  • Part of the 1% For The Planet campaign 
  • Every campaign they do is Carbon Neutral


So we decided to contact Imprint Genius and interview them to see how this all worked under the hood. 

Here are the three big questions & takeaways we had from the interview. 

Q: When it comes to clothes manufacturing the water usually gets contaminated, how does Imprint Genius pick suppliers to ensure the least amount of wasted water and pollution is pushed into the environment?

Our first priority is reduction, so we focus on working primarily with suppliers that have efficient processes in place to minimize energy, material, and water consumption. Some of our suppliers have invested in efficient processes that significantly reduce their consumption compared to the industry average (70% less in some cases). The dying process especially generates environmentally harmful wastewater that must be properly treated before release into any environment. So, we prefer working with suppliers that subject themselves to high environmental standards, removing all harmful chemicals before releasing any wastewater into the environment. Some suppliers dye and cut their fabrics in the U.S. (or a country with high social and environmental standards), in order to ensure their processes meet high environmental standards. We're in the process of evaluating our current suppliers and implementing new supplier standards as part of our overall sustainability initiative.

Jack Abbruzzese

Q: How does your commitment to sustainability really show, with a lot of greenwashing typically happening in the space – what actions has Imprint Genius taken to make sure that clients of yours are receiving products with the lowest environmental impact?

My academic background in sustainability has made it much easier to identify suppliers that heavily greenwash. Our sustainability department has searched through thousands of "eco-friendly" products, carefully hand-picking the products you see in our Promo Done Greener catalog today. We've also worked with our sales team to ensure that our clients are always presented with options from our Promo Done Greener catalog in the product selection process. We're working on becoming more of an educational resource with blog posts and more informative pages regarding sustainability on our website in the coming weeks!

Jack Abbruzzese

Q: How do you support recycling or reuse of unused or thrown away promotional materials?

Our main goal is to create products that people keep and reuse for a long time. Focusing on quality and target audience for the product is key. Additionally, we take steps to educate our clients on the products they are receiving as well, including end-of-life options regarding recycling or reuse. Also, this upcoming Earth Day, we're planning on announcing our Promo Done Greener discount program, offering a discount code to organizations that participate in a donation day. To encourage donations, organizations that give away all their old branded apparel, hats, notebooks, pens, etc. to a charity in need and document it via photograph on social media, we'll offer them a discount code.

Jack Abbruzzese

Our Takeaway

Imprint Genius – via their Promo Done Greener Initiative – seems to be among the few that are taking action towards reducing the carbon footprint of promotional items. Naturally there are two key things to consider when you look into companies like this. 

The Impact might not be as large, but, it is a true & honest step forward 

Many times companies won’t do much other than donating to “climate” organizations making no changes to suppliers and their current distribution scheme. Finding organizations that are actually making changes to their physical supply chain is what really shows a growing commitment to sustainability. 

Dig into the how they help you get to carbon neutral for your purchases

Airlines will many times allow you to buy carbon offsets, much like how Imprint does and other companies may actually have ways to reduce carbon emissions by donating to climate positive non-profits that align with their mission. 

But there seems to be a lot more that needs to be dug into to get hard numbers on what the real impact of that shirt is and what the true cost is to make a carbon neutral shirt…

Maybe let’s see what an “Impact” branded shirt will actually cost…

This is a sponsored post.
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