Behold, the Carbon Neutral Direct Mail Campaign!

Last week, we celebrated Earth Day, which makes it an appropriate time for fundraisers to think about what we’re really doing — professionally, personally, and collectively — to save our planet. 

I’m not asking you to think about raising money for climate change or conservation. 

Instead, it’s time to consider how our practices are affecting our planet — and how we can take collective actions at our organizations to make a difference. 

In gathering my ball of string for this Earth Day post, I came across a LinkedIn post from Steve Falk, President and CEO of Canada’s Prime Data.   

His post alerted me to his firm’s creation of a service the agency calls “Carbon Neutral Direct Mail.” 

I was instantly fascinated — if for no other reason than I’ve suffered my share of slings and arrows about anti-environmental, tree-slaughtering, landfill-filling mail. 

Steve’s firm has gone all-in on making sure its direct mail practices do not harm our planet. 

How It Works 

Steve and his team have calculated the carbon emissions created by its direct-mail campaigns from tree to mailbox — and are offsetting these emissions using the Great Bear Rainforest Carbon Offset project in British Columbia. 

It is also changing its practices by choosing different paper and reducing the weight of its mail. It has also developed a fundraising mailer that doesn’t use envelopes. 

This effort hasn’t been taking place in a vacuum. It’s taken Steve and his team a lot of work to get there. 

In 2020, he commissioned a sustainability study to focus on the environmental impact of the millions of letters, envelopes, and reply envelopes his firm produces each year.  

The result was the 2021 Carbon Report, which you can download here. 

In short, it created a data-specific story of the greenhouse gas journey of a Prime Data mail piece. 

The Equivalent of 830 Miles in Your Car 

The study found that a typical piece of mail sent by Prime Data, weighing an average of 20 grams (0.71 ounces), generates a greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint of ~205 grams (7.23 ounces). 

This estimate covers the emissions from the entire lifespan of a mail piece, including forestry, paper production, employee commute, printing, distribution, and end-of-life processing. 

For comparison, 205 grams is the equivalent of driving about 830 miles in an average passenger vehicle or charging your smartphone 25 times.  

Based on this estimate, it takes about 4,880 letters to emit 1 ton of GHG, the equivalent stored by 1.2 acres of forest in a year. 

With this information and more like it, Steve created the climate-friendly mailer and carbon-offset calculations that are now central to his company’s practices. 

In his post, Steve made it clear that his firm’s sustainability study and design of special production processes are just the start. 

He was open, candid, and clearly willing to share. 

So, if you’re interested in learning more about how to conduct an organization-wide sustainability study or find out more about cutting emissions in your direct-mail program, I suggest you contact him. 

This piece is an adapted version of an article that originally appeared in The Agitator, Roger’s incredible fundraising blog. You can find the original piece — and other great content from The Agitatorhere.

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