What are best and worst products when it comes to ‘eco-friendly’ branded promotional merchandise?

More Articles Contact Us

When you are looking for sustainable branded merchandise it can be a bit of a minefield. 

We can’t all be sustainability experts and sometimes we can be led to believe we are doing the right thing, when we are being green-washed. 

Here we have some pointers on what to look out for on some ‘best-selling’ and ‘eco-friendly’ products:

 Product Our recommendation
Bamboo Mugs:  OK, so there are two types to cover here. One is a travel mug and the other is more like a replacement for a paper cup, like the type you would get from a coffee shop that has a lid.

Travel Mugs:
What you need to look out for are the ones that are claimed to be extra ‘sustainable’ or ‘bamboo travel mugs’ because they have some bamboo glued to the outside. 
They’re fine if that’s the look you are going for, but if you know they are no more sustainable than a standard one. So, don’t pay more for any ‘eco’ credentials!

Bamboo Mugs: 

These make you feel like you are making a better choice than a paper cup. But you must be so careful with these. 
Some of them are made from a melamine polymer infused with bamboo fibres. These again are reusable, but they are not biodegradable like they can claim to be and more worryingly when they come in to contact with hot liquids (70 degrees C), they can release cancer causing toxins. 
You can find out more here:
Reusable bamboo mugs leach dangerous amounts of formaldehyde and melamine | News | Chemistry World

The stainless steel is okay due to the recyclability. 
However, the plastic lid and the handle that looks glued on counteracts any sort of sustainable elements. They are reusable, so long as you go for a good quality one.

Getting it right can make it a great promotional product for your business or brand. 

What we would recommend is a stainless-steel option, you cannot recycle at kerbside yet, but you are able to remove the lid and put the body of the item into scrap.


 Product Our recommendation

Bamboo Pen:

We all love a pen don’t we. And now, instead of a plastic one you can choose a one made from bamboo. I bet you’re thinking, ‘ooh…perfect’?

Well, only a portion of the barrel is bamboo. The rest is bio plastic (find out more about those here), making the entire process more involved and producing more carbon than if you were to just make a normal plastic pen.

Your best bet is to invest a little more to get one that has things like a Lifetime Guarantee, is refillable and is made from metal, so it is built to last but if it is no longer needed you can take it apart for recycling.

Being more targeted and investing a little more is so much better for the planet, and it also makes your brand look better because it won’t break as soon as it is in your customer’s hand.




 Product Our recommendation


Everyone loves a branded t shirt, and why not? It makes your consumers a walking advert for you. Happy days, right?


Nope, not quite the fairy tale you would hope for. The process to make these cheap (dyed) t-shirts is not a good one. The amount of water waste, energy consumption, waste materials and toxic air emissions are just some of the negative aspects of production. You can find out more here.

 And how can they be so cheap? Who is making them? What sort of conditions are they working and living in for you to be able to get such a keen price?

There could be an argument that cotton is a better option because it can be recycled. However, based on how bad the process is, it outweighs any of the positive aspects of the recyclability.


Our advice, choose organic cotton and make sure you know where they are coming from. Ask who is producing them and how they are being made. If you don’t your business or brand could be caught up in a scandal, all for an event t shirt.



 Product Our recommendation

Bamboo Speakers:

One of the worst culprits there is for greenwashing!


There is an argument to say that just by using bamboo to reduce plastic is a good thing, but this is only if it isn’t bio plastic. The reality is, electrical products are notoriously difficult to recycle, so more often than not they are destined for landfill (that's why incredible organisations such as reboxed are so important).

Gluing bamboo to the outside of it may make it look eco-friendly, but underneath it still has the same recycling challenges as a standard electrical good.

We would recommend avoiding these unless you are willing to spend enough to get decent ones. Even without the issues around bamboo, with lower cost the quality is unlikely to be high enough to last anyway and it will be headed for the bin.



Get in touch.

Contact Us

Some of the incredible brands we work with.