Green beings

Around the time that the trade press was following the cliffhanger-worthy passage of the postal reform bill in Congress (see our coverage on page 7), the consumer media were following another catalog-related story: Victoria’s Secret’s switch to a more environmentally friendly paper.

Several reporters from the mainstream media called me for my take on two questions in particular. Question number one: Why are more catalogers (Williams-Sonoma and Dell among them) agreeing to use recycled or otherwise eco-friendly paper now?

I told the reporters how the quality of the paper has improved and how it has become more affordable (information gleaned from an article on recycled paper that we ran in March 2005). But I also noted that a renewed emphasis on the environment and sustainability is part of the zeitgeist.

On to question number two: Now that e-commerce has become so widely accepted, why do companies even mail catalogs anymore?

Judging by this question, the consumer media have a mindset similar to that of catalogers a decade ago: If we build a Website, we won’t have to spend money on print catalogs, and we’ll all be rich! Woo-hoo!

Of course, those catalogers that slashed their circulation and waited for the throngs to descend upon their Websites learned the hard way that consumers still need to be driven to the sites in the first place.

The importance of being green, or at least greener, has been a hot topic in “Chief Marketer Report,” a weekly e-newsletter I edit in addition to all things Multichannel Merchant. In a recent issue, contributor Jeff Zabin, a director in the Precision Marketing Group at Fair Isaac, made the case that multichannel merchants can help the environment by better targeting their mailings: “Can an investment in improving customer data analytics to drive precision-marketing effectiveness be considered a green initiative? The answer is a resounding yes.” (You can find the article, “Precision Marketing Is a Green Initiative,” at; while you’re there, sign up for a free subscription.)

Even simply cleaning up your house file can help. Taking your list hygiene to the next level will also minimize the effects of the pending postal rate increases, which as of press time were expected to go into effect in May. Senior writer Tim Parry asked a number of list and database pros for their advice on reducing house file waste; he shares their suggestions in “Cleaning up” on page 19.

Calvin of the seminal comic strip “Calvin and Hobbes” once said, “If your knees aren’t green by the end of the day, you ought to seriously reexamine your life.” Okay, Calvin wasn’t talking about recycling or sustainability; he was talking about playing in the grass. But you can fit his words into an eco-friendly context. It’s not easy being completely green, but it’s not difficult to roll around a bit in the greener pastures.