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Make Sense of Sustainability

As human beings, our planet means the world to us – literally! That’s why
we need to make sure it stays around for as long as possible. But if you’ve
been pulling your hair out trying to keep up with the jargon that surrounds
sustainability, don’t panic! You’ve come to the right place to start making
sense of it all.

We understand it can be quite the challenge knowing your biodiversity from your bioaccumulation. And what exactly is the difference between carbon footprint and carbon offsetting, anyway? In order to navigate all of this new lingo, and in honour of World Kindness Day, we’ve put together a handy glossary to make sustainability a little less daunting. We’ve been using this information as an in-house tool which came about through product development and selection. There’s plenty more to add and we’d love to hear from you if you have any additions. Please email your suggestions to to become part of the discussion!

Now, let’s dive into some of the terms you’re likely to come across in your
quest for eco-consciousness in the promotions industry and beyond:

Popular Product Materials

Product Material

Sustainable Credentials

Sustainable Considerations

The Good and the Not So Good


Bioplastics are plastic-like materials made from natural sources like vegetable fats, oils, starches, straw, wood chips and sawdust.

The Good

Made from natural materials which are renewable

Does not contain toxic chemicals or compounds

Biodegradable and compostable under the correct conditions

The Not So Good

There is A LOT more research needed on this material and its sustainability credentials. A
call for evidence
was recently published by the UK government on the sustainability of bio-based and
biodegradable plastic and they are now considering the responses. At the moment, there is a question mark on whether this product is
adding to the plastic issue or helping to solve it.

Bioplastics are a product of farming and take up valuable capacity that could be used for growing much-needed food

Most types are not recyclable

Local authorities have no way of recycling bioplastic, meaning it will end up in landfill or being incinerated – causing further
release of CO₂ and pollutants into the atmosphere. We contacted our local authority on this point and they have confirmed that bioplastic cannot be recycled. Their letter can be found here

Only some types of bioplastic are compostable and those that are require industrial composting
facilities. They cannot be discarded in domestic compost bins

The use of compost can be compromised by any ink printed on the product, as this could pass into  the food chain


When recycling bioplastic pens, remove the refill and spring

Remove the ink from the product where possible

Remember that composting requires a set temperature

In the promotions industry, we have mainly seen pens and bags made of this material

Printed pens and packaging should not be placed in composting bins as the print will contaminate the compost heap and, if the compost is used as fertiliser, contaminants will enter the food chain


Organic farming promotes ecological balance and
biodiversity by not using harmful chemicals in the
growing process.

There’s a long-standing joke that organic food is what your grandparents called food! That’s because we’ve become reliant on pesticides and chemical fertilisers to grow crops on a commercial scale.

The Good


Better taste

Contains high levels of antioxidants

The Not So Good

Organic farming requires more labour and higher production costs than pesticide-assisted farming, resulting in an expensive end product

It cannot produce enough food for the world’s population


Bamboo is a renewable natural product and the fastest growing plant on Earth.

The Good

Naturally pest-resistant – requires no nasty pesticides!

Requires far less water than similar plants

Regrows to adult size in 3-5 years (it can grow 2 feet in 1 day!)

Absorbs 5 times more carbon dioxide than similar plants

Produces 35% more oxygen than similar plants

Bamboo fibres that make up the natural element of processed bamboo products reduce the amount of plastic required

The Not So Good

Some bamboo products use a chemical process to convert the material into the end product

Processed bamboo products only contain bamboo fibres and the rest is made up of polymer

Processed bamboo products cannot be recycled and must be put in a landfill or incinerated

Processed bamboo products cannot be composted


If the product is made from processed bamboo and is used to store food or liquid, it should
have tests completed prior to use to ensure chemicals are not released when heated

Presently, we see products made from processed bamboo across our industry


Recycled materials are products made from discarded or no longer needed products or materials.

The Good

This product will have been made up of one or more materials from an item previously used and no longer needed

The Not So Good

Product quality or colour can be impacted

There is no universal standard for accreditation


Trusting your supply chain is key here to ensuring the products are as described

Post-consumer recycled material is the best form of recycled product


Recyclable materials can be reused in order to make new materials.

See Sustainable Considerations for “Recycled”


Plastic is made from non-renewable resources like fossil fuels to create a solid material.

The most popular plastics are:

  • PET: Polyethylene Terephthalate
  • PE-HD: High-density Polythene
  • PVC: polyvinyl chloride

PET plastic – Highly-recyclable material accepted by 94% of UK councils.

PE-HD: High-density Polythene – collected by 92% of UK councils.

PVC: polyvinyl chloride – Not generally collected from households for recycling, which could explain why PVC
use is in decline.

PE-LD: Low-density Polythene & PP: Polypropylene – Not generally collected for recycling, but mixed
plastic recycling is expected to be under way within five years.

PS: Polystyrene – Not generally collected from
households for recycling with the exception of some commercial polystyrene.

LDPE – Only recyclable at specialist facilities.

The Good


Strong & long lasting


Can be sterile

The Not So Good 


Impacts wildlife and marine life if not disposed of correctly

Takes up landfill space

Not all plastic can be recycled, so contact your local facility before attempting to recycle it

Plastic cannot be recycled an infinite number of times

Recyclability isn’t always clear or consistent


Contact your local authority

Plastic products have a long shelf life when made well

Reusable plastic products are still a great sustainable choice because they will not be thrown away, so choose wisely when buying plastic products

Wood A natural, renewable material commonly used in construction and product design. The Good 





Biodegradable in its raw state

The Not So Good

The use of wood in manufacturing contributes to deforestation, leading to loss of habitats and increased carbon emissions


Make sustainable choices by opting for FSC® certified or reclaimed wood

The EU has introduced legal measures to protect forests. Wood from outside the EU may have originated from endangered species and tends not be supported by replanting initiatives

Be aware that some wood treatments can compromise the biodegradability of the wood

Paper A versatile material made from pressed pulp fibres, commonly derived from wood sources. The Good



Usually derived from natural sources

Recycled paper production saves more energy than the production of virgin paper

The Not So Good

Directly contributes to deforestation

Toxic chemicals are used to recycle paper

When decomposing, paper releases a harmful greenhouse gas called methane

Paper production requires very large volumes of water


Always opt for paper from sustainable sources like the FSC®

Remember that paper is only recyclable when clean – it cannot be stained with grease, foodstuffs, paint or dirt

Be sure to remove any plastic wrapping from newspapers and magazines before recycling. This must be recycled separately

To determine if paper is recyclable, scrunch paper up. If it remains scrunched and doesn’t spring back, it is suitable for recycling.



Sustainable Credentials

Sustainable Considerations

The Good and the Not So Good


A substance or product that is able to decompose by
exposure to bacteria or other living organisms.

The GoodBiodegradable products reduce carbon dioxide levels and greenhouse gas emissions

Break down naturally and don’t release harmful compounds when doing so

The Not So Good

Depend on certain weather conditions to break down properly

Do not decompose in water, so they won’t solve the issue of marine pollution


Remember they must be disposed of very specifically


A natural process in which microorganisms, bacteria and
fungi break down organic matter into a nutrient-rich

The Good

Creates a natural, organic fertiliser

Reduces landfill waste

Improves soil health

The Not So Good

Not all compostable products are suitable for domestic compost bins

Compostable items cannot be placed with your standard recycling


Widely Recycled: can be recycled at 75% or more of UK

Check Locally: recyclable at 20-75% of UK facilities

Not Yet Recycled: Recycled by less than 20% of UK

The act of converting waste materials into new products to avoid sending the waste to landfill.

The Good

Recycling ensures a secure supply chain by processing non-biodegradable plastics that are already in circulation and turning them into new products

Conserves valuable non-renewable resources

Reduces landfill waste

The Not So Good

Some areas do not have access to recycling facilities or simply can’t afford them, so are forced to use landfills as a cheaper alternative

Recycling and manufacturing products from recycled materials uses energy


Not all products that you might assume are recyclable are actually recyclable, so always check the symbols carefully

Renewable Energy

Renewable energy works by harnessing power from
renewable resources like sunlight, wind, rain, and tides so that we’re not relying on depleting or
damaging sources.

The GoodSustainable and abundant

Takes advantage of power that would otherwise go to waste

Low-maintenance systems

The Not So Good

Can result in air pollution

Requires a lot of energy to produce

Can be dependent on seasons

Popular Accreditations


What the Accreditation Stands For


Forest Stewardship Council

Any product that is FSC® Certified has met the
environmental and social requirements of the council.
This makes FSC® paper and card a great option for
sustainability, as the organisation ensures that all
wood harvested for use is replaced to protect against
deforestation. Choosing FSC® products also guarantees
that certain sections of forests and woodlands are left
completely intact to protect wildlife and their
habitats. All products can be traced from store to

Fair Trade

The symbol of a person triumphantly raising one hand in
the air means better pay and trading standards for
producers in developing countries.


ISO14001 is the international standard that specifies
requirements for an effective environmental management
system (EMS). It provides a framework that an
organisation can follow, rather than establishing
environmental performance requirements.

Eco Terms

So, now that we’ve brushed up on our products and processes, let’s take a
closer look at some general eco terms and what they really mean:

Biodiversity: Biodiversity is the level and variation of life in a
particular environment. High biodiversity means that plant and animal life
is thriving, while low biodiversity suggests that only a small amount of
natural life is supported.

Bioaccumulation: This super-sciency sounding term is what we call the
accumulation of materials within an organism. Over time, chemicals and
pesticides build up in certain organisms – often at a much faster rate than
the organism can get rid of those substances…

Carbon Emissions: Carbon emissions are released when fossil fuels are
burnt, causing harmful greenhouse gasses to be released into the

Carbon Footprint: Carbon footprint is determined by the amount of carbon
dioxide a person, product or organisation emits.

Climate Change: Climate change is a change in climate patterns caused by an increase in carbon dioxide. This has a knock-on effect on the environment and causes global temperatures to rise, leading to the shrinking of glaciers and disruptions to natural habitats.

Watch this no-nonsense video for a straightforward and simple explanation
of climate change:

Corporate Responsibility: In terms of sustainability, corporate
responsibility refers to the self-regulated goals of a company or
organisation to reduce their carbon footprint and adopt sustainable
business practices.

Deforestation: This refers to the removal of trees from forest areas to
make room for other things that certainly aren’t forests… When
deforestation occurs, habitats are lost, and greenhouse gases are

Eco: ‘Eco’ has become an umbrella term for anything that is beneficial for
the environment. It also refers to any product or practice that is less
harmful than non-eco alternatives.

Global Warming: This describes the warming up of the planet over time as a result of greenhouse gas emissions and carbon dioxide.

Greenhouse Effect: Gases in the Earth’s atmosphere trap heat from the Sun, causing the Earth to get hotter. This process is similar to the
heat-trapping phenomenon experienced with actual greenhouses (N.B. actual greenhouses are not the cause of the issue, so don’t go hurling bricks into your neighbour’s garden in a bid to reduce the Greenhouse Effect!)

Greenwashing: This relatively new term that suggests that an
environmental claim is misleading and has just been made in order to make
the manufacturer appear to care about the planet.

Sustainable: And just like that, we’ve come full circle in our discussion
of sustainability jargon. The word itself means maintaining something at a
certain level, so in terms of the Earth, we want to make sure we are using
processes and materials that we can continue to use over a long period of
time in order to cause as little damage to the environment as possible.

In Summary

We hope this article helps to demystify some of the jargon around
sustainability, and we encourage you to share this information with your
friends and family so that we can all understand the change we’re working
towards that little bit better.

Further Reading

Want to put your knowledge of eco symbols to the test? Check out these
interesting articles to learn more:

Tutorial Videos Image for Online Sales & Order Process Tutorial Video

Online Sales & Order Process Tutorial Video

Watch our tutorial video that describes how the online sales and order process works with our new website,

Start by choosing the product most suitable for your promotional campaign.

Then customise your pen order by selecting the colour, branding method and branding area.

The real-time Stock Checker will confirm if your chosen quantity is available.

There will be an instant quote and pricing breakdown table displayed based on your selections in the previous steps.

Once you are happy with your choices, click the ‘Add to Basket’ button.

Here you can Review your order before clicking the ‘Proceed to Checkout’ button.

On the One-Step Checkout page, you will need to select your Shipping Method and Payment Method.

You can then Upload your Artwork Files to get your logo or slogan branded onto your selected product.

Finally, once you have reviewed the details click the ‘Place Order’ button to finalise the order.

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Cheap Personalised Pens Available Now

Hot off the press! We have introduced a new range of cheap personalised pens to suit every budget. We know that times are tough and it can be a challenge to find good quality promotional items at an affordable price, but we believe we have done it with our new range of cheap personalised pens.


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We handle your order from start to finish from our large warehouse and printing facility in Hampshire. Our friendly team will help you choose your cheap personalised pens, arrange the printing on your pens and the final dispatch on our overnight service to the UK mainland, it’s as simple as that.


We are so confident that you will love our pens and service that all our orders come with an unconditional 100% satisfaction money back guarantee.


To have a look at our vast selection please check out our website,, or if you would prefer to speak to one of our friendly team just give us a call on: 01252 796 867

News Image for Cheap Advertising With Pens

Cheap Advertising With Pens

Promoting your business is vital in these difficult economic times and choosing your promotional products wisely is vital. You want to make sure that you are getting good value for money and that your chosen products will do the job effectively. Cheap advertising pens are the ideal solution; they have a proven track record and have been the top selling promotional item for years.


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