Crazy Dave Promo
British Promotional Merchandise Association Accredited BPMA

Eco Wood & Bamboo Promotional USB Sticks

Wooden & Paper USB Flash Drives look great and have a good earthy natural feel for when your brand is synomonous with eco or sustainable products. Bamboo is a very good sustainable material for branded USB memory and along with the wooden USB sticks they can all be screen printed or engraved with your company logo.

Wood, Bamboo & Eco USB Drives

How can USB sticks be eco friendly?

It is irresistible to claim to be Eco Friendly

Our carbon footprint in sharp focus and it has become something of bandwagon for businesses to claim their products are environmentally friendly. Let's take a look at some of the features of USB memory sticks so that we can make an informed choice.

Break it down into its elements.

The distinctive parts of a USB memory stick have their own environmental impact and for each of them there are choices. Think of the gadget being made up of the packaging, the memory stick body, memory chip and substrate.

In addition we should think about the function of the gadget. What it offers and how it contributes to altering our behaviour. This is probably the most interesting aspect.

The packaging.

Your choice of USB packaging can make a real difference but there can be a compromise between the environment and the impression you need to create since the packaging can have a big effect on the image of your brand.

Only you can judge if an executive corporate gift delivered in a simple cardboard tuck box will impress the client. A quality box has its place and top brands know that image is everything.

White carboard tuck box USB packaging
Clear plastic box with magnetic close USB packaging

On the other hand the fanciest elaborate box with a magnetic catch can be way over the top in a lot of cases. The packaging is usually discarded immediately unless it is attractive, in which case it gets stuffed into a drawer for a year or so before being flung out. Remember when you were given a watch for Christmas? Do you still have its fancy case in the drawer by the side of the bed? Too nice to throw away, but useless all the same.

The circumstance in which the branded USB stick is given also makes a difference. When delegates are passing through the check-in at a conference they probably won't worry too much if there is no packaging at all, even if they are the captains of industry.

The memory stick body.

Wood and bamboo bodies are available from sustainable sources. That takes you as close as you can get to an eco friendly USB stick. These are ideal for environmentally responsible brands and the image is that of a business that is go-ahead with a modern approach to but still in touch with the environment.

Plastic, you might think is the environmental antithesis of bamboo but plastic USB sticks are not as bad as you think. Recycled plastic is usually used, not because of a yearning to be environmentally responsible but for economic reasons. It probably comes as no surprise that China is the source of nearly all USB sticks and labour costs there make it economical for used plastics to be sorted and recycled. Have you ever thought of where all those plastic bottle went?

Leather is clearly sustainable and very attractive too.

Other materials such as metal don't have any identifiable environmentally beneficial credentials so you would choose them based on the attractiveness of the material over environmental concerns.

The memory chip and substrate.

There is no escaping the fact that making a memory chip involves using chemicals and consuming energy. Making the chip and the tiny board of electronics that supports it have the biggest impact compared with the other parts of the memory stick.

Memory chips are made on circular wafers of semiconductor material like silicon and the size of the wafer does not change from one production run to the next. The environmental impact of making a wafer is much the same each time.

Bigger memory chips have a bigger surface area so you get fewer per wafer than for small memories. Since you will get more memory sticks per wafer if you choose the smallest memory size then you might think that smaller memories have a lower environmental impact. It's not quite that simple because production processes vary according to memory size.

Larger memories are at the cutting edge of development where miniaturisation is at its greatest so although the bigger memories have a bigger surface area it is not as big as you might think. An 8 Gig memory stores 62.5 times as much as a 128Meg memory but it certainly isn't 62.5 time bigger. This is not a linear scale. Although there is a general rule that bigger memory sizes have a bigger impact it would be a mistake to think you will save the planet by opting for small memory sizes because you would be ignoring all the other environmental benefits of larger memories.

Do we behave greener with USB memory sticks?

The memory stick gives us the opportunity to behave in a more eco friendly way even without thinking about the planet. The convenience and cost saving benefits of USB memory can have environmental benefits too. There are cases where the using a USB stick for portable storage promotes greener behaviour. This is a less tangible benefit and difficult to quantify. Here are some examples.

Energy and cost savings for conferences.

Paper conference proceedings
Conference proceedings on USB pen

In the left corner we have conference materials for 2008 weighing in at 816g. Multiply that by the number of attendees and think about the weight for shipping to the conference (by air in this case), the inconvenience of the extra baggage and volume of paper consumed. After the conference the delegates will carry their 816g books home with them to the corners of the earth.

In the right corner the 2011 conference proceedings weighing in at 20g. It contains better quality images, the presentation slides are in colour and there is plenty of spare memory capacity so the attendees will keep using the USB pens even when the ink runs out. The conference organiser says that for the next conference he will try the USB business card.

Brochures for publicity and trade shows.

Which is more eco friendly, brochures or USB flash drives? It is difficult to tell. It depends upon how elaborate your printed brochure is. One thing is for sure. There is a danger your brochure will end up in the bin pretty soon after the show whereas the USB version will be useful for much longer and your brand name will be visible for longer.

We need fewer laptops.

Some people are important enough to be given work laptop computers. At least they think they are important enough. A lot of the time all they really need is a memory stick to hold their documents so they can take them with them. You will find excuses like "I need to work on the train" but next time you are on the train look at the laptop owners. Are they diligent working or fiddling with their smart phones?

Hot desking in the work place.

As well as holding your work files a USB flash drive can contain a bootable operating system with all your favourite personal settings. The USB stick can be your virtual PC so when you plug it into a general work PC your working environment is with you. A pool of hot-desk PCs can reduce the number of PCs in a company, saving money as well as energy.

For more info about the many applications designed to be run from a USB see Portable Apps. Now all your settings can go with you rather than be left on a PC.

Software distribution on USB.

Instead of CDs and DVDs holding software for distribution USB sticks are increasing used instead. So what is the environmental cost of a DVD compared with a USB stick? Wrong comparison. The USB stick means there is no need to manufacture DVD drives for many computers.

The environmental effect of your choice of memory size.

If you choose a small memory it will not be very useful to the potential customer who receives it. It will get discarded if it is not useful. This has two effects. It gets put away or thrown away and your brand isn't seen any more and it is not eco friendly because you lose the benefits of improved behaviour.

If you choose a large memory with plenty of spare storage space the recipient will have a very useful device that will be used time and time again.

So the conclusion is if you care about the environment or simply want to appear to care then buy the biggest memory your budget allows. Of course, bigger memories cost more so it is not that simple. Prices of different sizes vary with production cycles but if you divide the price by memory size to get the pence per gig then you might decide that 4GB memories give the best balance.