Eco-friendly mugs that can be personalized for each employee
August 26, 2009 6:23 AM   Subscribe

Help! I've wandered through the promotional mug wasteland and I need some assistance. My organization is moving to a LEED certified building in a few months. In efforts to welcome the 60+ employees to the new space, we're putting together a welcome package for each person and the hardest part seems to be locating just the right kind of mugs.

In my dream world the mugs would all:
- Be recycled or green (although in just being permanent mugs they are way greener than the current styrofoam cups)
- Be personalized. And this doesn't mean having the company logo on it. They want to get each employees name printed right on the front.

posted by Talulah to Shopping (17 answers total)
Instead of typical coffee mugs, why not give everyone travel mugs? You know, the taller, skinnier ones with lids. That's 'green' in the sense that they're reusable and encourage bringing coffee rather than buying at Starbucks or Dunkin' with their paper cups.

For Christmas one year, we gave logo travel mugs to our mailman and FedEx guy. They loved it and said they use them all the time, for hot and cold stuff. Besides, you can never have too many travel mugs!
posted by caveat at 6:28 AM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Slate's Green Lantern column did an article on exactly this question. Unfortunately, the answer is "one they already own".

How about whatever mug you decide on, have the employees come pick it up, rather than giving everyone a mug they may not need or want.
posted by electroboy at 6:37 AM on August 26, 2009

The lead time on individual mugs must be a long time. A while back I received a card that said please sign here and return... three months later at a conference we were presented with mugs with our signatures on them. However I don't know who does that kind of work.
posted by Gungho at 8:18 AM on August 26, 2009

Lead time on mugs doesn't have to be that long. Three months is certainly excessive.

I agree with caveat: travel mugs are better (plus, from an internal marketing point of view, you're extending mindshare that sees the corporate logo). Getting green ones... I dunno. There may be corporate bling companies that specialise in that. If I can get in touch with the gewgaws person at my old work, I'll see if I can find you something.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:26 AM on August 26, 2009

One of my aunts is a potter. I think it would be surprisingly affordable to hire a local artist to make 60 mugs for you. I get endless compliments on mine, even from the jaded Seattle baristas.
posted by ecurtz at 8:27 AM on August 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

We had the same idea for a conference, but the lead time was too short to get the mugs delivered- we wound up with a nice perfect green solution... we partnered with a local river restoration group and gave away seedlings on the opening, and gave each participant the option of either planting theirs at home or donating theirs to the river restoration project. The river restoration group did everything from pick the species, to transport the seedlings for us.

The giveaway table also took cash donations toward the project, and we had a group of Saturday volunteers working to weed-pull, sand-bag, and do trash pick up. The photos were great and are featured in the entryway. The group developed an attachment to this place, and since has 'adopted the road' near the restoration area. The overall effect on morale was much greener, and much more enduring than the original mug idea.
posted by iiniisfree at 8:28 AM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

How about the DCI "I am not a paper cup" Also available at Amazon.

You can get a porcelain paint pen at craft store and have each employee personalize their own cup. This would be MUCH more environmentally friendly & cheaper than having each cup individually screen printed.

Order extra cups for incoming new employees or to replace any cups that break and make sure to order replacement lids.
posted by jaimystery at 8:32 AM on August 26, 2009

From a friend and coworker who did something similar recently:
I found a company called Tidewater Incentives (ask for Ed - who was able to help me with a similar effort.

We ended up buying ceramic mugs with the company logo on one side and an outlined box with a different texture on the other side so that people could use a sharpie and write their own name on it. Solves the problem of everyone having the same mug.

I’ve been using my mug for a year, and putting it through the dishwasher about once a week. I have to re-write my name every month or so, but it works surprisingly well.
posted by mmascolino at 8:53 AM on August 26, 2009

I know this isn't the kind of thing most corporations will do, but why not fill a big box at the local Goodwill with mugs? Let employees choose one from the pile. You're recycling, and being fun/quirky/unique. It's really the best possible option, environmentally. (But you're not slapping a logo on it, so the idea may not fly... I know it wouldn't in my office, sadly.)
posted by chowflap at 9:41 AM on August 26, 2009

How about whatever mug you decide on, have the employees come pick it up, rather than giving everyone a mug they may not need or want.

Honestly, there's a welcoming warm-fuzzy factor about walking into a new place and finding a gift - and a personalized one, no less. We once had a number of southern visitors attending a conference in our northern locale mid-winter, and we arranged to have knit hats with their names embroidered on them + a small box of nice chocolate waiting at everyone's workstation. Everyone said it really helped them to feel welcome and part of the team that the conference was intended to build.

So. personalized mugs = awesome in my book. Great ice-breaker, great warmfuzzies, and they'll certainly get used within the office.

I would look for local print shops - the kind of places that do photocopying and such usually do special printing as well, such as T-shirts and often mugs. Usually you can get your items in a week or less. I got the knit hats done at one of those mall setups that embroider trucker hats, and they were great. Some of those places do mugs also.
posted by Billegible at 10:33 AM on August 26, 2009

I had a couple plain mugs like this for camping, and we recently received two more that were printed. They are nearly all stainless steel, so there's no yucky plastic flavor or chemical interactions. Easy to clean, recyclable, good for hot/cold, and so far I have not had one open up in my backpack. I don't know about individual names, but the mugs can be printed, and possibly etched.

It is not as "green" a solution as using second hand mugs, that's for sure. However, ceramic mugs can break, and can only be downcycled. So over the lifetime of the item, these mugs might have less embodied energy than ceramic. I use my steel travel mug all the time, and it does things a ceramic mug cannot.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:43 PM on August 26, 2009

Yeah, I don't necessarily think that a secondhand ceramic mug is going to have much appeal, but the problem with the "greenness" of the solution is that it heavily depends on how long people use the item, if they use them at all.

I think the best solution is to offer a quality item that people have to request, thereby increasing the likelihood that they'll use it longer. Maybe offer a choice between the stainless and the ceramic, so that those people who want a travel mug can have one, and those that want a mug to keep on their desk can have that. If you drop a mug on everyone's desk, some will use it, some won't. The ceramic vs. stainless may or may not be a wash, but it's certainly a lot greener not to produce something that people don't want.
posted by electroboy at 4:25 PM on August 26, 2009

I think the contracting local potters idea is a pretty awesome one. It's contributing to the local economy, and seems about as eco-friendly as you can get without getting used mugs. I would be much happier with something like that that doesn't have that mass-produced factory look.

Being handmade, they would be personal without being personalized, but you could probably get the potter to write names on each mug, too.
posted by that girl at 5:57 PM on August 26, 2009

I've used them for both a friend's wedding favors and professional stuff....great selection and prices.
posted by legotech at 6:26 PM on August 26, 2009

Ordering promotional items is part of my job, but I'm a little stumped on the "personalized" bit. I would totally love to have someone give me a mug with my name on it. Just make sure you double-check the spelling! The problem is, I'm not sure how you can do this in a cost-effective manner.

I'm not really crazy about mmascolino's idea, it seems kinda kiddish.

If you have cash to burn, try Zazzle or maybe one of the photo-printing sites?
posted by radioamy at 9:02 PM on August 26, 2009

I would totally love to have someone give me a mug with my name on it. Just make sure you double-check the spelling!

This is a good point. I don't go by my "official" name IRL, and there have definitely been times when I've gotten personalized things from work that did not have the name I use. So naturally I didn't want to wear anything that someone had spent money to have personalized with a name no one calls me.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:25 PM on August 27, 2009

When we moved into our new space every employee was given a mug with a lid. It was a huge help in not have spills ruin carpet and furniture. In turn thats meant less cleaning chemicals and expense.

If we did it again, I wouldn't get everyone mugs. I'd allow people to pick between a BPA-free water bottle and a travel mug with a lid. Then I'd have them "sign" their name to the bottom or side. Our originals were not personalized, but overtime people had Sharpied them with names, drawings, etc.

Remember that you're going to need to keep this up for new employees too.
posted by 26.2 at 7:07 AM on August 28, 2009

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