Made in Michigan product line offers companies sustainable gifts


(As seen on WZZM TV 13) Companies focused on developing zero waste streams are looking for recognition products that fit their sustainability mission, and Grand Rapids company Promotional Impact’s Green Giftz line is creating products to fill that need.

“Seven or eight years ago we started to be aware of doing things more sustainably, mainly because clients like Herman Miller taught us that we needed to and we jumped on board,” explained Karen Scarpino. “We created a division called Green Giftz, which really put an emphasis on sustainability.”

In addition to offering gifts developed with sustainability in mind, Green Giftz also has added the Made in Michigan product line that focuses on reusable materials from Michigan in its product development.

Chrysler is one of the clients for which Green Giftz regularly develops products, including its annual environmental leadership awards.

“We’ve been creating custom awards for them for their environmental leadership program, which are all made right here in West Michigan,” Scarpino said. “There are trees and logs that have been submerged in the bottom of rivers and the Great Lakes, and these logs have been brought up and made into purchasable wood, which we use as the base of the award, and by doing that you can say no new trees were cut down to make the award.

“It’s very distinctive and different, and for that reason it stands out. We take the time to etch the story on the piece that will say it is made from lost treasure hardwoods that have been submerged and recovered from the Great Lakes. We also add to that a plate that is made from recycled glass that we etch with more details about the award and the recipient’s name.”

In addition to the awards, Green Giftz also recycles Chrysler’s outdated auto show and marketing banners into unique products that can be given as gifts to its employees or clients.

“We are taking their old banners and turning them into messenger bags, tote bags, notebook covers, laptop sleeves, and that way they can give a gift that is not only representative of their company because it has car images and their branding on it, but also we can put a little hang tag with it that says this item was made from scrap, made in Michigan.”

The company’s embrace of sustainability and development of unique products brought a special invitation from Chrysler, a request for the team to attend Chrysler’s Earth Day celebration this year to help teach its employees about how to be more sustainable.

Others have followed Chrysler’s lead including Bissell, Herman Miller, Steelcase, Cascade Engineering, Amway and Laughfest, all of which have ordered custom products from Green Giftz and the Made in Michigan line.

The demand for these products impacts not only Scarpino’s business but also local sewing businesses.

“We don’t do the cutting and sewing here,” Scarpino explained.

“We have a partner, which at the time when we started doing this was down to only working about two days a week and laying people off. Now, from the business we’ve been able to bring them, they are able to keep their people busy five days a week. … That is an example of how those folks, making those types of decisions where it matters to them — to select items here in Michigan — are literally employing more people.

“The cut-and-sew facilities have long gone overseas — there are so few of those left. To see something that is made locally, one of a kind, it really feels more precious.”

Employees and clients respond better to custom gifts than to the typical trinket items often associated with corporate recognition, and the demand is growing.

“The guest who receives it knows no two are alike … so that makes it more precious for the recipient too, really. In the gift-giving world, that is what people want — for someone to receive a gift where they think, ‘Wow that has meaning and significance to me.’”

Bags are one of the top products the company sells, which is particularly advantageous given the scrap fabric available in the area.

“There is so much scrap fabric — and I am talking about beautiful scrap fabric — in this community, and they will have all these partial rolls taking up warehouse space. … We actually receive calls asking us to take their scraps.

“Sometimes it is the most beautiful fabric and we can always make totes, messenger bags, laptop sleeves — all right here in West Michigan — from any of those items.

“I think that is what is unique about this area. We’ve got a lot of companies that care about the environment, and the companies who care, ironically, have this beautiful fabric, and fabric is the easiest to change into other beautiful items because you are talking about cutting and sewing.”

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