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How do I Make my OOH Advertising More Sustainable?


Consumers across all age levels care more about the sustainability of a brand than about brand recognition, according to the Sustainability Report Compendium by First Insight in partnership with the Baker Retailing Center at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. This charge towards eco-conscious consumers is being led by Gen Z, among whom 75% said they were more likely to buy from sustainable brands. This trend towards sustainability is exponentially skyrocketing with consumers across generations saying they would pay more for a product that was environmentally friendly. Additionally, three-quarters of Gen X, Millennial, and Gen Z consumers indicated that they would make purchase decisions based on a brand’s personal, social, and environmental values.

The message matches the medium with Out-of-Home (OOH) advertising. Though sometimes perceived as being less eco-friendly than other channels, OOH provides a variety of opportunities in which you can leverage technologies to be more sustainable in your practices and stay true to your brand’s values while also shaping the behaviors of your consumers so that they associate your brand with their own ability to make a positive impact on the environment.

There are many beautiful ways that sustainability can be integrated into your outdoor advertising efforts all over the world, from living walls to paint that removes pollution to experiential forms of advertising such as bicycle-powered juice makers to recycling vinyls to create handbags and accessories. In this article, you’ll learn creative options to ensure your advertising matches your brand’s commitment to the environment.

Billboards with Solar Power

Though there have been some discussions about digital screens that can run purely off of solar power, this is still an innovation limited to smaller screens or that relies on some traditional power sources in addition to solar panels. For example, San Francisco is home to the first baseball stadium scoreboard to operate off of solar power.  However, there are also options to light up static billboards through solar-powered lighting. Companies like SEPCO utilize solar-powered LED lighting to keep your advertisements bright at night while reducing energy consumption and carbon footprints. 

OOH Supplier Lamar does quite a bit of solar-paneled billboards, with over 7,000 solar panels installed onto 2,000+ billboard structures in Louisiana and Florida. These solar panels return over 2 million kilowatt hours to the grid annually, about the same amount of power as it would take to wash and dry about 400,000 loads of laundry.

Remove Smog from the Atmosphere with Your OOH

Did you know it's possible to use your OOH creative to combat air pollution? There are certain types of coatings for vinyls and special paints for hand-painted walls that not only beautify the physical landscape, but also cleanse and purify the air.

Smog Removing Coating
For classic vinyl Billboards and placements, there is a special coating that removes CO2 and smog from the atmosphere. The coating is applied prior to shipping and begins purifying the air when exposed to sunlight. Though the coating can be automated, expect to still add 4-5 days to your production time for traditional Billboards and one day to production time for smaller business and retail signs. The coating does not change the substrate warranty and is guaranteed for one year. The cost of adding this coating to a standard Bulletin will increase the price by about $1,500-$2,000.

How Smog Eating Vinyl Works

  1. Patent pending formula is activated by UV light (sunlight). Titanium dioxide-based coating attracts NOx gases, more commonly known as smog.
  2. Patent pending formula neutralizes harmful NOx gases turning them into harmless nitrates.
  3. Purified NOx gases (harmless organic nitrates) are rinsed off by water.

Eco-friendly Paints
Companies like Airlite have also begun producing eco-friendly paints made with natural materials that reduce air pollutants including nitrogen oxide and nitrogen dioxide. These paints can be used on murals to purify the air, eliminate germs and bacteria and inhibit the growth of molds and microbes. Airlite attracts water molecules in the air to create an invisible protective film on hand-painted OOH inventory that blocks dirt and dust from attaching. It also saves energy by drastically reducing the amount of solar heat absorbed by buildings. This can reduce air-conditioning energy costs by up to 30% and lower the associated CO2 emissions that cause climate change.

Formats that Encourage Consumers to be More Environmentally Conscious

Not only can eco-friendly options be added to specific formats to make them more green, but some formats in and of themselves encourage consumer behaviors that are better for the environment, such as EV charging stations, recycling kiosks, water purifiers and greener methods of transportation.

EV Charging Stations
Formats such as EV (Electric Vehicle) charging stations allow consumers to charge up their electronic vehicles while experiencing your creative. Some EV charging formats use solar or other forms of regenerative energy to further showcase a brand’s commitment to sustainability in front of a highly engaged audience. 

Recycling Kiosks
While some suppliers encourage recycling through designated kiosks where OOH ads can run, other suppliers have installed solar-powered units to double up on their commitment to sustainability. Some areas have even taken recycling one step further to create Reverse Vending Machines that offer your audience rewards for recycling. Often installed near beaches or other waterfronts, these systems encourage recycling bottles or cans in exchange for custom vouchers or discount codes that can help customers save money on your products or services.

Water Purifiers 
In some areas, generators have been used to purify water collected from the atmosphere. A spout at the base of the ad unit provides fresh, clean and safe water to those in need. UTEC used this technology in the desert of Peru to create a billboard that would provide potable water to its residents.

Green Transportation 
Many forms of transportation can be used for greener advertising. Consider the use of Bike Share Panels and the bicycles themselves for an option to get your message across the city. Electric vehicle formats can also be used in lieu of traditional fleet advertising to showcase your brand’s commitment to green. 

Growing Green: Formats that Grow 

Though OOH can come in an endless variety of formats, growing plants and other vegetation from Bus Shelter planters to “living walls” is a truly unique way to add green to the landscape.

Embellished Bus Shelters
Some vendors have begun creating embellished Bus Shelters and other ad spaces that have planters on top. This is especially effective in urban areas such as London, where there is less ground-level space for green things to grow. Companies like Green City Solutions combine greenery with technology to add air-purifying moss to street furniture and other OOH formats.

Living Walls
Expose people to your message with green outdoor to reduce CO2 emissions and beautify the cityscape. Seeds can be planted on billboards to reveal your message over time. Popular in Central America, living green walls are panels of plants grown on structures that can either be free-standing or attached to walls. ViaVerde is one organization that is leveraging OOH advertising to create a “greenway” in Mexico City and beyond. Investors in the organization are allocated advertising space that is incorporated into the vertical garden columns. Their goal is to cover 10 million square meters of cityscape with vertical gardens by 2030.

In Europe, BlowUp Media has installed digital screens in places like Belgium and Germany that are accentuated by carbon dioxide-eating vertical gardens. Some advertisers have even used produce in innovative ways to bring the message to life. 

Transforming Old Vinyls

Production enhancements have allowed for greater opportunities to recycle and reuse materials. Media suppliers as well as innovative retailers continue to provide alternative ways to repurpose and recycle advertiser’s OOH campaigns including recyclable eco-vinyl, repurposed bags and accessories, and reuse of vinyls for storm relief that can extend the life of your physical advertisement for many years to come.

Recyclable eco-vinyl 
There are a variety of eco-friendly and recyclable materials that can be used for static outdoor advertisements. Eco-Flex is a high-quality PVC-free substrate that is both lightweight and durable. There is also Eco-Vinyl, a PVC-free, paper-free, pre-glued medium that can be used on various outdoor advertising display types. Both materials are free from pollution and odor and provide distortion-free high-resolution output.

Repurposed bags and accessories 
From Billboard to handbag, Rareform sorts, cleans and fabricates old vinyls transforming them into unique, one-of-a-kind purses, handbags and other accessories, giving your advertisements new life and creating a keepsake that could be used as a giveaway or product.

Reuse of vinyls for storm relief 
Billboard vinyls can be repurposed for quick temporary repairs to roofs or other structures. Last year, FEMA and IBOUSA collaborated on a program to collect old billboard PE and PVC vinyls, with the opportunity to gain a $50 tax credit per donated bulletin. Outdoor supplier, Lamar also recycles used billboard vinyls for storm relief.

Going Green Internationally: An Additional Push from Countries' Governments 

Even if there is little impetus for your brand to begin implementing green initiatives, depending on where you want to expand and advertise, soon you may have to. Countries all over the world are making rules to combat pollution and climate change. In addition to this, many organizations will give you certificates and accolades for your green initiatives to give your brand the official green seal of approval.

Push from Governments to "go green"
Many municipalities, especially in Central America, are folding into their advertising rules that you must include some wayfinding measures and a carbon dioxide reducing green element to even put up a structure. In these municipalities, your advertising dollars go directly towards funding city improvement efforts. In Germany, where there is a huge push for companies to go green, PVC free materials must be used. There are also many advertisers who use recycled materials from the ocean utilizing products from organizations like the Seaqual Initiative.

Certified Green Advertiser 
You can also gain recognition as a brand and accolades or certificates for your commitment to advertising green. In Germany, there is Nature Office, which can give you a certificate or badge to put on your website for special projects and client projects that promote sustainability. Many suppliers in Germany also offer to check campaigns for their CO2 emissions and compensate advertisers accordingly. If desired, advertising clients can often receive a corresponding certificate at the end of their campaigns. In the United States there is LEED certification and other certifications which your brand can work towards to further show your commitment to the planet.

Go Green with Billups!

Leverage the commitment to near-zero waste and fight climate change to heal the Earth by utilizing technologies and resources that advance that mission as part of your messaging. Here at Billups, we provide help with every part of the media planning process. We will talk to you about your brand’s unique challenges and goals for your campaign to help you deliver on your brand’s commitment to sustainability. Submit an RFP today!