Reinventing The Give-Away

Here is a thought from my “green meeting file”. Should you be making the leap and holding a green meeting, don’t overlook a major part of what currently makes meetings very un-green.

You know what I am talking about. They are usually little, have logos on them and in a tradeshow setting, cause grown men to climb across chairs while knocking over little old ladies to get a piece of the action……….Give-aways.

Whatever you call them, bobbles, tchotchkes, trinkets, and trash or even swag, they are a necessity at many events and range from the ever-present cheap pen to Waterford Crystal. Unfortunately, they are the most often overlooked item when it comes to producing your event in a sustainable, environmentally sound way.

My guess is 98 percent of the event give-aways produced today, from pens and bags to paperweights and flash drives are not green. From the raw materials used to create them to the ways in which they manufactured, they are about as environmentally sound as a Hummer running on leaded gas.

What makes it even worse is that because most people choose foolish giveaways that are not well thought out, they are likely to end up in a landfill.

Don’t believe me, how many of the giveaways that you received in 2007 do you still have and if you still have any, is it being used or is the poor thing inching closer to the waste basket every day.

To stop this enormous waste of energy and to avoid being the victim of C-GAS (“crappy give-away syndrome“), we as planners need to do a couple of things.

Number one is choosing give-aways that are hip, cool and are actually useful. If you do this, people will use them and they won’t go into that special place we have reserved for the average give-away. You know the place………the trash.

Waste engineers across the nation are pleading “Please, stop giving away pens and sticky notes with your name on them……….”

These items do your company and brand no favors. Most people are particular about their writing instruments and scrap paper, I know I am, and if it is not a .07 mm black pen, it silently makes it way to pen Heaven, should it be a sticky note with with no room to write because your logo takes up half the real estate, my 3 year old has a new scribble pad.

Average pens have a place. They are meant for hotels and resorts to put in rooms and lobbies where they go through thousands of them. They go though thousands because dolts like me never remember to stick a pen in our pocket.

There are many companies out there that can help you with gifts that are cool and cost no more than other, average items. Trust me on this one. Shoot me an e-mail, I would be more than happy to send you some great companies that can make you shine.

The second thing planners should do to take advantage of the newest trend sweeping the give-away world, renewable, sustainable, green “trinkets and trash”. Now, thanks to this movement, even if you choose a really crappy give-away and I toss it where it belongs, I don’t have to feel quite so bad about it (and yes, I actually do feel bad when I have to toss it. It cost you a lot of money and valuable time and I hate to do it).

The cool thing about the “greening of the tzotchke” is that they can be fun and useful. Honest, they can.

There are now green items that you would not believe, from pens that qualify as writing instruments and notepads for their soy ink to write on, to swankier items such as briefcases, backpacks and padfolios that are functional, useful and (gasp) have style.

Some of the unique items that I have seen and used are messenger bags, frisbees and laptop bags made from recycled materials.

The green give-away movement even has something for those of you that can not resist a pen that no one wants; an everyday average model made from “corn plastic” that is 100% biodegradable. Finally a bad pen that I can chuck guilt free.

No offense is intended to the folks who invented the corn pen, it is a necessity because there are people who will never get with the program, so they are doing the world a favor. I wish them nothing but success and I hope they make a fortune.

Besides, we hipsters with the good give-aways need the folks with bad give-aways. They make our swag the envy of the event world.

From 3/8/08

Keith Johnston

Keith Johnston

Keith is the Managing Partner of i3 Events but is most widely known as the outspoken publisher of the event industry blog PlannerWire. In addition to co-hosting the Bullet List and Event Tech Pull Up Podcasts, he has been featured in Plan Your Meetings, Associations Now, Convene, Event Solutions, and has appeared on the cover of Midwest Meetings Magazine.

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