NOTE: I just want to preface this blog post, with a note that I get that we are at a standstill and no one is planning any events. This blog post was written right before the COVID_19 shut the country down. There is still useful information that we can hopefully use and look forward to using once the go ahead to hosting large events is back upon us 🙂
Bringing people together, while putting sustainability front and centre
We are huge proponents of meeting face to face, but when we put on events, there is a fair amount of waste that can take place. According to the Event Manager Blog, the typical conference attendee produces 1.89 kilograms of discards/waste every day (1.16 kilograms which is landfill based) and 176.67 kilograms of CO2 emissions every day of a conference. That’s a lot per person, so we have some room to improve and make events a little less wasteful. Do you have to go from 0 to a 100? Of course not! Small changes over time, lead to big results. Let’s set ourselves up for success, not failure.
Green events seems very expensive
You can make changes to eliminate waste at events and not have a huge overall increase of costs. Greener options may seem more expensive, but with the offset of waste, you may actually come out ahead. Maybe not the first year, or the second year, but as you make changes, they all add up over time!
I am going to focus on the event ID and swag here, as that is my area of expertise. The Event Manager Blog goes very in depth in all aspects of the conference/event side and is a great resource for the industry as a whole.
Name Badges & Swag = Throw Aways
But they don’t have to be. The industry has come a long way in the last few years, in offering products that are more sustainable, while keeping costs down as much as possible. And as we make more of a shift towards being more sustainable product wise, the more cost effective these types of products will become. In the last year, we have added several products to help events choose more sustainable options for their conference ID solutions.
As for swag, we strongly dislike giveaways that don’t serve a purpose. In our opinion, if they don’t serve a purpose, they’re useless, and therefore get thrown away. And when people get products that they wouldn’t find useful, whether offered by you or a vendor at your event, or a sponsor, it can leave your attendees with a negative perception of your event. If they feel negatively about your event, do we really think they’re going to want to come back next time? The first things to go when budgets become strained, are conferences and travel.
Take for example, the badges we provided for Canadian Society of Association Executives (CSAE) which was held in Vancouver, BC in October 2019. The organizers were adamant about their badge solutions being as eco-friendly as possible. As we were coming up with the options, the best idea ever came across my desk. Enter the seeded ecoBadges.
Seeded what now?
Seeded paper badges. These are a thing of a beauty, and are definitely a product that will give your attendees that wow factor! The paper is produced in the USA and the paper is embedded with wildflower seeds! The vendor works closely with the USDA to ensure the utmost of quality, and are importable worldwide*. Why would someone want to take these with them? To plant, of course! These can be planted and you can see your badge flower into a living product, or if you are not one to have a green thumb (like me) then these are compostable.
While the badge paper is delicate, we do suggest using them with a sleeve. Now, before you start freaking out, the best option is a biodegradable badge holder. The vinyl is made with a biodegradable material, so the badge will degrade once disposed of. Or better yet, because they’re vinyl sleeves, they can be reused at your next event and so on. Whether you’re pre-printing all names on the badge or if you’re printing names onsite with your registration software, there is a a single pouch sleeve, or a two pocket sleeve. For the CSAE conference, we used the two pocket biodegradable badge holder so that the seeded badge went in the full length sleeve, and the onsite badge was printed and put in the front 4″ x 3″ pocket.
Pro tip – see if your registration software can use a paper that is recycled or recyclable to help you meet your green goals.
The amount of positive feedback we received on the unique badges alone, helped us showcase that the industry is changing and shifting, and that greening your event is definitely possible.
*Additional paperwork for importation may be required
Swag is swag; how do you change that?
Swag is swag, however, there is such a wide variety of swag available these days, that can fit any aspect of budget. And in all honesty, throwing the littlest amount of money at something, just to have something to give away, probably doesn’t have a high ROI. Putting a little more thought into the product(s) you want to brand for giveaways, and spending a little more, gives you a bigger opportunity for a positive ROI.
If you give someone a product that is useful, they’ll feel more positive about your organization. If you give someone a product that isn’t useful and they’re just going to throw away, leaves them with a negative image of your organization. In a world where anything and everything can be vented about on social media, save yourself the hassle.
For example, a huge trend the last couple of years at events, has been security. Keeping that in mind, we decided to have RFID card holders, which can be adhered to your phone, or just used on its own or in your wallet, and we gave them away with our business card inside. I personally use mine every time I travel. I have a dedicated phone case with an RFID card holder attached, and I also keep a single RFID card holder in my wallet. Heck, when I was in Rome and it was insanely busy and hot outside, I used the RFID holder by itself, tucked inside of a pocket that wasn’t accessible to pick pocketer types. Stealing electronic information is becoming a huuuuuuuge problem, so having something that I can use time and time again, I find immensely helpful. And I’m not just saying that because it’s our product.
What about lanyards?
If you’re using a badge, most of the time you’ll need a lanyard to go with. Now, you can go about this one of two ways.
First, you can use a blank lanyard, which if you keep the colour neutral, you can continue to reuse over and over again. Until you run out of them because inevitably, there is always someone that will walk away with their lanyard when the event is over! By using the blank lanyard, you’re able to easily reuse, which thereby eliminates your overall waste on a per event basis.
Secondly, if you’re using your lanyard as a sponsorship branding opportunity, then you’re looking at printed but there are different materials you can choose from. Instead of opting for the satin full colour, or the standard polyester material, you can choose recycled material, which is made from pop bottles! Or you could choose bamboo material, which is super comfortable to wear! Or you can go with a cotton material, which is also super comfortable to wear, and light weight. Full colour sublimation prints can be done on the recycled material, but not that bamboo or cotton, so just something to keep in mind for events.
Better yet, if you’re going to have your sponsor locked in for more than that years event, you can collect the lanyards at the end of the event and reuse for the following event. Attendees are very willing to give their lanyards back if you make it easy for them to see and remember. We collected the lanyards from the CSAE conference once the conference was over and there were lots of positive comments about having a place to return the lanyards. What is the benefit for us? We get to cut down on the amount of samples we need to produce for those that are looking for product samples, which helps lessen the CO2 emissions on our part. Are we concerned about not keeping our brand in front of the attendee? Not at all – we were around their neck for four days. Not even I am that forgetful 😉
By making smarter choices with the products we have our attendees wear, and that we or our vendors/sponsors giveaway, we are putting our intention in front of our attendees that we are doing our part to make events a little more sustainable. Seeing is believing, and when you put new products in front of people that maybe they’ve never thought were possible before, you’ll get all that social media love too, because you so know we’re going to post about it.