The meetings and conferences industry in the US is a big one, and that means a huge demand for promotional items to give away to attendees and participants – from decorative to useful and emblazoned with the name or logo of a company or a particular message.[i] While giving away promotional items can be a highly effective marketing activity and the promotional products industry contributes significantly to the US economy, the waste generated by poorly chosen promotional items is astounding. Most products given away at meetings and conferences have a very short lifecycle because they are used only for the duration of the event and then thrown away.
Corporations and organizations can strike a balance between the need for increasing brand awareness and creating a green business by choosing sustainable promotional products. At Hearts, we’re serious about reducing our corporate waste and want to help the American business community do the same. We understand the need for companies to promote their brand using giveaways, and as such have developed an extensive catalogue of customizable promotional items for our corporate clients.
Join us in creating green meetings and events by dialing down the eco impact of your giveaways. The sheer size of the promotional product industry, as you’ll soon discover, makes this a tremendous opportunity for us to work together to reduce our corporate environmental footprints.
Quick Guide: Conferences and Promotional Products
- US conferences held monthly: There is an average of 150,000 meetings, trade shows, and conferences held in the US each month, with more than 204 million participants in such events throughout the year.[ii]
- Size of the US promotional product industry: The Promotional Product Association International (PPAI) estimates the corporate gifts industry which supplies giveaways for conferences, trade shows, and other business meetings to be worth $18 billion per year in the US.[iii]
- Waste generated from corporate promotional items: An estimated 4.25 million people join conferences in the US each month.[iv] The average conference participant generates the equivalent of two trash bags (61 pounds) of solid waste, which is 13 times more than their normal daily waste.[v]
- Most common promotional items: Wearable fashion such as caps, jackets, golf shirts, and T-shirts make up 29.64% of the promotional product industry. Writing instruments are at 8.99%, bags at 7.17%, calendars at 6.93%, and office accessories are at 6% of the market.[vi]
Take Action! Sustainable Marketing Products
- Give away virtual marketing items: Technological advancements open doors for eco-friendly and sustainable marketing items. Instead of physical objects that participants may throw away after leaving the event, opt for virtual giveaways such as valuable electronic resources such as reports, video presentations, or downloadable software. These can be offered securely using scan quick response (QR) codes that would give them exclusive access to online material. Other ideas include free apps or virtual gift certificates for local businesses.
- Opt for more sustainable promotional items: When determining what type of promotional giveaway to offer during your conference, choose items that are more sustainable. This includes green giveaways that are durable, made of recycled materials or biodegradable materials, and items that are practical for everyday use. Hearts carries a wide range of eco-friendly promotional products that we can customize to your requirements.
- Avoid one-use giveaways: Some promotional items such as buttons, signs, and banners can only be used for the duration of the event and then become obsolete. This results in a huge quantity of waste going to landfills after only a short period of use. Practical items such as eco bags and sustainable T-shirts are fit for more long-term use and therefore are a much greener alternative to throw-away items.
- Choose timeless items: Promotional items with dates on them, such as calendars and diaries, are no longer fit for their original purpose once the dates have passed. As a result, they are doomed to be tossed out after a very short period of time. Select greener giveaways that are timeless to reduce the waste generated by your event.
- Be conservative in your purchases: If you insist on giving out a physical souvenir item during your conference, make sure that you buy just enough for your expected attendees so the rest do not end up as waste. In case you inevitably end up with extra items that are useful, donate these to local charities instead of tossing them out.
- Limit extra packaging: Packaging waste is one of the greatest tragedies of our modern world. Materials like cardboard, plastic, and paper used as packaging have a very short lifecycle, which represents a significant waste of natural resources. Opt for items that are free of extra packaging to further cut your event’s solid waste footprint.
Dig Deeper: Eco-Friendly Business Gifts
- Check out MarketingProfs’ guide to using QR codes as tradeshow souvenirs.
- Here are some promotional product ideas from the Get Green with Geiger guide.
iNelson, R., & Ebel, R. (2012). The 2011 estimate of US distributors’ promotional products sales. Retrieved from Promotional Products Association International website: http://www.ppai.org/inside-ppai/research/Documents/2011 PPAI Sales Survey full report.pdf
iiConvention Industry Council. (2011). The economic significance of meetings to the US economy. Retrieved from http://www.conventionindustry.org/Libraries/ESS/CIC_Final_Report_Executive_Summary.sflb.ashx
iiiPromotional Products Association International, (n.d.). The 2011 estimate of promotional products distributor sales. Retrieved from website: http://www.ppai.org/inside-ppai/research/Documents/2011 SalesVolume Sheet.pdf
iv (The Economic Significance of Meetings to the US Economy)
v Meeting Strategies Worldwide, Inc. (2009). Why go green, really? Whast is green washing? What’s teh industry doing? Retrieved from US Environmental Protection Agency: http://yosemite.epa.gov/r10/ECOCOMM.NSF/Federal+Green+Challenge/FedGreenWebinar4-8/$FILE/Spatrisano%20FGC%204.8.09.pdf
vi (The 2011 Estimate of Promotional Products Distributor Sales)