The German branch of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has launched a new campaign (website, facebook) to save trees by encouraging people to print less documents by using a new file format: .wwf. This new file is a clone of the PDF with the only exception that it disables the print function of the application used to open it.
The software (download here), for now only available for Mac OSX (but they say that it’s coming for Windows too) simply adds the “Save as WWF” option so that documents can be saved as .wwf instead of PDF. By default each document created includes an extra page at the end explaining what the campaign is about (the addition of this page can be disabled).
C onferences use plenty of non-green stuff (items that might have a high impact on the environment, create too much waste or just are not recyclable or reusable). Lanyards, the cord that holds your event badge, are one of these items. Often made of synthetic or plastic materials and have a brand logo printed on them, they are a good element for branding of the conference or by one of the sponsors. Most everyday events though don’t need a special or sponsored lanyard, but just a basic instrument for properly displaying the badge.
Last Tuesday I attended the Kom je ook? 4 conference in Amsterdam which used a lanyard with low ecological impact. It consisted of just regular thread with a knot linking both extremes. The thread was tied to a small gadget on one end that acted as a stop (this gadget had a specific function during the event but being it made of cheap plastic was a bit of a contradiction) and passed through a whole punched in the paper badge (see photo).
This idea is especially useful for short events (that last one day or less as this one) and for those that don’t require a branded lanyard, or just want to be more sustainable.
Recently one of the spotters of Springwise published the eco-minded products of Fairware, which sells “promotional products for your conscience” that could be used as sustainable gadgets and giveaways for your event.
As a rule of thumb, better not to give away a crappy gadget that will have a negative effect on the environment (and taints your brand with a negative aura). If you need to use a lanyard, give away a conference bag or a t-shirt, at least minimize their impact by using sustainable products made of reused or recycled materials.
Take promotional goods—a category often dominated by cheap, throw-away and plastic products. Eco-minded options have traditionally been few and far between, but now Canadian Fairware focuses on providing a wide range of sustainable alternatives.
All products offered by Fairware reflect a commitment to social and environmental responsibility. Custom imprinted and branded products, trade show give-aways and retail shopping totes are all among them, chosen from suppliers that abide by a code of conduct modeled after that used by the Fair Labor Association. Specifically, Fairware actively seeks out businesses that embrace ethical sourcing and environmental commitment, among other goals. Eco-minded clothes, books, electronics, stationery and umbrellas are among the goods offered in its online store, featuring a variety of organic, sustainable and recycled components. Source: Springwise
Many events have the habit of distributing crappy & useless gadgets, often provided by the sponsors. It gets even worse when attendees get to fight for them (I’ve seen men in suits which -directly or indirectly- had payed more than 2.000 USD for a ticket fighting over who got a cheap cap with the BMW brand on it).
Such a practice greatly hurts the experience of your conference, it says “I don’t care” or “I was to lazy to make something innovative” and in the end transmits a negative -mediocre- feeling. In a way, the only [physical] things that the event leaves you is a cheap one (apart from the memories in your head). Plus in many cases it’s not green nor ethical: many of those gadgets are hardly recyclable, have a short lifespan and a very low cost because they are being produced in a sweatshop in some poor country.
You might argue “everybody does it so why not me?”. Well -I’d answer- because you care about details and want to innovate on just another bad practice.
I do appreciate when an event gives away a nice or useful product (like the classy Monocle notebook given out at a Monocle magazine meetup). In the past I’ve given out BlackBerries and iPods as a special offer promotional gadget (of the kind “if you buy by a give date you get a BlackBerry – it was a corporate event). Other gadgets I usually like are stickers or T-shirts (with logo, date and country) that act as a stamp that shows that your participation. If it’s about T-shirts, please make them of good quality… and why not from organic cotton or recycled yarn?.
3D printed gadgets
3D printing has been around for many years and now the entrance barrier is becoming much lower and accessible to broader masses. My interest in 3D printing has been pumped up by the near future scenario described in Cory Doctorow’s latest novel, Makers (Amazon link), and a short conversation with Marleen Stikker (co-founder of PICNIC festival, founder and director of the Waag Society which hosts the FabLab dedicated to 3D printing).