This year's BlogHer Conference was greener than ever, thanks in large part to Zwaggle's recycling our shwag (pic below). Post-conference, I asked if you had suggestions about how we could make BlogHer Conferences even greener -- and got some v. innovative ideas!
The conclusion I've drawn from those ideas is twofold:
1 To green a conference, one needs to set v. v. specific goals -- i.e. something more specific than "go green."
2. A lot of people want that goal to be "get rid of disposable plastic."
I mean, BlogHer's started down the de-plasticking path already, what with making the BlogHer bags reusable cotton totes! The problem was that each of those contained a disposable bottle of water (I believe it was bio-plastic, but still!), much to the consternation of many environmentalists.
I ran into a whole buncha conference attendees who said they'd actually brought their own reusable bottle (One said she was instructed to do so in an email, but I don't remember getting said email. Do you?), but ended up grabbing the plastic bottled water in the bags or in the meeting rooms, simply because they were, you know, there.
I would like to point out, however, that no-plastic water options were very much available! Many meeting rooms had chilled water in metal coolers in the back -- although they were much less prominent than the bottled water option.
My point is this: Many people brought their own reusable bottles, and for those who didn't, one sponsor was giving out free reusable water bottles! We coulda nixed the disposable water bottles altogether, and no one woulda been parched due to their absence....
MamaBird at Surely You Nest echoes this sentiment. Her advice: "Easy one for next conference is obviously water. There were tons of glasses but instead of pitchers, plastic water bottles sitting next to them.... It drove me nuts."
My other point: Lunches don't have to be encased in plastic (or bio-plastic). What happened to good old brown paper bag lunches?
De-plasticking, some might say, could hurt BlogHer's chances of attracting sponsors. However, I think this is highly unlikely. While plastic bottle companies may, of course, be less likely to try to get their goods in our shwag bags, other companies will surely see BlogHer's de-plasticking as an opportunity to offer better-targeted shwag, i.e reusable water bottles!
Those want / don't want messages came across loud and clear in this year's Zwaggle recycling room, where many people dumped off mostly plastic-based items. Says Deb: "As a marketer I have been in the unenviable position of designing and purchasing swag for different purposes, and I think your vendors are lucky to get feedback from the room--what bloggers kept, and what they recycled is useful information."
Which makes me think that one way we could sell this greening message to sponsors is by letting them know that, hey, you'll get a clear visual sense of the fact that BlogHer attendees aren't too keen on plastic just by surveying the recycling room.
Another sponsor selling point: BlogHer's greening efforts will actually help sponsor shwag go to the people who want them most! BlogHer's own Jory Des Jardins points out that while most people didn't want those tire pressure gauge things, others wanted two! "It's all about choice, the choice to take something, or two of something, if desired," Jory points out.
Of course, some enviros are more radical and want to go beyond reducing plastic to basically doing away with most shwag. Says Jenn of Tiny Choices: "Who needs all that swag, more totebags, and fridge magnets? I’m definitely on board for working with them next year!"
I'm with Jenn to a large degree -- After all, I kept v. little of the shwag I received. However, I do also get Jory's point that one gal's trash is another's treasure, especially since I give out tote bags all the time as freebies on my personal blog -- and those giveaways are always popular.
In any case, I think sponsors are important in making BlogHer conferences financially affordable to our community members -- and I do think some sponsors -- Zwaggle being a big case in point -- offer v. valuable goods and services to the attendees. As long as we do our best to encourage BlogHer sponsors to offer USEFUL, non-disposable-plastic shwag, AND offer attendees a way to easily recycle the shwag they don't want as Zwaggle did this year, shwaggin's alright with me --
Are you willing to de-plastic for the next BlogHer conference? Or have you got other greening suggestions for the next time we all meet up? Let us all know in the comments!
BlogHer Contributing Editor Siel notes that good wine and beer always comes in glass bottles, not plastic ones. She also blogs at greenLAgirl.com.
More from living