Between the growing calls for accountability in the fight against climate change and attendee demographics beginning to skew towards more vocally eco-conscious consumers, it comes as little surprise that hosting more sustainable events was cited as one of the leading priorities in 2022. With the expectation of social activism at an all-time high and attendees preferring to align themselves with companies and brands that share their values, it’s not just enough to make sustainable choices. Attendees expect companies and events to demonstrate they can act on these values and take sustainability to the next level. It’s not enough just to talk the talk, but we need to walk the walk, and meetings and events are no exception.
Planners and event professionals have been taking steps to make events more sustainable or greener for years, and most of us have implemented more than a few practices to do so at our meetings and events. Through the years, we've all grown accustomed to hearing and doing our best to implement reduce, reuse and recycle, but reduce and recycle (or waste management) tend to come out on top when we all work on our eco-conscious initiatives.
One of the biggest trends expected to emerge in 2022 and beyond is thinking about sustainability not just in terms of waste but in a more circular way. This concept of circularity will challenge planners to think about the materials we are buying or sourcing for our events rather than thinking about how to minimize the waste at the end through donations, composting, or recycling. We can all agree there is no shortage of ways to increase your events’ sustainability (if you’re looking for some inspirations or ideas your colleagues are using, head over to our Sustainable Events blog). Still, one often overlooked area that can have an immediate impact is choosing promo or branded giveaway items with circularity. A successful, circular promotional item is one that attendees not only can use over and over but want to use as well. Join us below as we explore some ideas for circular giveaway items and how you can use them in synergy with other parts of your sustainable event!
Your registration table is your first point of contact at an event and is usually where your attendees are given their swag bag of goodies for the event. Instead, consider totes that bring a little more to the table. Options that can be converted into string gym bags and duffels, shopping totes, or just skipping the tote altogether and opting for something a little more versatile like a backpack or laptop portfolio are all great choices. Regardless of the style you decide on, choosing a material that is eco-friendly, such as recycled cotton or rPET (which is made of recycled plastic), can make your bag both sustainable and circular. The key here is to differentiate your carrying option from the hundreds of others your guests have received at past events.
When applying this same concept to the items within the bag, we want to reduce one-time-use plastics and replace the traditional tchotchke-type items with those recipients will continue to use outside the event. Even if you’re opting for lower price point items, picking products that have an everyday application ensures they’ll see some use in the recipient’s or attendee’s daily routine.
Bento Boxes - Perfect for meal prep and dining at the event, at home, and on the go once the event has ended.
Pens - With a refillable inkwell, a pen’s lifespan is virtually endless, making it a great pick for a gift you’re hoping to see get extended use. Many pens are also available in a variety of sustainable materials (such as bamboo or wheat straw), which is also an easy way to increase your event’s overall green factor.
Reusable Straws - Plastic straws are a big offender in terms of one-time-use plastics and waterway pollutants (so much so that certain states are banning them altogether). These gifts give attendees something to use both at an event, at home, at restaurants, or on the go!
When it comes to circularity, clothing is a surprisingly viable option. Outgrown or old clothes can be donated for reuse or even recycled by certain companies to create new clothing. When selecting apparel opting for a name brand is a great way to ensure reuse as it usually means high quality and superior material. Additionally, consider eco-friendly materials like recycled or organic cotton for a “greener” option right out of the gate.
Health and Safety
COVID-19 has changed the landscape as far as what is expected of an event to ensure its guests' health and well-being and the duty of care expected of event organizers. PPE tools are a must-have for every event and are something we use in our daily routines, creating an opportunity to offer some items with high circularity (that guests can use both on-site and at home).
Instead of having hand sanitizing stations around every corner, consider gifting attendees with refillable sanitizer bottles and providing sanitizer refill stations at the event. Offering this combo as a sponsorship opportunity increases their brand visibility and given how important these measures have become at live events is usually an easy sell.
When looking for higher budget ideas, consider opting for multifunction UV Sanitizers. These items can not only disinfect surfaces but can also double as phone chargers, alarm clocks, and even water bottles. Items like this that have many features and thus benefit your attendees have exceptional circularity. They can be used in multiple ways throughout the day, in post-event travel, and your attendees' day-to-day long after your event has ended.
Food and Beverage
Many things have changed significantly over the past 2+ years, and food and beverage service is no exception. A new approach to food and beverage means new opportunities for synergy between your event’s infrastructure and attendee gifts/giveaways. Eliminating single-use plastic water bottles by offering branded bottles and a water filling station is an easy way to make your event significantly more sustainable and your promos more circular. Like other promotional items, water bottles are available in a wide range of styles, price points, and features (and, like other promos, you ultimately get what you pay for). Opting for a higher budget item can sometimes be a hard sell to sponsors or management, but it typically comes with unique features setting it apart from other water bottles attendees may have received in the past. As with the previous items, a higher quality material usually ensures a long lifespan for use, increasing the overall bottle's circularity. Opting for an eco-conscious material like bamboo, glass, or biodegradable wheat straw can not only differentiate your choice from other bottles they’ve received but will make the recipient feel good every time they use it.
You can also carry this increased sustainability and the idea of self serve over to the coffee and snacks. Checking whether or not the venue offers reusable or washable cups (which cuts down on total event waste) or offering your attendees a reusable tumbler they can continue to use post-event/at home can increase the event's sustainability and your giveaways circularity. Much like with the water bottles, the easiest way to ensure extended use is to opt for high quality or brand-name unique in style, size, material, or features.
It’s not surprising that the days of self-serve buffet-style meals for attendees to enjoy at live events have been put on an indefinite hiatus. Many planners are instead opting for pre-packaged meals or pre-ordered meals for attendees to enjoy. Locally or ethically sourced meals can help make meals themself a little greener, and supplying guests with reusable utensils or meal prep accessories can cut down on single-use plastic. These giveaways can be used both on-site and during their meal prep at home, making these the ideal candidate when it comes to circularity.
Do Some Name Dropping Or Pick a Cause
One of the easiest ways to ensure that items will see continued use once the recipient leaves the event is to opt for higher quality or brand name items. Having prospective sponsors co-brand items can make these higher price points a little more palatable. Additionally, asking if a sponsor’s company has a green initiative can help offset some of the costs. Sponsors may have a separate budget at their disposal or may receive financial compensation for these green items, making upscale or brand name items a more cost-effective choice.
Offering products that are B Corp certified or associated with an initiative can use the expectation of social activism at the forefront of attendees’ minds to your advantage. By selecting products that support causes like planting trees, building wells, or maintaining responsibly managed forests, you’re gifting attendees with something they’ll feel great about using and will increase the circularity or likelihood they’ll use it after the event.
Where to Start?
As we mentioned earlier, attendees in today's event climate expect companies to take a stance on social issues and demonstrate they can act on these values. While the adage “reduce, reuse, recycle” still has a place at our events, sustainability through circularity is poised to be a recurring trend throughout 2022 and beyond. Couple this concept of circularity with products made from sustainable materials for an even greener gift (be sure to check out our Eco-Friendly products blog for more information on sustainable materials). Beginning the process of sourcing and selecting items that lend themselves to extended use may seem like a daunting task, but don't worry, you’re not alone! Our team of Customer Relations consultants is here to help you pick items that not only compliment your event but have features that ensure they'll be used in your attendees' day-to-day long after the event has ended. Feel free to contact us to get the ball rolling on sourcing circular giveaways for your next sustainable event or shop our full line of promotional giveaways to find a gift your attendees are sure to love and use for years to come!