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Conference Organizers: Bag the Swag

Last weekend, Iattended the 2009 Opportunity Green conference. There were some inspiringspeakers with great messages. Len Sauers from P&G got me thinking aboutsmall changes across product lines that can make a big difference in the amountof resources consumed. Annie Leonard, who wrote The Story of Stuff, gave ajolting reminder of the waste built into our materials economy.

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In light of allthis, another of my takeaways was weighing heavily on my conscience, and myshoulder–the Swag Bag.

swag bag

Lookingthrough my five-pound bag, I encountered piles of cardboard, paper, and plasticwrapping–double-packaged disposable cardboard speakers, various logoednotebooks and pens, and a stack of brochures and magazines. Some of the swag hadgood intentions. We were encouraged to use our new set of bamboo dinnerware inlieu of plastic utensils and a reusable water bottle and hand towel instead oftheir disposable counterparts. But how many materials were used, even in thesesupposedly sustainable gifts?Andhow many people are going to carry these items around with them, even a weekfrom now? Not me.

Swag is one of thebiggest ways that conferences generate waste–it’s a $19 billion industry in the U.S. That’sa lot of Customized Readymade Apparel and Products, if you’ll pardon myacronym.

All of thesefreebies have a high cost. This became especially clear to me after last weekend.Conferences that are aimed at encouraging consumers to “reduce, reuse, recycle” should start lobbying to stop the meaningless gifting of promotional products.As Annie Leonard said, we can’t afford to fill the world with more stuff. Let’s Bag the Swag.

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For 25 years, Stuart Karten Design(SKD) has designed products that serve as brandambassadors for its clients and lead to greater market share andincreased profit. SKD’s team of 25 designers,researchers, and mechanical engineers guide a product fromconceptualization through production. SKD is renowned for its medical products and its ear-centric devices, including communication headsets for Jabra and Plantronics, the Zōnhearing aid for Starkey Laboratories, and noise-cancelling ear buds forUltimate Ears. SKD’s awards include IDEA, Red Dot, iF, Good Design and the I.D. AnnualDesign Review. Conceptual “Epidermits Interactive Pet” was a part of MOMA’s Design and the Elastic Mind exhibition.In 2008, Fast Company named SKD among America’s topfive “Design Factories” in its annual Masters of Design issue.

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About the author

Stuart Karten is the Founder and President of Los Angeles-based product innovation consultancy [url=http://kartendesign.com/]Karten Design[/url]. Since 1984, he has partnered with medical device, digital health, and consumer product manufacturers to build their businesses through design

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