Conference Junk

Shortly before I started this blog, I discovered another woman's blog ( that you might say helped to inspire me to start mine. I had been playing around with the idea for at least a year, but Bea's blog kind of helped to convince me to finally do it. Now, Bea is WAY further along that I am; she's further than anyone I have ever met. She has been doing this for years and appears to have become a minor celebrity for her efforts, so please don't try to compare me to her. What I wanted to mention were her five rules to reduce waste.

Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot (and only in that order)

This has really been resonating with me at the conference I am currently attending. She made the point in one of her posts that when you accept freebie items, you also create a demand for those items. At conferences especially, vendors want to give us little trinkets and toys with their logo on them, for the purpose of advertising. 99% of the time, these items are useless and/or poor quality, and end up in our junk drawers or thrown in the garbage. If a freebie item is not really useful to us, then it is just wasteful.

I've made an effort at this conference to Refuse these items. This is actually harder than you might think. Vendors get kind of confused when you don't want their stuff, because they think they're doing you a favor. I mean, who can have too many flashing pens, lanyards, and bottles of hand sanitiser, right?

Here is a list of my stand-out experiences with refusing junk this week.
  • A vendor that I had been talking to for about 10 minutes handed me a talking stress ball as I was about to leave. I took and accepted it even though I didn't want it. I carried it around for a few minutes and then went and gave it back to him. He seemed very confused and slightly offended.
  • Another vendor tried to give me a beer cozy with their logo on it. I refused, saying that I didn't want to take anything extra home in my luggage and that I wouldn't use it. He suggested that I just take it and throw it away at the end of the conference. I didn't take it.
  • A booth doing a draw for a big prize tried to give everyone a small trinket as a "consolation" prize. I turned it down without much issue.
  • At one of the conference receptions, the bar was serving glasses in plastic cups that had flashing lights in the base. They were provided by a vendor and had a logo on the front. They intend for you to take them home because I guess you're supposed to think that things that flash are cool. Our entire glasses cupboard is full at home, and I don't like to drink out of plastic anyway, so it was of no use to me. I had my drinks served in normal glasses provided by the hotel, that would be washed and reused, much to the confusion of the bartender.
The compounding issue in all of this is that vendors really WANT you to take their stuff, not only as advertising, but also so they don't have to ship it back to wherever their head office is at the end of the conference. It's just extra luggage to them and they look forward to having it all gone. For that reason, they can be pretty pushy about it. However, if people start turning down these items, hopefully the vendors will learn to decrease the amount that they bring with them and therefore decrease the amount of this stuff that is produced to begin with.

It hasn't been a complete success for me. The conference bag that every attendee gets during registration had a couple of items in it, plus I accepted a couple of phone screen-cleaners before I started getting more diligent about it. I think I made a point to a couple of vendors though, and am coming home with less stuff than I have in previous years.

Do the conferences you attend like to give out free stuff? Leave a comment!


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