Tradeshow giveaways. Promotional swag. Corporate goodies. Whatever you call them, branded gifts are common features of a tradeshow marketing strategy. Not only do they attract passersby to stop and engage your booth, but they also build top-of-mind awareness long after the conference is over. That is, if they don’t end up in landfill. Too often, when plastic totes stuffed to the brim with plastic swag are poured onto hotel beds, the novelty and thrill of “free” gives way to the realities of travel and use. (Does anyone actually use a fidget spinner?)

This doesn’t have to be the case. Sustainable brands that want effective marketing giveaways still have options, and we’re highlighting some eco-friendlier alternatives to classic (primarily plastic) promo swag.

Totes & Bags

Branded promotional bags are a popular item for conference attendees overladen with pamphlets, business cards, and stress-relief balls (more on those later). They’re easy for marketers to pack and bring to events and can be reused by attendees for groceries, mall shopping, and other activities. Many print services market these bags as eco-friendly because they are reusable and often made from recyclable plastic. However, companies can set a higher standard of “eco-friendly” by buying bags made from post-consumer recycled materials such as PET plastic, cotton, and paper.

Pens & Stationery

Pens make great giveaways because they’re useful, convenient to bring in bulk, and easy for attendees to add to pockets, bags, and purses. However, most pens have a limited useful life and will eventually end up in landfill. Fortunately, most major print companies sell pens and pen/notebook sets made from paper, bamboo, wood, and other biodegradable materials that can reduce the impact of landfill waste.

Hand Sanitizers

Trade shows are all about building connections, and that means eating, drinking, and hand shaking. It’s no mystery why hand sanitizers have become so common at conferences. They’re a good reminder that, through long days of networking and selling, it’s important to take care of oneself. Unfortunately, hand sanitizer primarily comes in small one-time-use plastic that becomes waste the instant the last pump is used. One alternative is to buy lip balm in recyclable tins or compostable paper. This is a great way to help attendees take care of themselves, and it doesn’t leave a wafting alcohol smell.

Stress Relief Balls

It’s hard to take issue with the soft, squishy, calming, and often cute stress balls found at most conference shows, but polyurethane foam is not easily recyclable across the country and does contribute to landfill waste. What stress-relieving giveaways could be used instead? One option is custom biodegradable plant sets. It’s true, not everyone has the patience or time to maintain plants, especially if they travel frequently for work. A little TLC, however, goes a long way, and plants are very effective in reducing stress and promoting healing qualities of nurturing and awareness. Plus, they come with cute faces printed on the biodegradable containers.

It may not be possible to completely eliminate the waste caused by tradeshow marketing materials, but every eco-friendly step makes a difference. When buying anything plastic, make sure it is type #1 or #2 with clear recycling labels. In general, try to find products that are made from more than 50% post-consumer recycled material.

A marketer’s goal is to create meaningful connections that could lead to new business and opportunities, so keep larger giveaways in front of booth workers and try to get a name, handshake, hello, eye contact, or nod for every giveaway grabbed. Finally, after you’ve spent the promo swag budget, think of other ways to create connections without creating waste: run a photo booth instead of printing postcards, create a phone charging station instead of giving chargers, give out drink tickets to a cocktail party instead of giving plastic stadium cups.

Are you ready?

Promotional giveaways are just one aspect of trade show marketing preparation. For assistance developing strategy, print & digital assets, booth materials, social media, and more, contact Corbae Creative today.