(noun) 1. a nonrigid container made of fabric, paper, leather, etc., with an opening at the top that can be closed

Needed, Unloved/Along with coffee and name tags, convention bags are a given at meetings and conventions. Convention bags don't get much love, but try getting around an expo floor without one.

Do Bags Stuff Themselves?/When handed out to attendees, convention bags typically have items in them already. Who stuffs those bags? Staff and volunteers, mostly. Here is a common pre-convention Facebook post: “Anybody interested in volunteering to stuff bags should meet…” Also, there are companies that provide convention bag-stuffing services. Really.

Not Immune/Meeting planners have retreated to the least-expensive bags possible, because sponsorship of convention bags is way down, according to bag merchants. The race to the bottom has led planners to two bags: a canvas tote and a polypropylene bag that measures 13 inches by 15 inches by 10 inches.

The Price of Green/The most environmentally friendly bags are made from organic cotton. They cost nearly 90 percent more than a comparable nonrecyclable bag. One vendor says, “Meeting planners are willing to pay 10 percent to 15 percent more for a green bag in a good economy, but they're willing to pay only 1 percent more in a bad economy.”

Trends/Today's trendy bag is black, polypropylene, and reusable. Planners are choosing black because they believe all of their attendees are willing to carry a black bag through an airport. The trendy bag is polypropylene because it's inexpensive. Planners appreciate that, while the bag is not recyclable, at least it's reusable.

How Long for This World?/With the steady advance of the digital age, will convention bags exist much longer? Perhaps not, but bag vendors say that until conventions are completely paperless and expos are entirely free of handing out stuff, attendees will need bags.

Sources: Webster's New World College Dictionary; Nick Topitzes, president, pc/nametag; conventiontotes.com; conventionbags.com; greatstuffconventionbags.com