Analyze Your Baggage

The obligatory conference bag, no matter how attractive (and most of them are not), is often landfill fodder even before attendees get back to the office. While most meeting planners are unwilling to deny attendees the convenience (and sponsors the opportunity) of a meeting bag, some are looking for a green alternative.

The Impossible Dream?

Is there such a thing as a perfectly environmentally responsible conference bag? “Almost,” says Nick Jones, managing director at Nexus Collections Ltd., a Shropshire, England-based company that specializes in conference bags. Working with the Green Meeting Industry Council, Jones has documented his near-quixotic search for a bag that is not only biodegradable but also incorporates sustainable materials and production processes. The resulting white paper, which can be downloaded at www.nexuscollections.com (in the “environment” section), is a readable and educational account of the challenges of finding fabrics, fasteners, inks, and dyes that meet high environmental standards. And his resulting bags look nice, too: jute fabric and coconut fasteners!

Plastic Redux

Conference bags made from recycled post-consumer plastic are one option that helps to keep market demand high for recycling programs. One manufacturer is Bedford, N.H.-based Enviro-Tote, which produces The Bottle Bag out of 100 percent recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. It also designs bags from a blend of Ecotec cotton yarn made from fabric and clothing manufacturers' trimmings (this waste typically ends up in landfills) and Bottle Bag material.

Could You Live Without It?

The Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco last April spent about $1.50 more per bag to switch from a nylon bag to one made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled material. For its Summit this fall, however, the organization will try dropping the bag altogether. Organizers have asked sponsors to distribute giveaways from their booths, and they are reducing the size of the printed program. And, says Jennifer Pahlka, general manager and co-chair of Web 2.0 Expo, as an attendee gift, donations will be made in attendees' names to DonorsChoose.org, a school-oriented charity that allows attendees to choose which project they help to fund.

Pack Your Own

BYOB is the next green bag trend, according to Nancy Wilson, who writes the blog for Meeting Strategies Worldwide. Instead of supplying a conference bag, host organizations are requesting that attendees bring their own. The result, says Wilson, is that the bags from earlier conferences and from participants' personal lives are a lively conversation starter. “It has become a whole social networking game. … I've heard reports the coolest bags are those from the very first conferences held by the organization,” she writes.

Sources: Nexus Collections Ltd., www.nexuscollections.com; Green Meeting Industry Council, www.greenmeetings.info; Meeting Strategies Worldwide, www.meetingstrategiesworldwide.com; Enviro-Tote Inc., www.enviro-tote.com