The Green Mommy and Recycla recently attended the annual BlogHer conference in New York City. For those of you who are not familiar with BlogHer, this is a gathering of over 2,000 bloggers, mostly female, for two days of sessions and information gathering.
The Green Mommy and Recycla were excited to be at BlogHer; not only to learn new things but also because they were interested in seeing just how eco BlogHer ’10 would be. There had been much hoopla about BlogHer’s Green Team, which worked to reduce the conference’s impact on Planet Earth, including offering a place to drop off unwanted swag (freebies) and offering an online-only (not printed) conference guide.
BlogHer ’10 was sponsored by dozens of companies, all of whom set up booths in the exhibition halls or elsewhere within the hotel. Many provided products to the attendees that were either included in tote bags given to them when they registered or were delivered to their hotel rooms. Yes, that’s right, new products were delivered daily to the attendees’ rooms. Luckily, there was an option to not receive swag deliveries and Recycla opted not to have plastic toys and coupons and laundry detergent samples and more plopped on her bed every night. (The Green Mommy is from New York and thus was not staying in the hotel.)
Recycla and the Green Mommy want to talk a bit about the aforementioned swag bags. As mentioned, when they checked in at the conference, they were given large tote bags filled to the brim with a variety of products. The bags themselves came from Freeset Global, which offers eco-friendly fair trade bags made by women who have escaped the sex trade.
The bags were filled — and they do mean filled — with a variety of products:
Among other items, the bag contained Play-Doh, a plastic water bottle, a mug, a plastic sandwich carrier, gum, a Jimmy Dean alarm clock, hand sanitizer, and more. While Recycla and the Green Mommy didn’t weigh their bags, they estimate that they came in around 6-8 pounds.
This bag o’ goodies was indicative of the commercial aspect of the BlogHer ’10 conference, during which there were ample opportunities to get lots of free stuff and much encouragement for attendees to be as materialistic as possible. The Green Mommy and Recycla found this to be quite off-putting and were repulsed by the rampant materialism gone amok.
Luckily, there was a swag exchange room, in which bloggers could drop off all of their unwanted freebies. The Green Mommy and Recycla took this opportunity to unload their swag, including the fair trade bag and its contents. While the bags were nice and well-made, they were simply too bulky for shopping and the burlap exteriors were rough and scratchy when carried.
The Green Mommy and Recycla took a lot of notes at BlogHer ’10 and have some thoughts to share with you:
Good Eco Actions at BlogHer ’10:
- The conference guides were emailed to attendees, not printed.
- Much less bottled water offered — Attendees were encouraged to bring their own reusable water bottles and refilling stations were available at the conference. There were also pitchers of water at the tables at breakfast and lunch.
- Uneaten food was donated to City Harvest, a local nonprofit organization that helps New Yorkers in need.
- The ability to opt out of some conference swag, as well as a room set aside for dropping off unwanted swag.
- All utensils and cups at meals were corn-based (PLA) plastic.
- The eco-friendly fair trade tote bag that bloggers were given to carry their swag.
Not-so-good Eco Actions at BlogHer ’10:
- The presence of any bottled water. Pepsi was one of the corporate sponsors and, even though there were pitchers of water on all the tables at meals, bottled water was still offered.
- Sodas in plastic bottles — not more easily-recycled bottles or cans.
- There were no obvious recycling bins for the corn-based plastic cups and utensils and it all appeared to go into the regular trash bins. Corn-based cups and utensils will NOT decompose in landfills or even in home composters; they must be put in industrial composters in order to break down.
- There were not enough recycling options in general, particularly for attendees who stayed at the Hilton. There was no recycling in hotel rooms at all and within the conference area, while bins were available, there could have been more.
- The sheer volume of corporate product placement and constant, unending encouragement to consume more, more, more.
- The availability of a shipping service for bloggers to mail their freebies home.
- The earth-friendly tote bags mentioned above were shipped from India, which is not so earth-friendly.
Suggestions for BlogHer ’11:
- No bottled water of any kind.
- Offer real non-disposable plates, utensils, etc. and charge conference attendees an extra $5 or so to cover the cost of washing.
- More recycling bins, including the option to recycle, for example, the snack cups of Jello pudding that were offered in between sessions.
- Offer a place to drop off conference nametags and lanyards to be reused the following year. This would mean that lanyards would not have corporate logos on them (since sponsors would change from year to year), but something basic with just the BlogHer logo would work well.
- If BlogHer does offer free tote bags, don’t ship them from around the world and instead look for U.S.-made options. Also, a bag that isn’t so bulky and would instead fold into a small bundle would be helpful.
- Less swag, please! And, of the companies represented, more green offerings!
- No shipping options for swag — if they’re forced to deal with their stuff and haul it back home on airplanes, hopefully people won’t take so much crap
So these are the Green Mommy’s and Recycla’s suggestions. They would love to hear more from other attendees of Blogher and other conferences. They would also be happy to talk with the folks at BlogHer to brainstorm other ideas for the future.