Professional conferences which suffer from being described as boring try to appeal to people using consumerism in the form of a “swag bag”. A swag bag handed out to conference attendees usually contains useless gizmos like stress balls to appeal to a basic human tendency: acquiring stuff. Going to one conference and getting a single swag bag might not seem like much, but when you realize the scope of the swag industry the numbers grow exponentially. This is why people are pushing back and rejecting bags of useless marketing trash.
Ensuring an ethical supply chain and materials with the smallest carbon footprint, of course, tends to increase costs. We see a parallel here with the fast fashion industry, which also focuses on making things as inexpensively as possible, so you can buy a T-shirt for a few bucks at H&M or Forever21. But over the last few years, reporting on these practices has drawn attention to their enormously damaging environmental footprint, which includes producing water pollution, toxic chemicals, and terrible waste. The human impact is just as terrifying: Workers at low-cost factories that make fast fashion products often labor under inhumane conditions, and many have died because of a lack of workplace safety standards.
We could get rid of cheap swag altogether. What if you left your next conference or trade show without heaps of notepads, pens, and USB drives stuffed in a cheap tote bag, all of which will eventually end up in the trash?