Any conference planner will tell you that there can be a lot of leftovers after an event: leftover badges, leftover lanyards, leftover food, and leftover swag. While some of this excess might be unavoidable, event badges are one of the biggest sources of waste that an event manager can directly control and one which could be easily avoided or managed.
Sean Sagar of MyBadges.com told us that the demand for more environmentally friendly badges has increased greatly in the past year, especially in Canada. He recommends making a holistic evaluation of any environmental initiatives that you choose to take on, emphasizing reducing the amount of waste created.
While event managers might assume that environmentally friendly badges and lanyards are more expensive than common event badge setups, Sean says that they can actually be cheaper because they can remove pieces like badge holder from the equation.
In most other cases, event organizers can expect a moderate 10-15% cost premium. A rather small amount to reduce an event’s environmental impact.
Here are five ways that your event badges can be much more environmentally friendly and sustainable:
As demand for environmentally friendly conference materials has increased from both vocal attendees and event organizers, badge suppliers have taken note and created badges that have a reduced impact on the environment.
The best environmentally friendly badges are both made of recycled material and are themselves recyclable or biodegradable.
Beware of green-washed (falsely labelled as “eco-friendly” or “green”) offerings that may say that their badges, badge holders or lanyards are partially made of recycled material (100% recycled options exist) but are not ultimately made of material that can be recycled.
Cost for recyclable badges can vary compared to badges that create more waste.
Some suppliers will accept unused badges and badge holders for recycling or re-selling.
Lanyard sponsorship is one of the most common sponsorship packages at modern conferences and tradeshows. Lanyards are numerous, extremely visible on the day of the event, and often taken home by attendees as a memento.
While biodegradable or recyclable lanyards are an improvement, the first two of the 3Rs need to be recalled: Reduce and Reuse.
One way to enable this is to have your lanyard sponsor supply their own lanyards for the event, and have them retain and reuse any unused lanyards for their own events or future sponsorships.
Alternatively, a simple agreement between the sponsor and the event producer can have greater alignment on the number of badges to produce and what can or should be done with excess badges.
It’s undoubtedly tempting when a conference manager considers pre-printing their conference badges. It makes so much sense! When the attendee arrives at the counter, their badge is already right there in front of them and ready to be handed over -- but the reality of the check-in counter is not so simple.
While many high-priced conferences can expect a turn out above 80%, conferences with free or low-priced tickets might turn out to have a turn out rate of about 50%. This will impact your check-in in two ways: there are so many (potentially hundreds) of badges to sort through as your attendee waits; and secondly you have hundreds of badges to manage and dispose of on the day of your event.
The simplest way to avoid this situation is to use multiple high-speed printers to spit out badges as they’re requested. No jumble of extra badges to deal with as the attendee watches. A simple check-in interface, a quick print-out onto a sticker, paper, or directly onto the badge.
Reducing the number printed badges means that there’s less garbage created. Excess materials can be re-used for other events.
An overlooked option to create a more environmentally friendly conference is to skip the plastic badge holder all together. Plastic badge holders are the least recyclable part of a wearable badge. In this case, you save the environment by creating less material.
A strong, thick paper badge (for reference, a standard 8.5” x 11” is 74 GMS or 20 lb bond) should be able to hold together for a 1 or 2-day event, according to Sean. If your event is longer than that, you might consider a event badge that clips directly on a lanyard, or a biodegradable badge holder.
The most fanciful solutions to badge waste might also be the most practical. Biodegradable, plantable seed paper badges can be composted or can be plated in soil and a combination of flowers will grow.
The seeds include Five Spot, Candytuft, Baby Blue Eyes, Siberian Wallflower, Scarlet Flax, Zinnia, Sweet William Pinks, Corn Poppy, Spurred Snapdragon, Catchfly, English Daisy, and Black-Eyed Susan.
In other circumstances, the badges will simply biodegrade, though throwing them in the trash is not considered the best way to dispose of them.
The 4” x 3” badges start at $1.90 CDN each for at least 1,000 and the cost decreases with increased quantity.
While we're at it, why not investigate if your event badges could have multiple pieces of information on them?
Printed event guides are another source of waste at events that can easily be avoided. Putting a simple venue map or schedule on the back of an event badge could replace hundreds of sheets of paper. Putting a link to your event app on every badge is another way to avoid confusion and eliminate the need for a printed guide.