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Say "No" to Schwag

Posted by davidvc on May 14, 2007 at 10:58 AM PDT

I just learned the term "schwag" at this JavaOne. I am so behind the times. I don't even know if I'm spelling it right. But as I understand it, it's all the "stuff" vendors foist on you at these conferences -- T-shirts, pens, USB hubs, laser pointers, memory sticks, badges, little flashing logos, you name it.

mentioned in an earlier blog
the lengths I went to (including giving away my soul) just to get some water-bottle schwag. On an internal list at Sun, somebody said it didn't make a lot of sense to hand out big green plastic bottles that end up in landfills as a motivational force for bikers. That hit home; I had to admit it felt kind of odd. On the same thread, somebody said that perhaps we should eliminate schwag altogether.

Well, now that's very interesting. Sun and other companies talk a lot about reducing carbon footprint and the overall ecological footprint a conference has. Well, let's start with the schwag.

Here's my idea. Let's put those Java Cards to use that we get at the conference. When we register, rather than picking up our goodies (the nifty backpack and all the ads and CDs), we scan our card over a "no thanks" reader, and we get a certain number of "eco-points." Each time we say "no thanks" to a vendor for some schwag, we get another "eco-point." Eco-points for riding to the conference. Eco-points for not grabbing one of those massive program guides.

At the end of the conference, we cash in our eco-points for some real $$$.

The only problem is, vendors love handing out schwag as it increases awareness for their product. I think JavaOne could just say "too bad, that's how this conference runs." But we could also reward vendors for reducing waste by giving them kickback for how many eco-points they hand out rather than schwag...

Anyway, that's the high-level idea. Lots of details to work out. But it's time for us to move away from the huge amounts of waste generated by schwag to another, more eco-friendly model.

By the way, thanks, IBM for the pen (they did a drive-by schwag drop at the Apache Derby booth in the .orgZone). I can "take notes" with it at my 1-1 meetings with my manager, just to keep him honest :) :)