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The Changing Story of the Conference Bags

2018 Conference Bags

The conference bags seem to range from ‘very important!’ to ‘we had conference bags this year?’ to attendees. Each year MACUL strives to find the perfect balance between attendee swag, financial responsibility, and environmental concern. The bags themselves are not a large cost and provide a visual reminder of the conference for our attendees, but there are several factors we must take into account. One of the basic questions becomes should a technology conference, striving to be innovative, still be handing out printed materials?

Cultivating Curiosity logo for 2019 MACUL ConferenceLast year following the conference the planning team noticed that more and more attendees did not even take a bag. Of the quantity ordered, which was roughly the amount of attendees, there were a great number remaining. This was neither financially prudent, nor environmentally-friendly.   

Our 2019 conference venue is at the forefront of many environmental initiatives. In fact, the Cobo Center is a green meetings industry council ASTMI/APEX standard certified facility.

From their living roof to their use of induction lighting in the exhibit halls, Cobo takes their role as an environmental leader in event centers seriously. In addition, our opening keynote, Stephen Ritz, will be speaking on his experiences using urban gardening and farming with his students in the South Bronx. Within this context, we’ve decided it’s time for a change.

What I did not know prior to my time serving as conference chair is that once a graphic is settled upon, bags are ordered months in advance and shipped to a company called Freedom Works. This company is responsible for “stuffing” the bags, including items such as the conference at a glance planner and other printed materials. MACUL chooses to work with this company because their mission is built around providing employment opportunities for people with special needs. Continuing to support this organization is important for MACUL so removing conference bags altogether was not a 2019 option.

As a result, this year MACUL decided to order and prepare 2,500 conference bags. Between our desire to reduce waste and control cost, this seemed like the right number. To be clear this is far less than the number of attendees that will be in Detroit. So, if you were someone that took a bag in the past only to find it in a drawer later in the year, please consider picking up the available printed materials separately that you have come to rely upon that will be readily available.

Thanks for your time and consideration, who knew bags could provide so much content!

See you in Detroit!


 (@jrommel): Joe is an Educational Technology Consultant for the Berrien Regional Education Services Agency (RESA) in Berrien Springs, MI, and MACUL Board Member.