Sustainable promotional giveaways for events and exhibitions

By IMEX Group

2 mins

Sustainable promotional merchandise for events

The global events industry has long been famous for branded goods and giveaways, but as we become increasingly environmentally conscious, how can you make your promotional "swag" more sustainable? 

Sustainable giveaways are more than just a fleeting trend; with plastic clogging up landfills and invading our oceans, they are the future. If you’re a destination, hotel or supplier trying to improve your green credentials, making the switch to sustainable giveaways is an easy win, and one that impresses both mind and heart.

So what’s our definition of a sustainable giveaway? Items that can be reused, rather than being single-use (we’re looking at you, stress balls). Ideally the item would be made from sustainable components, such as natural fibers or recycled materials.

Ideas for sustainable event giveaways

Below are some of the great products we've seen - we have no commercial ties with these companies or products. We look forward to seeing some of these in action at our shows!

Your logo on a raddish? Image copyright

Packets of seeds are becoming increasingly popular as event gifts

Low price sustainable merchandise 

  • Branded fruit – Maybe the most circular of giveaways is one that can be eaten! From bananas to coconuts, have your logo emblazoned on a fruit of your choice with non-toxic film. The uniqueness of this giveaway presents plenty of Instagram opportunities, helping your stand get the attention it deserves.
  • Seeds – Seeds are a simple gift that keeps on giving. Once planted they will eventually bloom into insect-friendly wildflowers or herbs. Beware: some countries, particularly Australia, have very strict rules preventing the import of seeds and nuts though.
  • Bamboo toothbrush – Made from sustainably-grown bamboo, the handle of this toothbrush is 100% biodegradable, meaning it won’t end up in landfill or washed up on beaches like it’s plastic alternative. This is a perfect example of a giveaway that is really useful and could make its way into attendees’ every day routines!
  • Reusable straws – Single-use plastic straws are hard to come by nowadays, but many people still like using them. Give away a reusable straw and you’re sure to attract a keen audience, and may even trigger a change in behavior. Now available in paper, bamboo and pasta. Yes, pasta!

Mid-price sustainable giveaway options

  • Jewelry – Wearable giveaways are always popular, and grab the attention of passers-by. These examples of unisex jewelry both have sustainable motives. You can get bracelets from 4Ocean, which are made from plastic collected from the sea. Each product purchased removes trash from the ocean and coastlines one pound at a time. Purnama has striking jewelry made from old tires which supports local communities in Indonesia.
  • Reusable cups – Everyone knows #eventprofs run on coffee, so meet them in the middle with a reusable cup. Keep Cups are stylish glass cups, from a business which was at the forefront of the reusable cup wave. Stojo is a great on-the-go reusable cup, which squashes down to a smaller size. As a company they are continually trying to improve their environmental credentials.
  • Lunch box – A lot of people bring their lunch to work. Why not encourage a move from plastic to more sustainable materials like rice husks or bamboo. Beeswax sandwich wrappers aren’t cheap but certainly make an impression and can be overprinted and often locally sourced.
  • Phone case – A source of plastic waste we may not often think of, phone cases are frequently thrown out to make way for new styles or upgraded phone shapes. Two companies are trying to tackle this by making cases that eventually break down. Skech is the world first biodegradable phone case, while Pela case is 100% compostable.

Luxury sustainable event giveaways

  • Washbag – OneNine5 are on a mission to design luggage to match the needs of the modern traveler while reducing their environmental impact. Their washbag contains 100% recycled plastic lining.
  • Watch – Votch is a vegan watch brand which uses innovative ad cruelty-free materials in their watch designs. For instance, Piñatex, which is a sustainable fabric created from pineapple leaf fibers.
  • Shoes – There are a few sustainable shoe brands in the market now, with Allbirds as one of the most renowned. They use recycled plastic bottles among many other sustainable materials to create their designs.

Zero waste sustainable gift alternatives

Alternatively, you could completely rethink your giveaways by bringing nothing physical to the show to give away. Instead, you could make donations on behalf of visitors to your booth or to those who book appointments with you. Choosing a charity which is focused on sustainability could be a great way to not only reduce the number of things you bring to the show… but also provides a measurable way for you to support a good cause.

See how we're making our events more sustainable

About the author

IMEX brings the global meetings and events community together to power profitable connections, foster innovation, spark inspiration, and propel purposeful progress at two world-leading trade shows, IMEX Frankfurt and IMEX America.

We use our influence to unite, advance and promote a thriving global industry focused on positive change.

IMEX Group