The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

July 20, 2008

Schwag & Twitter at Blogher ’08

The Blogher Conference was kinda overwhelming. I feel like I’ve returned from another planet and need to be quarantined and debriefed. It was refreshing to go out to dinner last night with Michael and his sister and cousin and find out that they had never heard of Twitter. Have you? Because I had heard of it, and even signed up for it months ago, and then never “tweeted” because I didn’t understand why I should. But OMG, everyone at Blogher08 was tweeting up a storm. So, never one to resist peer pressure, I started tweeting too. Wanna follow me?

It was fun to hang out with some real live green gals whom I’d only so far met through cyberspace. From left to right: Jenn from The Smart Mama, me, Michelle from Green Bean Dreams and Jenn from Tiny Choices. Mamabird from Surely You Nest preferred to take the picture rather than be in it.

We also met Green L.A. Girl Siel, Have Fun * Do Good’s Britt Bravo, and Big Green Purse’s Diane MacEachern, as well as several other green and socially conscious bloggers. I’m sorry to have missed Aurora from Foxy Art Studio and Vanessa from Random Ramblings. Next time, we have to make a better plan for meeting up. (Like, we need to make a plan. Period.)

Heading for lunch after the meetup, we saw this…

…and the five of us (Jenn, Jenn, Green Bean, MamaBird, and I) decided to find plastic-free food elsewhere. Great conversation was enjoyed with okay food from the Emporio Rulli il Caffe on Union Square, served up on durable tableware, except for the plastic-packaged breadsticks and salad dressing that I returned to the server.

Later, we found out that the Blogher lunch was actually packaged in compostable PLA containers, not regular plastic, and will be composted in San Francisco’s commercial composting facility. Even still, the following day, Jenn, Jenn and I passed up the free lunch and took a stroll to the San Francisco Ferry Building for a nearly waste-free lunch at Mejita Cocina. If only I could remember to bring my own cloth napkin, I’d never have any trash at all!

PLA lunch offering notwithstanding, there was quite a bit of plastic at the Blogher Conference, as GreenBean demonstrates here in her best Vanna White impression. Hmm… we have the glasses. Why fill them with bottled water when I’m pretty sure the hotel has running water available? When I asked a bellhop for the water fountain on that floor, he looked quizzical and said he didn’t think there was one. So I filled up with lukewarm water from the bathroom sink, since it had one of those automatic fixtures without hot and cold knobs.

As I mentioned in a previous pre-Blogher post, the conference organizers had the brilliant idea of setting up a recycling room for all the unwanted plastic and other swag attendees didn’t want to take home. At the end of the day on Saturday, the Zwaggle recycling room had collected over 900 pounds of the stuff! The Zwaggle crew said they hoped most of it would be picked up by the vendors to reuse. I hope these vendors will also use the information they gain from picking up all their crap and come up with some truly useful schwag (or swag… there are disagreements all over the Net about the correct term) next time. Who really needs a Michelin Man key chain?

(Diane MacEachern returns her unwanted schwag.)

Oh, and see that bottled water? It was included in our Blogher organic cotton tote bags. It’s actually Primo water in a bottle made from Ingeo, a corn-based compostable material. I left mine on the recycling table. Why? Because I don’t think we need to be drinking any kind of bottled water, compostable or not, when perfectly good tap water is available, and San Francisco has some of the best. See my post, Think Outside The Biota Bottle, for more on this topic.

So, what the heck is Zwaggle? It’s actually not a conference schwag recycler at all, although based on the success at Blogher, they may do more schwag recycling. I had a nice conversation with Zwaggle founder Adam Levy, who explained that Zwaggle is on online resource for parents to swap used children’s items (clothes, furniture, equipment, toys, etc.) to reduce the need to buy more stuff. Zwaggle is different from Freecycle in that it is nationwide and based on a point system. Members list the items they want to give away on the site and assign a “price” based on points rather than dollars. Other members “buy” items using their points, and only pay for applicable shipping.

How does one get point? Each member gets 50 points for joining and additional points for referring friends and giving away items. Adam plans to add a system for purchasing points with dollars at some point, as well as a gift registry. Imagine asking friends to give used gifts for birthdays and baby showers rather than new. Adam says he got the idea for Zwaggle because, while he himself is not a parent, nearly all of his friends are, and he’s seen the massive amounts of new stuff they’ve purchased when children are born. I think Zwaggle is a great idea that could put Babies R Us out of business if it catches on.

So, while there was certainly a major effort to green the conference (Michelin paying the cost of carbon offsetting for every attendee; GM providing hybrid vehicles for carpooling bloggers; Blogher providing organic cotton totes; the hotel providing lunch in compostable boxes and breakfast on durable tableware; Zwaggle providing schwag recycling) and probably a lot less waste than at most conferences, I wanted more. More!

I wanted more emphasis on environmental issues and environmental blogging during the sessions. But as Green LA Girl Siel said in a comment on her blog, “Beth and other enviros at BlogHer — Part of this is our fault for not volunteering to get more involved in the planning process. We must change that next year –” To which I responded, “Siel, you’re right! One more thing to add to my “To Do” list.”

What do you say green bloggers? Should we get more involved in Blogher greening or create our own green bloggers conference?

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15 years ago

I’m following you on Twitter, and have just added it to my blogs. Not sure whether I’ll use it much yet or not.

Blogher sounds like good fun. I just couldn’t justify flying halfway round the world for a conference!

Oh wait…that doesn’t stop our politicians…does it?

15 years ago

This was really interesting — I was there and impressed that most rooms had a water dispenser and glasses instead of bottled water, but there was some there. Thanks for posting this; it made me think.

15 years ago

This was too cool. I only read FPF and GB’s blog so it was nice to put a face to the blogs.

15 years ago

Hey Beth – It was great meeting you at the conference and thanks for taking the time to sit down for awhile and chat about Zwaggle and recycling issues. And of course thanks for mentioning us in your post. – Adam

15 years ago

I’m sooo jelly that you met some of my favorite bloggers. That’s it – I’ll be there next year. And COUNT ME IN for the Greening Committee! Seriously, I want to meet the person who actually uses the Michelin Man keychain. Kinda.

15 years ago

Hey Beth– about that PLA:
There’s only one player in the PLA game: Cargill, a behemoth with a spotty enviro record that’s ever searching for new ways to use its GMO corn now that the Europeans don’t want it.

You know that large-scale corn-production is highly energy-intensive, depends on fossil-fuel-driven vehicles, and uses fossil-fuel-based fertilizers and pesticides.

Cargill– the company that got busy cutting down the rainforest in Brazil to make space for its soy, until Greenpeace took notice and went to its biggest customer–McDonald’s (yeah, McDonald’s!) to pressure it to stop.

Point is, corn monoculture by a corn monopolist should raise red flags among people touting PLA as the next best thing.

Will enough concern be raised about PLA products before they are so deeply entrenched in the marketplace that removing them becomes impossible? Don’t know. Call me the first Chicken Little.
15 years ago

Hi Beth – wonderful summary. Yes, WAY too much plastic all the way around and not enough GREEN thinking. Offsetting carbon is offsetting to me as it’s like throwing your trash “away” (outta sight, outta mind). Offsetting isn’t a solution, it’s a feel good bandaid, but at least it’s a step.

I would be very interested in having a green bloggers meet up. There is much work to be done and we could be doing so much more, NOW. The most useful for society at large would be to blog on products that are certified as sustainable and encourage companies to make more. OR blog about services to buy instead of things.


Condo Blues
15 years ago

I think it would be great to have a green/sustainable living/environmetally aware session at BlogHer next year. Wouldn’t it be great if they had eventually worked up to hosting multiple green sessions like they do Mommyblogger sessions?

If that’s the case, I’d definately volunteer. However, I’d be wondering thorughout the conference if my blog is green enough to be considered a true enviro-blogger.

15 years ago

“So I filled up with lukewarm water from the bathroom sink, since it had one of those automatic fixtures without hot and cold knobs.” I have always heard that warm tap water isn’t for drinking leaching an bacterial issues – do you know anything about this?

15 years ago

I was sorry to have missed you too. BlogHer was fabulous, but a little overwhelming at times. Next year for sure!

15 years ago

Hey, sounds like you guys had a great time and I totally missed out.

But I can assure you that I was doing something fun (and not ungreen) – sleeping and dining in a yurt with a Kergiz family. Sleeping mainly involved spreading a blanket on the floor and plotting down. Dining was about chomping on a piece of 5 day old bread and drinking homemade yak yogurt (not exactly fine dining). But have I seen the amazing number of stars! Now I know what a milky way is :)

Anyway, just want to drop by after a month of absence.

Jennifer Taggart
15 years ago

Beth – It was so great to meet you and great recap. I think we should try to get some more green at the conference . . . I think that would be greener than starting our own. I think.

Diane – I think that a lot of people didn’t take the CFLs since Home Depot is recycling directly. But, I did take one and found out that you can put 15 in the bag/box, so I’m putting it up in my office.

Nimic – I’m giving away a SodaClub set this week on my website . . . I’ll get it up as soon as I recover from BlogHer.

Smart Mamas Do It All Naturally

Jody Reale--Zwaggle
15 years ago

Hey Beth! Thanks for all the Zwaggl-y love in your post, and thanks for coming by the recycling room. From my perspective on Saturday, I’d say it was a big success.

Green Bean
15 years ago

Great post, Beth. It was so wonderful to meet you, MamaBird, The Smart Mama and Jenn from Tiny Choices. What fun lunch was – sitting around a table of people I’ve only ever connected with through comments and emails. MamaBird and I were saying that we learned more during that 45 minute period than the seminars that we had (though she went to one more after I left so maybe that one was eye opening).

I think BlogHer did a good job of being greener than most conferences. But it was the way that most big business “goes green”. Off-setting, hybrids, compostable plastic (I’ve tried to compost that stuff Diane and after 6 mos gave up and fished it out of the bin, looking whole and intact). It is not thinking outside of the mainstream box. To truly go green, BlogHer and other conferences ditch the swag entirely or at least trim it down considerably with items that are actually usable. No one needs a plastic Magic 8 ball or a tee shirt for some new TV show. It’s all landfill fodder and the kind of unthinking consumption that has landed us in the situation we’re in.

As to whether green bloggers should get more involved or do one of their own. That’s a tough question. The biggest thing I got out of the conference was meeting you guys and then brainstorming together. So I would definitely be interested in a Green Blogger conference. Even the BlogHer green meet up was tough for me – too frenetic, too little time to connect, too many people in one small room. Plus, I’m just not good at that speed dating kind of thing. I only attended one other session. I might have tried to find a way to stay but most of the sessions didn’t interest me.

I do, though, think it is important if the green movement is going to grow that we stay in touch with people outside our little green network, that we get to know folks who have not yet gone green, people with diverse networks, like BlogHer.

An absolute pleasure meeting you, Beth! Looking forward seeing you again at the picnic.

15 years ago

I’m very impressed that you were able to keep your plastic load so low “on the road.” Now if I only I could score one of those penguin soda fountains to curb my soda addiction, and my plastic load would go way down! :)

Diane MacEachern
15 years ago


It was so great to meet you at BlogHer. And thanks for the great summary of the event, especially from a green perspective. Actually, Mary Hunt and I tried to get some green panels going at the event, but I guess we weren’t persuasive enough! Next year… Meanwhile, I’m going to try composting one of those plastic water bottles and see how long it takes! As far as the swag, I think they could have just given us the bag and let us choose what we wanted (I would have mostly taken the chocolate!). The goofy Michelin man was definitely out of place. I was sad so many people turned in their CFL recycling boxes – does that mean people aren’t using CFLs, or they’re still not ready to recycle them? Not sure. Anyway, let’s keep in touch! Diane

Lisa Sharp
15 years ago

Could the next one be in OKC or Dallas please?! I want to go so badly after reading this. I love San Fran but I’m miles away.

Christy B
15 years ago

Beth – how fun! Especially to meet people that you “know” but haven’t “met”. A bit like meeting your pen pal of yesteryear!

Twitter – OMG, looks like reverse stalking to me! I hate to think that it’s because I’m getting old, but what is the point?

Love the idea of Zwaggle – brilliant.

Great post….as always!