Recently a question came up on a LinkedIn group for event managers asking about sustainable badging. I wanted to post an image to the group of how I usually tackle this issue, but as you can’t (yet) post images to group discussions I thought I’d write a quick note and post the link instead.

Badging is one of those things that is required for nearly every event I manage, but it’s also potentially a very wasteful exercise.

In effect you are choosing to create single-use items for every attendee, speaker, exhibitor, press and staff member at your event – something which goes against any basic principle of sustainability. So what can you do?

Without going into too much detail (the request on LinkedIn was only for a picture!) my current solution is as follows:

Sustainable conference badge

1. Source lanyards which are recycled and recyclable after the event

Lanyards are tricky subject for organisers. On one hand they are generally a necessity but at the same time they are costly. The usual solution is to find a company to sponsor them (a great branding opportunity) but unless you secure sponsorship for multiple events, the moment you add a sponsor logo to a lanyard (or the date of your event!) they become single use items.

Because of this it’s crucial to source lanyards that are made from recycled material and that can be recycled after the event. There are actually quite a few options available now. The main drawback is that for the most sustainable options you need to pay a little more, and allow a longer lead time on your order. This is not always easy when trying to confirm sponsors to have their logos included. It’s also worth noting that many of the more sustainable options are sourced from overseas so you do need to weigh up the carbon footprint associated with the shipping method used.

2. Stop using plastic badge holders!

This is something that we as event managers should all just stop doing. It’s like using old-fashioned light bulbs. There is really no need to be introducing plastic, especially as it will likely go to landfill after the event. Yes – you can try and collect them at the end of the show, but we all know it doesn’t really happen.

3. Print badges onto stock that is stiff enough to attach directly to a lanyard

Large events
You can now source self-adhesive badge sheets that will print in a standard laser printer and produce full colour double sided badges. I tend to use an A6 badge size which prints front and back on a single side of A4 sheet. You then simply peel the badge off, fold it back on itself to stick the front to the back, and then attach direct to the lanyard. It’s a quick process which I have used on events with 1,500+ delegates without causing excessive queuing.

There is some wastage from the backing sheet, but this is just paper and so can be easily recycled. The badges themselves can also be simply recycled by delegates when they get home. The badge in the picture is printed in this way.

Small events
For smaller events where I pre-print badges I use heavy-weight card sheets. By using the data merge feature in Adobe InDesign (similar to mail merge for MS Word) you can create a full-colour, fully-designed badge artwork .pdf file complete with delegate details direct from your registration database. A good local print shop can then print to the card sheets, trim to A5/A6 badges and punch holes for the lanyards. If you want to create stunning badges it’s a great system. It’s also cheaper than buying badge holders and perforated badge sheets.

Of course the caveat for all of this is to first ask yourself if you really need badges and lanyards at all. If you don’t, then great. But if you do, hopefully the ideas above will help minimise their impact.

Photo: Jon Craig