21 Practical Applications For Your Extra Conference Totes

After arriving home from a business trip with two conference tote bags this week, I stumbled upon my latest MediaPost column topic: how to make good use out of the world’s overflow of conference totes. Below is the full text of my story, but you can join the MediaPost community discussion here. This column seems to be resonating with people.

21 Practical Applications For Your Extra Conference Totes

March 30th, 2007 by Max Kalehoff

How many marketing-conference tote bags do you have piling up in your office? Be honest, you know what I’m talking about! They’re usually made of canvas, and are messenger, mailman or backpack style. They are typically black with a conference logo on the front and logos of sponsors scattered around.

They’re most often handed out when you arrive at marketing-conference registration booths, filled with keynote authors’ books, conference brochures, and sponsor schwag. Sometimes they are cool and stylish, though most are dorky. Unless you’re at a Coach event, all are cheaply made. If you still don’t know what I’m talking about, just click here for a few hundred thousand examples.

Now let me be clear: I’m not picking on any conference organizer. I’m grateful for those handy bags, really! For all I know, those totes play some terribly important role. Perhaps they legitimize the very events they accompany. In my early professional years, I really dug those bags. I felt they were highly desirable handouts.

But for me, times have changed. Conference totes have lost their appeal. They’ve reached saturation, and this is underscored by the fact I’ve received at least 21 of them since the beginning of 2006. I even came home with two this week! In fact, I already had a stack of five or six in my office, and another stack at home. They’ve become as ubiquitous as the plastic grocery bags that accumulate in my kitchen closet.

Conference totes have become so terribly abundant that one could argue they’re now an environmental hazard. In an age where sustainability is becoming a key dimension of social and corporate responsibility, we simply can’t continue along this path!

Until our marketing and events industries kick the habit, I’d like to offer 21 ways to make good use out of the propagation of conference totes:

1. Use one as a briefcase in case you lose yours.

2. Give them to colleagues as incentives for company brainstorms or project contributions.

3. Store them under your desk for when you have to haul junk home from the office.

4. Give them to your young kids, who still think totes are cool; a great souvenir from your business trip.

5. If you have very young children, store diapers in them while traveling — clean or dirty, there’ll always be more.

6. Use them instead of disposable plastic bags at the grocery store.

7. Use one as a carry-on for small pets while flying on airplanes (it works for my sister’s miniature Yorkshire terrier).

8. Store your lingerie or jewelry in them.

9. Turn one into a first-aid kit.

10. Turn one into a toolbox; some have great utility pockets which are excellent for holding screwdrivers and the like.

11. Create planters out of them, and hang them; just remember to drill holes in the bottom if the bags are watertight.

12. Use them as picnic baskets.

13. Use them as Easter baskets.

14. Give one to your wife to transport her breast pump between work and home (I did).

15. Use one to store onions and garlic in your pantry.

16. Use them to transport wet bathing suits on your way home from the beach or pool.

17. Use one as a waste bag in your car.

18. Scissor out the side panels of one and use it as a firewood tote (like this one).

19. Recycle the canvas to make patches for your kids’ ripped jeans, especially the knees.

20. Double-up two tote bags and use them as a beer cooler in the summertime.

21. Cut out squares and sew a quilt.

These are just 21 applications I’ve found useful. How about you?

Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

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