I was sitting at my work’s annual employee breakfast listening to recognition speeches and enjoying some free coffee and pastries when my colleague leaned over and whispered: “Look, no swag this year.” I surveyed the table, and while each place setting had a program and a few fliers, there was indeed not a single useless promotional item to be seen. She looked a little disappointed; I was elated.
Traditionally, each year’s breakfast has been accompanied by what I term “useless junk from China.” One year it was a puzzle-like cube emblazoned with pictures of our workplace on it. Another it was a mini logo-bearing hard hat that celebrated some major construction projects. In other words, useless junk from China.
I don’t call these items junk from China because I have an objection to globalization or from any sense that American workers have more inherent worth than Chinese ones (one human family, after all). Rather, it highlights the resources and energy required to transform petroleum and other finite resources into mini hard hats, ship them halfway across the globe, and drive them to the middle of the continent only to potentially enjoy a short tenure on someone’s desk before ending up in the landfill.
Do these items improve our lives in any meaningful way? Enhance our relationships? Expand our understanding of the world? No.
Deplete our world bit by bit? Yes.
As I sipped my coffee, I silently applauded the decision some anonymous person had made not to spring for 2,000 landfill-destined pieces of junk from China. That’s the best organizational promotion I can think of: thoughtful stewardship of our global resources.
I left the breakfast with a full stomach and a sense of optimism. I hope that’s all I get a next year’s breakfast too.