Flash drives, the newborn give-aways?

In much of our documentation we have denounced flash-drive technology as being not quite the green solution it appears, despite the fact that the corporate gift enterprises are peddling the gismos as being the new “green” give-away thingies for all your trade-show documentation. The reasoning is that CDs are now considered as throw-aways, while a flash drive can be re-used, if the documents on it are no longer needed by the user. That makes it “green”?…

Let’s look at a parallel technology that was created for its overwhelmingly “green appeal”: the plastic bag. With the best intentions in the world a small group of ESSO (now Exxon) engineers brilliantly created the plastic grocery bag to replace the not-so-ecological paper bag. By then, in the mid-seventies, overuse of paper bags was thought to be a menace to our trees and forests. The beauty of the plastic bag was based on  its re-usability and was heavily promoted for that very reason. O.K. Now, despite the good intentions and a well-engineered product, as it turned out, the plastic bag got thinner and thinner and became the menace of our landfills. And this, simply because the habits of all of us did not make us re-use and recycle them systematically… Why? We are lazy! (me too!)… Lucky us, we’ve got landfills. oops!

In many developing countries the thin shredded plastic bags end up on the bare, arable land and grossly injure the growing of essential vegetables. Not surprisingly, shredded wheat does not take its nutrients all that well from a mix of dry dirt and shredded plastic (I am purposely skipping the turtle, the bald eagle and the whale, basting happily in plastic stew). In a similar equation, flash drives are getting bigger and bigger, so your 2-year-old flash drive, that novelty that contained a whopping 64 megabytes just a short while ago, is now commonly discarded for the 4-gigabyte, better one, slicker one and on and on… Discarded means…

How many flash drives do you really need, 2-3 per trade show? Not really! By now you can see where I am going with this. It is not the engineers at Exxon that are to blame for current problems with that marvelous creation, the plastic bag. It is the way we all do not use them as designed. For the same reason, to trust that we are about to use or need that many give-away flash drives is naive and ludicrous. And just as an aside, in today’s state of world economics, there has to be something “fishy” about the words: give-away. And there is. Flash drives will be tossed away and swallowed by some fancy-feathered bird that will be featured in a documentary on saving the planet. The solution is simple: do not provide them or take them at trade shows. We do not want more of them. We have one or two and we can barely make use of more (one is making my computer twitch)…

Of course, you could say that the CleanPix statement: “In a digital world, it only makes sense to manage digital files digitally and skip any and all manual transfers, such as flash drives, CDs. etc.” is self-serving. Yet, and for once, this apparent conflict of interest is deserving of a second take and some serious “green” brownie-points.

To be fair, flash drives, not unlike plastic bags, are quite useful inventions and, without question, several shades of green above CD production. Nevertheless, the footprint they leave behind is truly a physical one, not a virtual one. Furious, YES!  When I think that one fully-featured CleanPix account is 1/2 of the cost of production of 1000 flash drives for a one-time give-away and that a CleanPix account would give you world connectivity for a full year plus, YES, you bet I am.

I just got a request from a quite prestigious client to produce 1000 flash-drive give-aways. I stand stunned with the production cost ranging  from $4.50 to $8.5 a unit. I guess after writing this, I just got myself out of a contract, but must admit I had some fun doing the illustration.

Nelson Vigneault
CEO, CleanPix Corp.

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