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David Betke’s perspective on saving our environment

The bullfrogpowered community is made up of a diverse group of organizations that care about the environment. We’re highlighting one organization that’s making a difference in the events world: Do Better Marketing. A Bullfrog customer since 2008, Do Better Marketing and its founder David Betke have a long history of environmental innovation. Below is a guest post from David, highlighting why he’s passionate about the environment.

You may have noticed the word “our” instead of “the” environment in the title. Why? Because one word can change everything, but more on that later.

My career serving the events industry began 30 years ago, kind of by accident. I had recently graduated from university and was living outside Nelson, BC. The government had just announced that a large area on the West Arm of Kootenay Lake was slated to be clear-cut logged. A community roadblock ensued. I decided, however, to take a different path and created several thought-provoking t-shirt designs, called Ecotoons™, then set off across the country to colleges and universities to tell our story.

Engaging students was easy, but I had to engage the broader communities, so during the day, I would sell at the schools, and in the evenings, I would visit health food stores, asking them to sell the shirts and carry the petition. 

The challenge was that most health food stores didn’t carry clothing, so I had to make the business case. So, I offered to unabashedly promote them for the week I was selling at the school and drive a new demographic to their stores. If they weren’t on board for the cause alone, they certainly were once I made the business case. 

In all, 180 stores nationwide joined the campaign, sending thousands of petition signatures and letters to the BC government and tipping the scales to reverse the logging decision and establish the West Arm Provincial Park. The 65000-acre forest is now protected forever.

Soon after, several businesses and festivals asked me to start printing their t-shirts and producing their event swag. Instead of just saying yes, I asked what they wanted the swag to do for them and if we could help them make the business case to their audiences. Many said yes.

Since then, my campaigns have successfully raised awareness of the global amphibian extinction crisis and the role marketing waste has in it, helped reduce carbon emissions in a pilot project for the City of Edmonton, reduced municipal water consumption, and recently helped mold public opinion to create another Regional Park in Southern BC.

In 2018, I began a mission to reduce waste in the events industry. It began with my frustration watching my clients exhibit at trade shows and wasting money, opportunities, and trees. 

There were two glaring problems: The first was catalogue and brochure waste. Often it was less expensive to leave undistributed catalogues behind than it was to ship them home. That leads to a lot of wasted money and trees at every event. The second issue was that exhibitors were giving away all sorts of disposable shiny things to attract people to their booths but attracting more freebie-seekers than those interested in what they offered. After the show, they would receive a list of who attended their booths but have no idea of each person’s interest level. This led to a lot of work for marketing and HR in the follow-up. Often, the follow-up didn’t happen at all, and clients would question the effectiveness of exhibiting.

To address these issues, I created GreenTexts™ and GreenTaps™, both employed by the Edmonton Convention Centre.

GreenTexts™ is an app that empowers environmentally conscious attendees to receive catalogues digitally, with a simple text at participating booths. Less carrying around heavy bags for attendees, less wasted trees, and lower printing costs for the exhibitor. Post-show, exhibitors also receive a list of segmented leads so sales can hit the ground running. 

GreenTaps™ makes it easy for people to download an exhibitor’s marketing materials by simply tapping their phones on a programmable sticker attached to the booth. More trees saved!

Then COVID hit, and like many in our industry, we had to adapt to survive. No events meant no demand for promotional products nor our apps. 

So, we created GreenShows™, our virtual event platform with a strong sustainability focus. In fact, it is the world’s first carbon-neutral virtual events platform. We buy carbon offsets for every event we produce, plant trees for every booth we build, and give attendees the option to give trees instead of plastic swag to attract people to join their lists. Our goal is to deliver more carbon-negative meetings and events.

As of February, we have booked six new events and planted 1600 more trees. Our future is green!

Back to one word can change everything. I am on a mission to change how we refer to our environment in conversations, from THE to OUR. Why?

When we refer to our environment as THE environment, it is separate from us. It is something that can be commodified, exploited, and sold. 

However, when we say OUR environment, our minds naturally shift to responsibility, stewardship, and accountability. When we see it is OURS, we are no longer separate from it; we have to do something to protect it.

Let’s be more conscious of OUR environment, and recruit a broader audience by continuing to make the business case for sustainability.

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