Every year I attend more tech events than I care to count and every year at this time (just before my birthday) I go through my closet, collect all the "souvenir" t-shirts and donate them to a local homeless shelter.
Official event t-shirts are a pretty cool reminder of the events that you've attended and some of them are even designed well enough that you are happy (and even proud) to wear them again in the future.
But what about all those t-shirts given away by event sponsors that are nothing but adverts. Do you really need them? The photo above was posted on twitter by one person of their personal SWAG collection from just one day at a tech event.
I am not a walking billboard
But it's more than just a personal desire not to be an unpaid advertising hoarding. Have you stopped to consider how and where those t-shirts are produced. When you buy a t-shirt in a store you consider quality, longevity, colour fastness etc but when you buy a thousand t-shirts to give away at an event you consider one thing - price.
Have you stoped to think where those t-shirts were made, in what conditions, by whom and how old they were. The t-shirt manufacturing industry where price is number one has one of the worse records in the world for sweat shop manufacturing.
Do you need that t-shirt? Do you need to be an unpaid advertisement? When you are grabbing your swag of XXXL t-shirts at the next conference stop and think about the people that made it. When was the last time they were given unlimited free clothing? Do they earn enough to even buy a new t-shirt themselves?
So what can we all do about it?
Clearly it's not enough to give your unwanted t-shirts away. We need to stop the practice of producing t-shirts that we don't need at prices that are so low that the people that make them cannot afford to live.
Next time you are at an event and a sponsor offers you a free t-shirt - just say no. Let them go home with all the t-shirts that they brought. Maybe then sponsors will start to get the message that we don't need free clothing. We're not needy we're just greedy.
(Kudos to Mozilla Corp who are the only organisation I have personally come across that uses certified sweatshop free, fair wage t-shirts for their promotional items.)