So I've spent the past many days moving across town. Not a terribly far jump, just enough to change my zip code by one digit. The transition has caused me to sift through a seemingly endless pile of loot collected at conferences and events... many of which, bestowed unto me in the name of conservation. I'm not just talking calenders and totes either. There have been major expenditures under the umbrella of some organization or other wooing participants with free trinkets. Posters, stuffed animals, key chains, stickers, magnets, reading lights, magazines, buttons, tshirts, beer (
American Fisheries Society 2003 in Quebec
), photographs, air fresheners, paper weights, stress relieving squeeze toys, pencils, pens, notebooks, gum, calculators, card holders, hats, shorts, lunch bags, text books, picnic blankets, pillows, plants, candles, coasters, CDs, DVDs, videos, bookmarks, condoms (
Society for Conservation Biology 2007 in South Africa
), light bulbs, batteries, zip drives, guidebooks, computer sleeves, towels, mugs, shell casings, wind up toys, lollipops, ear plugs, purses, maps, plush microbes, bracelets, frisbees, blankets, picture frames, fish-shaped mardi gras bead necklaces, blow up floats, chap stick, biographies, back massagers, chocolate, fans, plaques, clocks, flags, postcards... and that's just the tip of the iceberg. And yet this seemingly titanic island of logos was mainly constructed thanks to non-profit agencies out to protect the environment, save biodiversity, promote science... [insert NGO mission of choice]. Gazing upon my burgeoning discard pile is mildly disheartening as I realize how much funding was likely spent to provide so much clutter. And yet, these symbols of different orgs have stayed with me for years, which I guess is the point, right? Little reminders that these groups are hard at work and need public support. And so folks, what do you think, wasteful spending or beneficial advertising? Or more interesting, what's the weirdest thing you've ever received at a meeting?