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Creatively Repurpose Unwanted Tradeshow Swag

An Array of Colorful USB Drives

Tradeshow season does more than send you home with great ideas for your next meeting or event; there’s also all of that booth swag—a seemingly endless array of trinkets and gadgets. While that tote or T-shirt felt like a must-have at the show, it often ends up forgotten in your closet or cluttering up your office.

Even if you plan on using the items, consider this—what did you do with all of last year’s swag? Chances are if you didn’t keep and use it then, it’s now this year’s garbage. Why not repurpose it?

Meetings Today’s sister publication interiors+sources pulled together some ideas on how to repurpose tradeshow swag. We are presenting you with that same info, as it certainly impacts our industry.


Many of us have free T-shirts from tradeshows and 5k conference runs buried in dresser drawers. These shirts can be put to good use helping solve a problem in America that doesn’t get enough coverage: many of the 2.5 million kids who are homeless don’t have designated outfits for sleep.

Instead, they tend to sleep in their day clothes, which isn’t conducive to a good night’s rest.

Donating gently used pajamas (or leftover tradeshow T-shirts) for homeless kids and teens gives them the comfort and security of having their very own clothes just for sleeping. Interested in doing more?

Programs like provides kids with new PJs and bedtime stories.


One of the easiest ways to help your community is by simply cleaning out your desks or bags. For many public schools, supplies like pens, pencils and notebooks come from students’ families and teachers are often left supplementing classrooms out of their own pockets. Instead of throwing out your office extras, give your local schools or childcare programs a call to see if they could use more supplies.


These fun tradeshow staples can run out their use well before their lifecycle is over. For America’s homeless population, keeping one’s possessions on hand is essential.

What’s more: While citywide bans on plastic bags are great for the environment, they have unintended consequences for those struggling financially.

Tote bags help fill the need for reusable bags for those in lower socioeconomic income levels and can also give the homeless reliable, sturdy means for transporting their belongings.

Want to do more? Fill reusable totes with items like water bottles, pull-tab cans of food, sanitary items (including unused toiletries from the hotel), and socks to be given to people in need.

Easy to stash in the car, they can help improve someone’s life.


One of the cornerstones of organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous is that they are self-supporting through member donations, oftentimes leading meetings to be low on perks such as coffee cups. If your cupboard can’t possibly hold another mug, consider giving a call to your local fellowship club or AA/NA meeting and ask if they could use them. Clean up your kitchen cabinets for a good cause!


After a tradeshow, you are likely also swimming in a sea of unwanted USB drives. While we’re sure the PDF brochures and meeting facility info stored on those is very compelling, once you’ve copied what you need over to your laptop, it’s likely you don’t have much further use for these.

Consider wiping the especially spacious drives clean and reusing for future meetings of your own or better yet, look into organizations that repurpose flash drives to create portable learning centers for children or smuggle outside information into North Korea—apparently that is a thing, which we haven’t fully vetted!

Have any other tips for repurposing unwanted tradeshow swag? Submit them in the comments!

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About the author
Kadie Yale | Contributing Writer

Kadie Yale holds a BA in Industrial Design from San Francisco State University and a MA in Decorative Art History and Theory from Parsons the New School. She creates content that is not only relevant to her readers, but touches upon the subjects of sustainability, universal design, science and the role of design in society.