Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Pens In Space

We have all heard the “space pen” pseudo legend: a kind of/sort of/trueish story passed down for generations since the 1960’s when we began sending folks to the moon. A story that grew and changed over the years until it finally became an uber ridiculous example of some overachieving agency spending millions of dollars and countless hours developing a pen that writes in zero-gravity.

The question still remains: why not use a pencil?

Did the early astronauts need to sign legal documents while in space or was it simply a case of someone not seeing the forest for the trees? Was it an overwhelming urge to improve on something that didn’t really need improving?

Perhaps it was the “simple equals boring” theory.

Why do we insist on over-thinking? We spend a lot of time, resources and energy trying to determine whether or not the zebra has white stripes on a black background or black stripes on a white background. Why not just enjoy the zebra for the beauty that it is, and focus our energy somewhere more worthy?

In our zeal to constantly be improving, evolving and changing, we sometimes (often) miss the point.

Yup…..we could have used a pencil.

There is something strange happening in the green meeting industry, a pre-epidemic of sorts where reduce, reuse and recycle is being trumped by “redesign" (imagine rethink/repurpose injected with performance enhancing drugs).


The beauty of sustainability is that it needs little, if any, embellishment. It needs no bedazzling. It will always work in zero-gravity.

It requires commitment. It requires partnership. It requires communication. It requires education. It requires persistence. It doesn’t always require a label that says, “NEW and IMPROVED”.

How can we resist the urge to over-think?????......resist the urge to throw glue all over the project and glitter the crap out of it (metaphorically speaking of course….)

How can we resist the urge to “redesign” when “rethink” is the most appropriate R to use?

Here are some that I came up with – Keeping Sustainability Simple (KSS):

  1. Communicate your skills and abilities early in the planning process – if you are aware of a strategy that is proven, if you have valuable knowledge to share that will help streamline a process – share it with your team. You can convince them that this time, the space pen is unnecessary.
  2. Reduce – Ask yourself: Do you need it? Is it necessary? Can it be combined with something else? Can it be replaced with a product or service having less of an environmental footrprint?
  3. Reuse – Can I use it again?
  4. Recycle – What am I going to do with it when the event is over? Can it be recycled?
  5. Repurpose – One example: Creating conference bags out of old vinyl signage
  6. Every now and then….get back in the box – There has been so much emphasis on thinking outside of the box that honestly…..there is no one left in the box anymore. And do you know what? That is where we keep the pencils.......and they write just fine


Tahira Endean CMP said...

OK Smartie-pants, a great read, and yes good point. I did see these zero gravity pens recently at the NASA store in the Orlando Airport. For the $30 per pen I decided my son did not need to lie down to do his homework upside down and resisted the urge to purchase yet another non-essential item.

I agree, get out of the box. And if there was no box, it would be one thing less to recycle! cheers my friend on a great re-think!

The Green-Eyed Event Planner said...

Thanks Tahira! I am envious that so many of my friends were in Orlando for PCMA - it sounded like it was a wonderful conference. Maybe next year........sigh

Hope to see you in Chicago for the GMIC!


Myrna Medina said...

Great read and difinitely good point! However, with changing times, what often needs to be New and Improved is the communication strategy. The most difficult part of any campaign is keeping the target audience engaged. But even there, yes, don't overthink it!!

The Green-Eyed Event Planner said...

Thanks Myma!

So very sorry that I didn't notice your comment earlier, please forgive me. I do agree with you completely. A clear, purposeful communication strategy is priceless.