A pyramid of branded pens. Lanyards made of plastic-y nylon in too-bold colours. Cheap water bottles and coffee cups that fall apart after a few rounds through the dishwasher. Stress balls that will end up dumped in the trash, or at best, tossed in a donation bin for someone else to discard later.
What do all of these things have in common?
They are incredibly common “gifts” you might be given on the conference scene as cheap branding opportunities that lack any kind of staying power.
The initial idea is they will be brought home and used as a reminder of your time at the conference. In reality, they don’t have much use in our lives and are quickly tossed. The impact of these plastic-heavy, waste-bound items is getting tougher to ignore.
There is something so truly impressive in the way that Ontario Highlands Tourism Organization (OHTO) wants to do it differently. To leave a different impression on its participants, to make it meaningful – and move away from the type of plastic waste that is going to exist in our gorgeous natural region for far too long.
The fact is, we can no longer ignore the plastic problems that plague our society; the climate change crisis that is looming in our future impacts us all. OHTO has taken some admirable progressive steps in their efforts to create a different sort of impact this year with experience kits that pair perfectly with the goals of the summit: getting the conversation started about how local businesses can consider and implement important changes in how we collectively leave a mark on the planet.
Planning in Partnership for the Planet
Harlowe Green and OHTO partnered to bring you this year’s OH! Tourism Summit experience kits, and to create an experience-based package for participants. Our goal in the package is to showcase just how heightened an experience can be when the positive impact and conscious effort behind the scenes is highlighted.
Within the pandemic, key new consumer values have emerged. Consumers are now looking for environmentally conscious, small shop sourced, and locally owned and based products that, if the host makes an effort to implement and share with the consumer, reaps rewards for their brand.
Taking the time to look into sourcing and ensuring your guests are aware of these steps taken and connections made can transfer the positive vibes you might enjoy from this year’s package to your own guest’s experiences.
Harlowe Green: Sustainable Options + Education
Over the last year and a half, Harlowe Green has evolved from a closet-sized refillery to a community, a storefront, an information sharing hub, and a boom of alternative goods for traditional plastic and far-away sourced items with hazy ethics and supply chains. The idea of a refill setup decreases the cost and packaging waste impacts for the consumer, so that better quality (and carefully made) goods can be acquired.
Essentially, massive jugs are used to refill smaller vessels or dispensers over and over, and the large jugs are refilled by the company, eliminating all of the single use plastic packaging waste. This refillery model has been paired with a selection of compostable, biodegradable and package-free options for the home and personal care.
Recently, our business has begun to support other businesses and organizations (like the OHTO) with setting up refillery-style options and more thoughtful goods to offer their patrons.
This spring, Harlowe Green began working with locally-based Cabinscape to adapt our refill model to their cabins in order to source more directly within the region and offer biodegradable, Canadian-made and package-free goods to their customers. Customers notice these details and have taken to social media and Cabinscape’s reviews to highlight their appreciation that this business is making positive changes and lessening their impact. Cabinscape informs their guests of this with an informational card in each cabin and via social media.
This Year’s OH! Tourism Summit Experience Packages
This year’s experience packages for the OH! Tourism Summit are fostered on those same goals: supporting local small businesses, decreasing the environmental footprint, and passing on a higher-level experience to the participant. OHTO carefully focused on the participant’s needs during the conference to support a lasting impression, even with the virtual format.
A single-origin chocolate from Fine Chocolate by Ludwig and a hand-foraged tea from the Algonquin Tea Company will provide a taste and scent experience, while supporting local businesses and recyclable or reusable packaging. The post-consumer waste notebook, sourced from Harlowe Green, considers the impacts that recent wildfires have had with a notebook made from fully recycled goods, while also providing an item of use during and beyond the summit.
Finally, the thought and intention of connecting and partnering with a local Indigenous artist, Chantel Chadwick (of the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation), to fashion a meaningful piece that can spark an important cultural and social discussion on integrating local Indigenous wisdom into our worlds and businesses is exemplary. The sourcing of the materials has also been careful: many parts of the artistic piece have been sourced through the Algonquin Way Cultural Centre.
Beyond the inclusions for the kits, the packaging has been thoughtfully sourced through a small Ontario business, Wolf Pack Packaging. All exterior packaging is made of recycled, unbleached cardboard with zero plastic padding and is fully recyclable. See more about this excellent option in this Youtube video.
The idea of making changes to product sourcing may seem like just one more to-do on a growing list. However, we hope that the experience of this year’s OH! Tourism Summit Experience Package can have you thinking about how guests respond to and reflect on aspects of your experience-based business and its impacts when the environment and local community are considered.
And if you need a little help along the way, make sure to check out the Ontario Highlands Tourism Organization, or head on over to harlowegreen.com to see how we can help.