Weekly Challenge

Week 5: Reframing Free

This week we’re focusing on a category of items that often sneak into our households without much thought. Take a minute to peek into your junk drawer, the outside of your fridge, on your desk, or inside your child’s backpack. It likely won’t take long to find branded pens, calendars, magnets, stickers, party favors, and other “freebies” that have quietly made their way into your home.

The Cost of Free

Free stuff can be oh-so-irresistible in the moment, right? We certainly can’t deny the appeal. There’s a wealth of research on the psychology of why we love free stuff and its power as a marketing tool, but what footprint do these items leave on the earth?

promotional items

The average US household contains 30 promotional items.
Advertising Specialty Institute

3 billion

When viewed through the lens of the 120 million households in America, there are 3 billion freebies out there!
Advertising Specialty Institute

Our love affair with freebies takes quite a toll on the planet. The majority of these mass-produced and distributed items are made of plastic, or contain a cocktail of mixed materials that result in items rarely accepted for curbside recycling. Additionally, data reveals a shockingly short lifespan, with most recipients holding onto these products for just a few months at the most (if they don’t break sooner). As a result, freebies contribute to massive amounts of plastic pollution and landfill burden, not to mention the heaps of energy and emissions required to manufacture them in the first place. 

Pause and Rethink

For every freebie we accept, we create even more demand for this rapidly growing $24 billion industry.

Now is the time for us to pause and rethink our relationship with FREE! We challenge you to spend time this week practicing rule #1 of low-impact living: REFUSE, REFUSE, REFUSE. If we each commit to breaking the habit of automatically accepting these items, we send a clear message to companies that we do not need these products—We also save ourselves the time and effort required to responsibly dispose of them. All the while, we are helping reduce plastic pollution and landfill burden.

Prepare for Potential Promos

Next time you are offered a freebie, resist the urge to automatically reach out and accept it, and instead pause to consider the following:

If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” then kindly refuse the item with a simple “no, thank you.” Then, if you are feeling bold, consider following up your refusal with a quick mention about the harsh impact these items have on the planet. Initially, verbally refusing items may feel a bit awkward, but we promise with time and practice, you’ll quickly discover how to best tap into your sustainable superpower. 

So, how did it go? We’d love to know! Remember to #shareyourshift to inspire others to take the challenge!