The tradeshow industry is regarded by many as one of the worst offenders of waste-creation and one of the least environmentally friendly industries, but the perception does not meet the reality.
Instead, many tradeshow events and participants indicate a strong willingness to engage in
environmentally friendly practices that reduce the amount of waste generated as well as energy consumption needed to participate in a successful tradeshow event.
“It’s starting to snowball,” said Glenda Brungardt, event manager, HP Imaging and Printing, during EXHIBITOR2013. “People are seeing a value in being certified ‘green,’ and they are choosing to have that green certification.”
Nearly 90 percent of tradeshow exhibitors polled indicate they would be willing to “go green” if their costs and performance were not impacted negatively, according to a 2011 study commissioned by EXHIBITOR magazine. Among the primary benefits identified of engaging in “green” tradeshow practices is the creation of goodwill as indicated by 62 percent of exhibitors polled. Some 31 percent of those polled cited an increase in brand and company awareness, and 25 percent cited improved relations with clients and others.
In an era when the notion of corporate social responsibility is gaining momentum, many exhibitors are looking for new ways to promote themselves as standing for more than just maximized profit margins. Instead, many tradeshow firms are embracing sustainability measures while looking to help preserve the environment.
The Exhibit Designers and Producers Association (EDPA) has established a committee tasked with establishing “green” standards for exhibit design and construction. And the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) has formed a green committee for similar purposes at the events and associations levels.
Representatives of the Green Meetings Industry Council and ASTM International have collaborated to produce tradeshow standards regarding the use of audio-visual equipment, marketing materials, destinations, exhibits, food and beverage, meeting venues, on-site offices and transportation with a ninth category to be developed.
In Denver, the Colorado Convention Center is the nation’s first convention center to earn an official green certification, according to Brungardt. But earning a green certification is not a simple task.
“Greening requires time, planning and forethought,” said Brungardt. “Reducing environmental impacts should be integral to any event. You have to reduce, reuse, recycle and re-think.”
One of the largest sources of waste after any tradeshow is the amount of printed material left behind. But there are many ways to reduce the amount and cost of printed materials and resulting waste, said Brungardt. Using mildly generic informational materials that do not specify events or their dates but still inform potential clients can be used over and over so long as the content remains relevant. But when a date or specific event is placed on printed materials, they only are good for as long as that date or event. The increased use of smart devices, tablets and QR codes also can reduce the amount of printed material and waste, and, ultimately, the cost of doing business.
Many exhibitors also have embraced the use of lightweight materials, such as tension fabrics, for their tradeshow booth structures, which reduce the cost of transporting the exhibit as well as drayage and other costs while at the show site.
When looking to reduce carbon footprints and boost ecological sustainability, Brungardt suggests exhibitors set measurable goals before an event, such as reducing the amount of paper to be used, asking exhibit builders to include green measures when designing and building displays, and to choose undated graphics so they can be used more than once.
During a show, Brungardt suggests recycling cardboard boxes and placing all bottles and cans in appropriate bins for recycling. After a tradeshow concludes, she suggests labeling unwanted show literature and leftover merchandise for recycling and donation.
A few simple steps and an eye on the future can make your tradeshow experience more sustainable as well as more affordable.