You don’t need to see the leavings of a trade show to understand just how much waste is produced by our industry… but it helps. For all the effort and focus on sustainable event standards and all the chatter to get planners up to speed and engaged, one wonders if exhibitors fell through the cracks.
With their heavy loads of brochures printed in far away places, with their oversize booths with bright lights and toxic carpets, and with their plastic giveaways that seldom make the suitcase home, it’s as though many exhibitors cling to methods and practices from the 70′s. As much as exhibitors are vital to the financial health of events and trade shows, they represent liabilities related to waste management and energy use. But..how to get exhibitors on board with sustainable practices?
Exhibitor Outreach: Getting started
1. Research: Have a look at the APEX/ASTM standard for environmentally sustainable exhibits. Also, and although it’s 2008 (c’mon, it’s not THAT long ago) An Inconvenient Booth is worth a free download. Check out Green Meeting Industry Council’s great webinar. And don’t miss this article from Exhibitor magazine‘s Charles Pappas on eco-friendly exhibiting.
2. Engage: Poll exhibitors for what they’re doing now. Explore their interest in different alternatives for efficient lighting and signage. Identify what items they may leave behind and create a plan to donate those to local charitable groups.
3. Share: Provide helpful advice and best practices for more responsible tradeshows. The best example I know is UUA’s sustainable exhibits page. (disclosure: I was a small part of a MeetGreen effort to put this together).
4. Acknowledge: Greenbuild has worked for years to develop incentives and recognition for exhibitors who integrate sustainability. Favorable locations on the show floor, promoting their efforts in communications, and basically making it cool to have sustainable exhibits. IMEX encourages sustainable exhibitors with the IMEX Green Exhibitor Award.
The trick to getting getting exhibitors engaged in sustainability starts with your own commitment to sustainable practices. Once the event organizer sees value in reducing waste, creativity in integrating good ideas into the event isn’t far behind.