by Jennifer Barham
Earth Day might be in the rear view mirror this year, but for those of us committed to a lifestyle of conservation and sustainability, every day is Earth Day. If you’re reading this, you’re probably on the lookout for ways to be greener as you shift towards sustainability, already committed to it, or working for an eco-friendly company.
To take your exhibit to the next environmentally conscious level, check out these tips and see how many of them you could implement or increase.
EXHIBIT AT ECO-ETHICAL CONVENTION CENTERS Choose a convention center that mirrors what your own personal or company mission is – one that protects and enhances the environment you are in. LEED-certified event halls (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) have at their center eco-centric programs and environmentally-friendly trade show ideas. The LEED certification is not just a hoop to jump through or a sticker that a venue pays for; it’s a standard of excellence that is difficult to attain, and convention centers that are LEED-certified are guaranteeing their commitment. You might notice that the bulky laminated badge holders are replaced with simple printed badges and lanyards, that environmentally conscious menus are the norm with their seasonal, local and organic options as well as vegetarian and vegan meals, and that lights and escalators and other energy-users are turned down or off when not in use.
INCREASE THE SUSTAINABILITY OF YOUR BOOTH As an exhibitor, you can make a huge difference by moving towards a “green exhibit” that doesn’t cost you in design or ROI. Using (and re-using!) as many sustainable materials as possible, you can shrink your footprint while promoting conservation as a brand value. Aluminum, cardboard, laminate, wooden, glass, and even plastic elements can all be bought highly (if not 100%) recycled and then recycled again. Adhesives can be water-based and VOC-free. Fabric graphics and LED lights are already the new norm. Even shipping and packing materials can be 100% recyclable.
REUSE. REUSE. REUSE Gone are the days where exhibitors are expected to have a new booth for every trade show. People are more interested than ever in reusability and booths are built to last now. Reuse (or reduce) show graphics, structures, carpets, and signage. Leaving the details and dates off of the graphics enables them to be used interchangeably with any trade show any time.
GO PAPERLESS. GO DIGITAL Do you REALLY need to distribute all those handouts and flyers and info packets and business cards? Even before the advent of the digital age, many of those items ended up in the trash bin. Mobile apps and other devices now capture and convey more information than you could ever possibly fit onto a business card or into a packet. Lighten your own load and the planet’s by preventing all the paper waste at your booth.
REMEMBER THE “GREEN” SWAG There are loads of great eco-friendly giveaway and swag options out there, and no matter what your business is, you can find something sustainable to give away. Consumable items are always a winner – personal items like organic soap or edibles like ethically-harvested coffee beans or candies, all wrapped enviro-consciously. Tech items like a solar-powered charger are popular, too. Recently, I spied eco-friendly reusable wooden travel cutlery at a show, as well as wooden “sprout pencils” that could be written with and then planted to grow herbs and flowers. Even frisbees are made with recyclable materials now. So, whatever you’re currently using for swag, try to shift to something greener.
OPT FOR ENERGY EFFICIENCY The Energy Star logo is a great indicator that you’re moving in the right direction and making the most responsible choices when you need to use energy in your display. If you’re already using an eco-friendly venue, they will likely have requirements and limitations around energy use anyway. If not, curb yourself.
MAKE THE MOST OF IT! Perhaps you or your company are a lone environmentally-aware island in an ocean of wastefulness. If so, there’s an opportunity to educate and influence attendees and other booths. Maybe you place a water bottle refilling station at your booth instead of handing out water bottles. Possibly place a recycle station or bin near your booth. Volunteer to organize an unused materials and supplies collection/donation for after the show. This helps the Earth and it showcases your business as a leader in conservation.
These quick tips are really just a tiny portion of how we can help conserve and maintain our environment in so many ways every day as we prepare for a trade show. We can choose to fly nonstop instead of burning up two flights. We can choose to ship more ethically and responsibly with less packaging. We can donate uneaten food from meetings and conventions to local food banks. We can stay at eco-conscious hotels within walking distance of our destinations. Small choices every day make the big difference in the long run.
Stay green, everyone!
Photo by Roderick Sia