Sustainability: It’s Not Easy Being Green

Industry Insights and Trends

TL;DR (But you really should read!)

  • The trade show industry isn’t exactly ecofriendly. But down below you’ll learn how to be a little bit ecofriendlier.
  • Quick tips:
    • Buy durable crates.
    • Check for reentry programs.
    • Rent plants.
    • Think modular.
    • Recycle…duh.

It’s Not Easy Being Green
By Jill Lencioni, Director of Operations, EDE

Let’s acknowledge something that’s long been apparent: The trade show industry isn’t exactly a beacon of environmental responsibility. With setup and tear-down of exhibits often comes a deluge of waste that can leave even the most conscientious exhibitors feeling overwhelmed. There needs to be a collective overhaul of the exhibition industry if we want to seriously address sustainability. However, there are some simple decisions you can make to mitigate your exhibit’s environmental impact without sacrificing the effectiveness of your presence on the trade show floor.

Invest in Class A Crates:
Let’s start with the basics. Those ubiquitous crates that transport your exhibit materials from point A to point B can be a significant source of waste because many become need to be replaced after just a couple of uses. Consider investing in Class A crates — these durable containers are designed to withstand the rigors of shipping and handling, meaning they can be used time and time again without succumbing to wear and tear. They will easily last the lifecycle of your exhibit. Admittedly, there’s a larger upfront cost (about $1,500 per crate), but it’s just a one-time investment. By opting for Class A crates, you not only reduce the amount of waste generated by your exhibit but also save money in the long run by avoiding the need for constant replacement.

Ask Vendors about Reentry Programs:
Let’s talk about one of the most wasteful aspect of trade show waste: flooring. Traditionally, carpet has been the go-to choice for many exhibitors, providing a comfortable surface for attendees to walk on while adding a touch of warmth to your booth. However, carpet has a significant environmental footprint — from production to disposal, it’s about the least eco-friendly option out there. Truthfully, carpet is made for someone’s family room where it can sit for 10 years instead of being rolled up, rolled back out, cut through, taped down, and ripped up. Most of that carpet winds up in the landfill after one use.

If you must use carpet, ask your vendors if they offer reentry programs. Some big players in the industry are beginning to offer ways to recycle and repurpose used carpet. Also, seek a company that creates it from post-consumer materials so that it’s been through at least one round of recycling. Along the same lines, printed graphics can likewise be recycled. So before you choose a vendor, inquire about their capabilities along that line.

Embrace Modular Frame or Custom Rentals:
By and large, gone are the days of build-and-burn exhibits — at least in the United States. More and more exhibitor are embracing the use of modular frame systems and rentals, which greatly reduce the amount of waste at the end of a show. Even if you require custom rental exhibitry, many exhibit houses will break down the elements and reuse many of the components. Be sure to ask your exhibit house about those options. These versatile solutions offer several advantages from an environmental perspective. For starters, modular frame systems are designed to be reconfigured and reused, meaning you can adapt your booth to suit different show layouts without having to invest in entirely new materials each time. Similarly, custom rentals allow you to create a unique and impactful exhibit without the long-term commitment of ownership. By embracing these flexible solutions, you not only reduce waste but also have the freedom to evolve your booth design over time to reflect changing trends and priorities.

Rent Your Plants:
Yes, that’s right — rent your plants. Many exhibitors buy greenery for their booths and then pitch it right after the show. GCs are beginning to rent plants that they can drop off at your booth and then collect at the end of the show and saved for the next event. They are incentivized to keep them alive as long as possible to save overhead costs, and it avoids the need for more waste in a landfill.

If you can’t rent plants, consider donating them to an area school or organization. There are plenty of places willing to take a touch of fresh greenery.

Recycle Cardboard Materials:
Last but certainly not least, let’s talk about recycling. It may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many exhibitors overlook this simple yet effective strategy for reducing their environmental impact. Cardboard materials, in particular, are a common sight on the trade show floor — from shipping boxes to product packaging, they’re everywhere you look. And before the show opens, a crew walks through collecting everything in the aisle and pitching it. Either spend a little time to make sure your cardboard gets recycled properly, or better yet, collect your cardboard and throw it in your Class A crate so that you can repurpose it during teardown.

While the trade show industry may have a long way to go in terms of sustainability, there are steps you can take to reduce your exhibit’s environmental impact. By investing in durable crates, opting for environmentally friendly exhibitry, and ensuring your materials stay out of a landfill, you can minimize waste and make a positive contribution to the planet while still wowing attendees with your innovative booth design.

Want to learn how you can maximize your trade show program while minimizing your environmental impact? Get in touch.

Get trade show tips, reports, checklists and more delivered to your inbox once a month by signing up to the Trade Show Marketing blog.

Related Articles

The Storyteller’s Playbook: Mastering Brand Narratives

The Storyteller’s Playbook: Mastering Brand Narratives

If you don’t nail your narrative, you end up telling the wrong story to the wrong audience. What you’ll find when you keep reading:     -5 reasons you should embrace storytelling;     -Where to begin your story and why it’s at the end;     -The Storyteller’s Toolkit; ...

Travel Tips: Health Edition!

Travel Tips: Health Edition!

Travel Tips: Health Edition! Staying healthy while constantly traveling for work can feel impossible. Two of our world travelers shared eight tips for keeping fit and sane on the road. As an event professional zipping around the globe for those all-important trade...

Why Are Costs Going Up? We Asked an Organizer.

Why Are Costs Going Up? We Asked an Organizer.

Ask a Show Organizer: Rising Costs of Trade Shows Feel the pinch because you can’t fight the rising cost of trade shows. Everyone suffers — show organizers, exhibitors, suppliers, and attendees. Prove ROI with available digital tools such as exhibitor dashboards and...