The post-show breakdown. Not five minutes after the convention doors close – walls and structure are being reduced down mini mountains of debris, forklifts are speeding down aisles of swag, flyers and cardboard and the passion that was once the product of an entire company is left behind to be tossed in a dumpster. The worst part, this melancholy ballet is just inside the convention center.
If you’re a trade show exhibitor there’s a good chance you’ve seen the war zone trade shows leave behind. All for an event that typically lasts not much more than two to four days. Is this just the nature of the business? Or are there steps we as trade show professionals can be taking to improve our eco-responsibility and reduce our carbon footprint?
This article is not bringing into question exhibitors concern for the environment. We know most exhibitors have environmental sustainability tucked away in their subconscious. This article was written in hopes to educate decision-makers that there are in fact numerous affordable, if not free measures that can be taken to create a more sustainable event marketing strategy. Some you may already be practicing.
From reducing energy use to reusing materials, it’s much easier to join the movement. Here are just a few:
Okay, you’re not paying the electric bill for the convention center but that doesn’t mean your choices in electrical components are not making an impact. Leaving lights on in rooms no one is using on usually annoys someone at home. Same goes for events.
1. We’re not suggesting leaving your booth in the dark ages to reduce your energy usage. Many exhibitors running on a tight budget spring for halogen lighting whereas using LED fixtures is 75% more efficient. The best part, they last longer and can take WAY more abuse. Oh yeah, they look better too.
2. Energy efficient appliances are another great tactic to reduce your voltage. We know TV’s are important for showing off your brand, every booth has at least one, but there are ways to save some energy (and money) here as well. Substituting larger TV’s in place of multiple smaller ones not only saves energy. Fewer TV’s means less work to mount and run cables. A.K.A – less money in trade show labor.
3. Coffee! The fuel that gets us through twelve-hour days on our feet. Your booth has power going to it. Why not cut the trips, paper cups and charges to Starbucks and stick a Keurig under the counter? Take it a step further and bring your travel mug.
4. Last but not least. Just turning off electrical devices every night is one of the most important pieces to creating an eco-friendly event. Show management typically cuts the power late at night and turns it on just before show doors open but that buffer period over a couple hundred booths really adds up in Kilowatt hours.
If you have a full-service trade show company, don’t be afraid to ask them to go lights out when they lock up your booth.
Take a Hike
Opting to Reserve a hotel as close as possible to the convention center can check multiple boxes: If you figure an average hotel during an event will run you $175/ night. Maybe you’ll save $25/night by staying a few blocks farther away. But a cab could cost $10 or more each way. (don’t forget Uber’s surge pricing). A short walk emits 0 pollution and is 100% free.
Side note: Local full-service exhibit houses know the good deals. Just ask. They’ll be glad to share ; )
Reuse EVERYTHING (you can)
1. Opting for reusable fabric graphics over vinyl or other less eco-friendly materials is a great first step. They may have a slightly higher upfront cost, but after just a couple shows they pay for themselves.
2. Instead of tossing out cardboard shipping boxes – flat pack them in your empty crates and use them again when breaking down. Just a little tape and you’re saving money and trees.
3. Swag and marketing materials you’re done with can also still do some good through organizations like Repurpose America, a nonprofit that repurposes convention materials into new items.
4. Miss the mark on sales? Instead of tossing unsold product that costs too much to ship home – donate them. One man’s trash is another man’s (or kid’s) treasure…
We’ve seen modular booths made from everything. Wood, plastic, aluminum, fencing, crates even cardboard! Your choice in modular trade show booth extrusion can have a huge effect on what winds up in a landfill. Aluminum extrusion is by far, the most sustainable exhibit material structure. It’s durable, lightweight and can take a beating show after show after show.
Dunder Mifflin will agree, paper products are a necessary evil. We get that. However, there is a bundle of ways to cut down on how much you need.
That planning binder? Bye-bye. Going digital is cheaper and easier to use. Let’s be real, Trapper Keepers were cool in middle school but don’t be “that guy (or gal) now. Being more tech-savvy will help you on a number of levels:
– Binders don’t have lock codes
– Binders don’t have interactive 3D booth designs.
– Binders are heavy, making your walk home that much worse.
– Binders take up more space
– Binders don’t have email, Facebook, Instagram and pictures of your cat.
Reduce, Reuse and Rent?
Of course, some aspects of your booth like one-of-a-kind custom exhibit fabrications like custom hanging signs, counters and displays are assets you will have to purchase but there are plenty of items that can be rented. Renting your booth’s structure can often times make much more sense financially and of course environmentally.
Curious if an exhibit rental makes more sense?
A Win-Win For Everyone
Imagine looking back at your booth knowing that not only was it planned and designed to save you money but also operated in favor of the very thing that supports our existence. Does an eco-friendly booth put a smile on your face? It does on ours…
Bonus: Eco-friendly, sustainable event marketing is the future. Don’t believe us? Check this out:
Every year, SXSW, one of the countries largest event and trade show opportunities, run a separate SXSWeco trade show. We had the pleasure of building a one of a kind LED Lite-Brite Booth for Cool Effect, a start-up that takes donations and allocates them to different carbon-cutting projects.
As attendees donated they placed an acrylic peg for their location in a back-lit world map. At the end of the show, the wall displayed an entire united network of people dedicated to eco-friendly projects. The cause (and booth) made such an impact; it won us a spot in Exhibitor Magazines “Ideas that work”. We’re proud not only for the accomplishment but what we did collaboratively for our planet.