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Best Practices

Green for the greater good

By Marisa Heller, Manager, Sustainability Administration

5 Ideas to make your event more sustainable

What You’ll Learn

When the event is over and you’re basking in the glow of success, nothing can dim that light quite like the post-event piles: stacks of leftover or discarded handouts, bins full of packaging odds and ends, boxes full of promo items that can’t be used again.

The accumulation of trash after a typical event not only affects the environment, but also your bottom line (more dumpster rentals = more costs!).

Reducing event waste isn’t a one-step quick fix, however. To be most effective, you need to create a collaborative experience that gets everyone involved, from event organizers, key stakeholders, and general service contractors to sponsors and exhibitors. No one is an island, and no organizer can roll out effective sustainability practices on their own.

So how do you inspire others to get involved with greener practices?

Include sustainability throughout the event experience. By engaging exhibitors and other stakeholders in your green plan from the beginning, everybody benefits. 

Try these tips to get your green groove on!

1. Be proactive

Before the event, take advantage of exhibitor and partner communication. From the first email, you can create awareness of your commitment to sustainability to get everyone on board.

To make joining in even easier, be sure to provide clear guidelines and tips on reducing waste. You can also demonstrate how following these guidelines will save money and improve their reputation with customers and prospects (hint: today’s audiences buy from brands that prioritize sustainability!)

Another note about planning ahead: Choose vendors and venues that are already prioritizing the environment  —  learn about the green practices they’re already doing and then you can build on those together.

2. Engage your community

Once you’ve proactively communicated your sustainability goals, encourage exhibitors and sponsors to join the social responsibility party. 

Consider these program ideas to get everyone involved:

  • RENTALS: Items purchased for exhibits and sponsorship activations are often left behind or discarded. So, offer a wide range of high-quality rental furniture — by encouraging exhibitors and sponsors to rent rather than buy, you’re helping them make a greener choice. 
  • DONATIONS: If they opt to bring or buy materials, include e-waste and donation programs that send unused supplies or materials to local charities.
  • MINDFUL PRINTING: If you must provide non-digital materials, print your items (such as giveaways, graphics, and leaflets) without dates or show location so the leftovers can be repurposed for future events. 

These are win-win propositions: Your event becomes more sustainable and exhibitors get to publicly demonstrate their commitment to sustainability through these programs, which ultimately boosts their brand. 

3. Walk the walk — literally! 

Sure, nothing clocks your daily step goals like walking a trade show. But are you really paying attention to the carpet? It’s there because it’s always been there, but it doesn’t need to be. To make a difference underfoot, eliminate all aisle carpeting from your expo hall. 

This simple choice saves truck miles, tape, plastic coverings, and loads of materials in landfills. Check with your GSC to see if they offer a carbon calculator — these handy gadgets can tell you how many tons of emissions you save for every unused square feet of carpet! 

If you must have carpet, talk to your vendor and make sure they offer reused and/or recyclable carpet options. 

4. Digitize to energize

Being surrounded by large piles of leftover leaflets or other materials is probably not the immersive event experience you’re going for. Fortunately, today’s tech makes it easier than ever to eliminate waste.

Digital practices offer a range of benefits for event organizers and exhibitors alike. First off, digital comms minimizes impact by:

  • Reducing carbon emissions from shipping materials
  • Reducing the amount of paper used
  • Reducing trash generated from discarded materials

In addition to the environmental benefits, digital makes sense financially and logistically.

Because digital materials are easy to edit and access, exhibitors can see major reductions in shipping and labor costs. Plus, an error on a digital display is an easy fix, even mid-event. A typo in 5,000 copies of your glossy new product sheet? Not so much.

And imagine the labor costs saved by not having to pay someone to lug around boxes of materials! Another bonus: digital materials make it easier for sponsors to track who’s interested in their products, since this approach yields data about who’s looking.

Tip: Digital signage is the greenest option for graphics, but when physical signage is needed choose (and offer) recyclable substrates like Honeycomb and paperboard. 

5. Make sustainability part of your brand

When you commit to the environment, that value becomes part of your brand story. And actively reducing your event waste sets an example that backs up your organization’s purpose-driven principles. 

By engaging business partners and customers in this shared commitment, you help them feel empowered, which helps people associate your brand (and show) with environmental responsibility.

Remember, if you pave the way for a greener event, others will follow. 

Now that’s sustainable success you can truly bask in.

Learn more about our sustainability pledge and practices here

Ready to go green?

We can help you develop and execute a purpose-driven event plan.

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