If you've ever been on a trade show floor an hour after the show closes, you've seen the amazing amount of waste — once I even saw discarded koi fish that had been on display in a booth. Exhibitions use lots of energy, require considerable transportation, and generate plenty of waste — all of which affect the health of the planet. In fact, statistics show us one three-day conference and trade show with 500 booths is estimated to use

  • 617,000 KwH electricity,

  • 28,000 therms natural gas, and

  • 376,000 gallons of fuel.

Award Green Behavior

It also produces 8 million tons of carbon dioxide — now that is one big carbon footprint!

There are four parties who can work together to minimize this footprint: the facility, the general services contractor, the exhibitors, and the planner. As the meeting planner, here are a few things I ask of our exhibitors:

  • Participate in the facility's recycling program as well as donate locally. Remember to train your booth staff to assist with this process.

  • Minimize packaging materials on all booth items and use environmentally responsible packing materials.

  • Avoid large quantities of collateral. Provide information electronically whenever possible.

  • Try to avoid printed materials, but if it can't be avoided, use vegetable-based ink and 30 percent minimum post-consumer, recycled paper.

  • Provide environmentally responsible giveaways and ensure they are not made from endangered or threatened species.

  • Design displays with environmentally responsible materials, including energy-efficient lighting.

  • Make signage from recycled materials and reuse or donate it after the show.

  • Minimize transportation to and from show site. Use biodiesel-fueled or alternative-fueled trucks.

  • Offset transportation emissions with a carbon-offset program.

Exhibitors are your partners in the greening of the exhibit hall, but you have to entice them. I have found one of the best ways to enroll and engage them is with an award. Both IMEX and the U.S. Green Building Council have used an exhibitor award to help promote greener booth designs at their trade shows.

IMEX's approach is to encourage exhibitors to nominate themselves, showing examples of how their booth promotes energy efficiency, waste reduction, water conservation, and environmental purchasing. All nominated booths are assessed by an independent judging committee. The committee selects one winner for the award, which is announced during the gala dinner at the show. The Malta Tourism Authority won in 2008. For more, go to www.imex-frankfurt.com/awards08.html.

USGBC also encourages exhibitors to nominate themselves and to fill in a points-based score card for the green features of their booth. These booth features are verified by a judging committee during the show. All exhibitors that reach a minimum leadership-level score are recognized in next year's show program, receive priority points for their booth location selection the following year, and are entered in the chance to win a free booth space. These incentives are very important as Greenbuild is a sold-out show. The incentives have been very successful, with 17 applications received in 2006 and 77 in 2007.

Both are great models for recognizing exhibitors!

Reprinted with permission from the Pretentious Musings of a Meet Green Martyr, a blog by Nancy J. Wilson, CMP, principal with Meeting Strategies Worldwide, a consulting firm specializing in green meeting and event management. Read more of her green meetings tips at blog.meetingstrategiesworldwide.com.

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