“Eco-friendly,” “Sustainable,” “Green” – buzzwords like these are increasingly popular. This growing interest in eco-friendly living has spawned a plethora of conventions and trade shows aimed at filling the niche of the environmentally conscious consumer.
The fact is that the trade show industry as a whole is one of the most wasteful on the planet. Approximately 60 million people attend trade shows every year. Each one of those people produce, on average, 20 pounds of trash, for a whopping total of 1 billion pounds of waste annually. Of course, most trade shows have nothing to do with our granola-crunching brethren seeking eco-enlightenment or make no effort to suggest they are “green.” But given that the trade shows are second only to the construction industry in the amount of aggregate waste produced, they probably should.
Even some of the greenest among us sometimes get caught up in the moment while attending a convention or trade show. Perhaps it’s a bit of the “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” mentality. I might be a good eco-steward at home, making sure to recycle and not waste (or consume) too much paper, but out on the road, anything goes. Right?
Well, not so fast bucko. Despite that ubiquitous ad campaign we’ve all seen ad-nauseum, Las Vegas is well aware of the challenges of sustainable meeting standards (as any neon-lit oasis in the desert must be eventually). As a member of the Green Meeting Industry Council, Las Vegas is one example of how the trade show and convention industry is working hard not only to change the image of the industry, but to make substantive progress in curbing the excessive waste generated at events. The Convention Industry Council has formalized voluntary Envoronmentally Sustainable Meeting Standards covering guidelines for event producers and participants that cover nine “segments” representing the full spectrum of event planning and production – from site selection to exhibits.
The adoption of the certified Sustainable Meeting Standards continue to gain acceptance throughout the industry, making clear the economic as well as environmental advantages of efficiency, conservation, and waste reduction.
Doing your part to green your trade show experience
For the individual road-warrior (even if the meeting is just a bus ride across town) the steps to reducing your trade show eco-footprint involve some common sense, planning, and perhaps a bit of technology. Here are some tips:
- Keep your head in the cloud (get information online): For most events these days, theres and app for that. Use it. That’s the first step in reducing the amount of paper you consume and waste. Individual exhibitors should also have information about their products and services online as well. Use less paper!
- Avoid bright shiny objects (you don’t need the shwag): Consider why you’re really at the event; most likely it’s to get information and make contacts, not stuff your bag with useless plastic junk with a company logo on it.
- Pack light (but still pack): Bring your own cloth bag for whatever paper and other items you must have (it won’t be much), bring a water bottle, and perhaps a sandwich. Pack lightly, tread lightly.