If you haven’t noticed, this whole ‘sustainability’ thing is kind of a big deal. It’s no longer just an ecological imperative to focus on the environmental impacts of your business, it’s a marketing and PR imperative, too. Your company ignores the importance of focusing on sustainability at its own peril. And this failure to at least publicly address the issue can really hit your bottom line by affecting your public image.
But, this has given rise to the phenomenon of ‘greenwashing’, whereby companies give lip service to environmental changes and ‘greening’ their practices but only actual deliver token changes which are then highly publicized. In the trade show industry, this is manifested in the trade show exhibit which uses CFL bulbs instead of incandescents and then calls itself ‘eco-friendly’. There are many other examples of tradeshow booths that may be painted green, but really aren’t that much more eco-friendly at all.
So, when we come across a trade show exhibit which is truly built with the environment in mind the entire time it is quite refreshing. That is exactly what we found in the South African government’s DEA trade show exhibit (in South Africa, DEA doesn’t mean Drug Enforcement Agency, but rather Department of Environmental Affairs). A profile in Exhibitor magazine showcased all of the ecological chops that this tradeshow booth showed off.
The goal was to use 100% recyclable, sustainable and reusable materials. In other words, not to source materials from resources or areas where they aren’t easily replaced. To this end, the DEA used biodegradable carpet, paint that was free of odors and VOCs, reusable tension graphics and sustainable aluminum framing to provide the structure’s support.
The trade show exhibit was powered by photovoltaic panels on the roof and featured a kind of ‘inverted trapezoid’ design that was chosen to reduce the penetration of sunlight into the second level and thus reduce the need for active cooling. This really was one of the most eco-friendly tradeshow booths that we’ve seen.
Now, granted this trade show exhibit goes to the kind of extremes that would be expected of an organization whose expressed purpose is promoting environmental sustainability. It can’t be expected that all companies live up to such high expectations, but it should be expected that more energy and attention is spent to sincerely make efforts to reduce waste and improve the impact on the environment, especially if a company wants to use this as a marketing point. And it seems like there are very few who don’t desire to, or haven’t already taken this route.