Back in late January, we examined briefly how trade show design companies can reduce their environmental impact through using more recycled materials and sourcing things locally. But, in light of the importance of the ecological aspect of doing business in today’s climate, we are going to re-examine this concept in more depth and evaluate what it means to really commit to sustainability in this industry. Since large expos have come under some fire for the amount of waste that they produce, this environmental problem is quickly morphing into a potential public relations problem as well.
So, what steps can design companies take in order to quantify and demonstrate their commitments to sustainability? Well, the first thing to note is that really addressing the problem means engaging in an in-depth sustainability audit of the entirety of your company’s operations. There isn’t a facet of operations that won’t be touched by a true commitment to sustainability.
A sustainability audit can be performed internally or by a third-party, but it should include several areas: materials sustainability, energy-consumption reduction and energy-efficiency, waste reduction and the prospects for technological innovations to reduce ecological footprint.
Altogether, this likely means a number of things for the company which is committed to sustainability. Be prepared to overhaul exhibit fabrication processes in order to make sure that materials are sourced sustainably. Steps should also be taken to reduce waste in exhibit fabrication and towards producing a trade show display with sustainably-sourced materials. This means selecting suppliers with an eye to how they source their materials and how much recycled materials are used in their products.
Energy consumption can be achieved by committing to using high-efficiency lighting technologies such as LED or CFL. The advantages of doing this are more than just energy efficiency as LED lights are also much more robust and versatile than conventional lighting technologies.
Technology can also be leveraged to reduce environmental impacts, while making a more engaging trade show display. For example, a smartphone app can be used to deliver marketing materials and messages instead of printing large amounts of paper materials that will inevitably be trashed in a short time. However, in light of the fact that paper materials are unlikely to be replaced completely, they should be composed of as much post-consumer recycled content as possible without sacrificing quality.
The biggest takeaway for the company which wants to operate more sustainably is to take seriously the warning of Kermit the frog: “It’s not easy being green.” Though this may appear to be true, if the transition is made gradually and intelligently, companies can indeed improve their ecological impact while simultaneously improving their bottom line. The trade show industry has a long way to go, but rest assured that as the impact of the largest expos continues to come under scrutiny, change will become more and more inevitable.