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Towards A More Sustainable Trade Show Industry

Sustainability has become a buzzword that has entered the global consciousness with such force that it has been impossible for any industry or business to ignore. In the process, there have been a lot of companies who have spent enormous amounts of energy and time demonstrating to consumers and to the general public that they are taking steps to become more sustainable and more environmentally-friendly.

The trade show industry has not been immune from this kind of scrutiny. In fact, it has recently fallen prey to some serious criticism about the waste and ecological impact inherent in many trade shows. Since the question ‘why sustainability?’ should already be patently obvious, let’s discuss how the trade show industry can move towards a more sustainable paradigm.

There are a number of ways that the trade show industry can reduce its impact on the environment. The primary two are by using materials more sustainably and reducing waste. These are both an essential way of making the industry more sustainable and reducing the impact that the industry has on the planet.

Designers and trade show exhibit fabricators can contribute significantly to this through making sure that they are purchasing only sustainable materials that are mined, harvested or sourced in a manner that limits the impact on our planet’s increasingly fragile ecosystem. Additionally, the industry should put still more stock in that 1980’s era slogan: reduce, reuse, recycle.

We are doing a much better job with the third goal of recycling more materials, but let’s not forget that these three imperatives are in order of importance. Reducing material use and reusing materials is a more efficient way of minimizing ecological impact, than is recycling.

In recognizing this, the trade show industry should push to make display rentals more attractive and even more sustainable. They are already a great option for companies looking to save some money, but they could be pitched as a way for even larger corporations that are flush with cash to show off their sustainability chops (which they so love to do).

Exhibit design can also be pushed further towards using materials sustainably and reducing electricity requirements which also put a strain on the environment. Perhaps the most exciting part of this inevitable shift is that it brings with it new constraints for designers to work within. And if experience has taught us anything, it is that the best exhibit design (and the best design in general) comes out of a situation where constraint and necessity enforce innovation and create something better and more beautiful than before.

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