Greening Your Show

Global climate change has spawned a movement of environmental consciousness that is reaching even the trade show world. This desire and necessity to be green cannot only be practically implemented on a trade show floor but it can save organizers money in a tough economic climate.

New Hope Media’s Natural Products Expo, which has events on the East and West coasts, is proactive in producing green events. Show organizers have completely ignited their consciousness to the dangers of global climate change and have taken on several initiatives to do their own small part.

“The question might be more what aren’t we doing,” says Erica Stone, CEM and show manager for Natural Products Expo East. The event is taking steps to partner with venues, exhibitors and attendees to reduce their function’s environmental impact.

Transportation

“One of the things we’ve done with retail clients over the past several years for Expo East is we’ve developed this program called Travel Green, Save Green. If you utilize public transportation, like a regional bus or train or local transportation to get to the show in some fashion, we will reimburse individuals at different levels,” she says.

Natural Products Expo East will give individuals up to $50, depending on how much they spent, to promote green travel to the events and “give back to our constituents in order to motivate them to do that.”
Green transportation is also used for the West Coast show when exhibitors and attendees are in transit to the Anaheim Convention Center.

“This year, we’re again partnering with Anaheim Resort Transportation to use alternative fuel shuttle busses, which reduces the overall impact of the show,” says Adam Andersen, Natural Products Expo West show manager.

Venue Partnerships

Venue partnership has been an essential step to greening Natural Products Expo West, Andersen says. The Anaheim Convention Center is recognized as a LEED certified building and has partnered with the event to help meet its environmental goals.

The group did not have air conditioning on during move in and show set up day, some of the building’s escalators were also turned off to save electricity.

Since the show has a heavy food focus and many samples are given out to patrons, there is a large margin of food waste. One way to help combat that, Andersen says, is “doing composting and recycling on site at the show floor, which was a great coordination with Anaheim—they recently opened up their new greening center where they actually have on-site composting and recycling.”

The 2011 Natural Products Expo East will be held in Baltimore for the first time in three years. The convention center, Stone says, “has really taken an initiative to green the building and green their food service.” The building does not compost on the show floor so show organizers are working with an outside waste management vendor to keep the initiative’s momentum going.

“We’re a heavy food show so you see a lot of trash on the show floor from people sampling products throughout the day. We are going to be providing composting in addition to traditional recycling and trash bins that are available on the show floor,” says Stone. “These initiatives are inherent within the businesses that are present on our show floor so it’s pretty easy for us to push our exhibit base to be green and to work within green parameters.”

Many of the vendors at the Natural Products shows are already pursuing green initiatives so show planners say they look to the manufacturer exhibit base for ideas. The groups have also incentivized being environmentally friendly by starting a green awards program to recognize exhibitors who have made a commitment to the natural environment.

Since the attendee base also places a heavy emphasis on environmental sustainability, exhibitors can showcase specially designed green emblems the show gives out, if they fall within certain parameters. Additionally, affordable and easy green exhibitor packages are also offered.

The expos do not mail out badges and a few years ago the events eliminated the traditional show directory guide. “We then introduced mobile apps to our show as a way to drive people to a more functional, evolving tool to use on site and also to reduce our waste. Expo West has saved over 500 trees so far,” says Andersen.

Both Natural Product Expos have a variety of other environmental programs, from purchasing renewable energy credits from wind farms, to donating over 45,000 pounds of food samples to local charities and food pantries to be repurposed.

Repurposing

The World Tea Expo is also pursuing some environmentally friendly initiatives with the Las Vegas-based grassroots organization Repurpose AMERICA.

“This is something that our society is becoming more and more conscious of,” says George Jage, president of World Tea Media, organizer of World Tea Expo, World Tea East, North American Tea Championship and World Tea News. “We’re somewhat cancerous on our own planet.”

World Tea Expo has teamed up with Repurpose AMERICA in an effort to divert resources coming off the show floor that can be given back to the local community. While the group has many environmental initiatives, the most striking is the partnership to transform traditional waste materials into new and useful products.

Zach Delbex, CEO of Repurpose AMERICA, helped World Tea Expo take vinyl signage from other shows and turn the wasted material into badges for the event.

“Zach takes the stuff no one knows what to do with and he does a phenomenal job,” says Jage. “We were really able to do something significant that way and he was able to step up and match the price from our existing supplier and make it really easy for me.”

Four community programs, three of which were centered on holistic cancer treatment, reaped the benefits of Repurpose AMERICA and World Tea Expo—over 200 pounds of tea was donated from the show floor.
The show also had a program in which exhibitors could text Repurpose AMERICA volunteers to coordinate waste pick up. One exhibitor had a booth they weren’t going to be utilizing post show and volunteers collected display cabinets that were then turned into cubbies for a local low-income area pre-school.

The group also collected foam core, signage and printed materials to be reused and reinvented by local groups. Costs for collecting these materials were also driven down—the show coordinated to get a green sponsor to support the efforts of Repurpose AMERICA.

“We work to complement and complete recycling,” Delbex says. “We try to get things out of the landfill—recycling is one thing but recycling requires breaking things down and remanufacturing, we try to utilize those materials in their virgin form the way they come off the show floor. Our goal is to get to zero waste, if we can get to zero waste the trade show industry would be on a whole new level of sustainability.”

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