Exhibition Stands = The Greener the Better

"Being green is not about bell bottoms, tofu, beads and Indian prints anymore, it’s about stylish living with a conscience” says greening expert, Lorraine Jenks, and in our industry, it should be about “stylish exhibiting with a conscience”. We are currently consuming 150% of the planet’s resources, to continue as we are; we will need two planets within the next 50 years. We take, and we give nothing back. Our recognition of this destruction is well overdue.

With the term “going Green” becoming increasingly commercial, and interpreted into more of a fashion statement rather than a lifestyle, we have abandoned its authentic meaning. Before we purchase anything, we need to stop and consider its impact on the environment throughout its lifespan; and the very same applies when it comes to designing and manufacturing exhibitions stands. According to Lorraine Jenks, there are 3 tiers of sustainability: Social Responsibility, Environmental Responsibility, and Economical Responsibility. Understanding and adhering to these tiers will help strengthen our individual attempts to continue to preserve our only planet.

As exhibitors and suppliers of exhibition stands, it is important that we have a solid idea that will serve as a director on how to begin “greening” our exhibition stands. According to Deborah Popely, here are a few basic principles and practices to incorporate into your exhibiting program:

1. Increase sustainability
Whenever possible, select materials that are recycled, reclaimed, or rapidly renewable, such as bamboo or sorghum, and plant fibres such as hemp and jute. Reduce the amount of non-renewable materials in your exhibition stand, especially PVC, which is harmful to the environment and to human health. Substitute Forest Stewardship Council- (FSC) certified wood or incorporate recycled metal or plastic.

2. Go through Detox
Reduce pollution and health hazards by building exhibition stands with low- or no-VOC (volatile organic compounds) varnishes, paints, adhesives, and other finishes. Traditional carpeting can be another source of harmful fumes, so consider incorporating non-traditional materials, such as bamboo, sea grass, sisal, cork, marmoleum, or recycled rubber.

3. Don’t weight
Reducing the weight of your stand, be it via material selection or the use of modular or portable exhibition stands, can make a big difference in your carbon footprint, as lighter-weight properties require less energy to transport. Also, reduce the amount of printed materials you send to the show to a bare minimum, thus decreasing weight and saving some trees in the process.

4. Eco-accessorize
Make sure your exhibition stand lighting, signage, giveaways, racks, and accessories promote sustainability too. Ask your suppliers and vendors for products made of renewable, recyclable, and/or sustainable materials. Energy-efficient LED lights can also reduce power usage by as much as 90 percent.

5. Print less or print green
Using electronic displays on your exhibition stand rather than printed material is typically a Greener option, but bear in mind that certain amounts of printing is usually necessary too. So work with a printer that uses water-based vegetable inks, and when possible, print on the highest percentage of post-consumer-recycled material possible, whether paper, plastic, or fabric.

6. Make it last
Reuse is a key consideration in your exhibiting program. So it is suggested that you build, rent, or buy with durability and multiple uses in mind. Ensure that your exhibition design makes use of signs with messages that don’t need to be constantly updated, or include signage components that can be switched out for different events.

7. Give your old exhibition stand a new life
When you no longer have a use for your exhibition stand, search out companies in the exhibition show industry or associations in your local community, such as colleges and high schools, that will be thrilled to re-purpose and recycle your old display.

8. Encourage social responsibility
Choose your partners and vendors carefully to favour those who use responsible labour practices, have energy- and water-saving programs, and feature waste-reduction and recycling programs in their operations.

9. Localize
To reduce energy-consuming shipping, buy locally, and if possible, buy warehouse materials close to most of your exhibition show sites. You’ll save a bundle on shipping, whilst simultaneously boosting the local economy.

10. Become carbon neutral
What can’t be reduced or eliminated can be offset by purchasing carbon offsets from reliable sources. A directory rating more than 80 offset providers can be found online at www.carboncatalog.com. To offset your shipping (which can account for more than half of an exhibitor’s carbon footprint), work with an eco-friendly shipper such as EA Logistics, which offers free carbon offsets to its exhibition show customers as part of its Delivered GrEAn.

Exhibition shows and exhibition stands, by their very nature, are not the most eco-friendly, but we only have ONE planet. The little each individual and entity can do counts.

Information retrieved from the following sources:
- Lorraine Jenks, founder of Greenstuff
- “Green Exhibiting” written by Deborah Popely, President of Green Events Source