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17 January 2024

Sustainable Exhibiting - Guide to a Profitable Green Show

Trade shows are an excellent way for businesses to showcase their products and services, network with potential clients, and stay up-to-date with industry trends. However, the environmental impact of trade shows can be significant, from the waste generated by exhibitors to the carbon emissions from attendees travelling to the event. As an exhibitor, it's essential to consider how you can make your exhibit sustainable for the planet and your budget.

To be sustainable for your budget, your show must reach its pre-show goals through a good marketing plan, leveraging technology, and measuring success. 

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What Does Sustainable Exhibiting Mean?


Defining Sustainability in the Events Industry

Sustainability in the events industry is about minimizing the environmental impact of events and promoting social responsibility. It involves reducing waste, conserving resources, supporting local communities, and ensuring the industry's long-term viability. In the context of exhibiting at a trade show, sustainability means creating an exhibit with minimal environmental impact while effectively promoting your business.

Why is Sustainable Exhibiting Important?

Sustainability is becoming increasingly important to consumers and businesses alike. A study by Nielsen found that 73% of consumers are willing to pay more for products from sustainable sources, and 66% of global respondents said they are willing to pay more for products and services from companies committed to environmental sustainability. By making your exhibit sustainable, you can attract these environmentally-conscious customers and position your business as a leader in sustainability.

How to Implement Sustainability in Your Exhibit Design

Implementing sustainability in your exhibit design involves making conscious decisions about the materials you use, the waste you generate, and the energy you consume. There are many ways to make your exhibit sustainable, including:

Reducing Environmental Impact in Your Exhibit


Using Recyclable and Reusable Materials

One of the easiest ways to reduce your environmental impact is to use recyclable and reusable materials in your exhibit design. Instead of using single-use materials such as foam board or cardboard, consider using materials that can be reused or recycled, such as aluminum, bamboo, or fabric. These materials not only reduce waste but can also save you money in the long run.

Events Impact On Our Environment

Shockingly, an average of 1115 Metric tonnes of waste is generated per venue, as reported in 2017's Green Venue Report. Printed materials contribute significantly to this waste, and the carbon footprint of discarded catalogues and plastic swag is significant.

Due to cost-saving measures, many exhibitors dispose of unused print materials rather than shipping them back to their offices. This is an enormous waste of money and trees, even if you are using recycled materials.

A large pile of catalogues left over after a trade show

Choosing Environmentally-Friendly Signage and Carpets

Another way to make your exhibit sustainable is to choose environmentally-friendly signage and carpets. Look for signage made from recyclable or biodegradable materials, and choose carpets made from recycled or post-consumer content. You can also choose eco-friendly inks, such as vegetable-based inks, and avoid using water bottles or other single-use items.

Choosing Sustainable Swag

Our favourite is planting trees. The recipient gets a code that corresponds to a tree that has been planted already. They can then use the code to dedicate the tree inside a virtual forest. Many use their trees as memorial messages and dedications. Other environmentally friendly giveaways include products made from recycled materials or repurposed items, natural and biodegradable fibres, and promotional materials, including bags and packs made from recycled vinyl banners, which are one of our favourites to help you exhibit sustainably.

Measuring and Reducing Your Carbon Footprint


The Importance of Tracking Your Environmental Impact

To make your exhibit sustainable, you must measure and track your environmental impact. This means calculating your carbon footprint, which includes the carbon emissions from your booth design, materials, and transportation. By tracking your carbon footprint, you can identify areas where you need improvement and set goals for reducing your impact.

Strategies for Reducing Your Carbon Footprint

Once you have tracked your environmental impact, there are many strategies you can use to reduce your carbon footprint. For example, you can use energy-efficient lighting in your exhibit, use public transportation or carpool to the event, and choose options that show you are committed to sustainability. You can also offset your carbon emissions by investing in carbon reduction projects like renewable energy or reforestation.

Partnering with Sustainable Vendors and Suppliers

Another way to reduce your impact is to partner with vendors and suppliers who share your commitment to sustainability. Look for companies that use sustainable materials, have sustainability credentials, and are committed to reducing their own environmental impact. Working together can create a more sustainable trade show experience for everyone.


A Trade Show Strategy Ensures Exhibiting is Sustainable for Your Budget


Creating a marketing plan is crucial for any business if they want to achieve their goals and maximize their revenue. Marketing plans help businesses identify their target audience, understand their needs, develop strategies to reach them and differentiate themselves from their competitors. It also tells businesses how to allocate their marketing budget and resources effectively and efficiently.

Minimizing Single-use and Printed Materials

Previously, exhibitors relied heavily on printed materials such as brochures and flyers to promote their products and services. However, with the rise of digital marketing, there are many innovative ways to promote your business without the need to print. For example, you can use the SimpleLeads™ paperless app that shows attendees what is at your booth for printed material. They can opt to receive it digitally, and you receive a segmented list of who chose what post-show. By minimizing the amount of printed materials you use, you can reduce the waste generated by your exhibit.

A screenshot from the SimpleLeads Sustainable Exhibiting App

Measuring your success is also an integral part of any marketing plan. Companies should define their goals and regularly assess their progress toward achieving them. By tracking and analyzing data, businesses can understand what's working and what's not, which can help them adjust their strategies accordingly. This will help optimize their advertising campaigns, increase their ROI, and achieve better marketing results.

In summary, marketing plans, technology, and measuring success are crucial components of sustainable exhibition budgeting. By developing a solid marketing plan and leveraging technologies to maximize your resources, you can ensure that you're reaching your target audience effectively. Measuring your success also allows you to make informed decisions that can help you optimize your budget and achieve better marketing results. 


Planning a Sustainable Event on a Budget


Setting Sustainable Exhibiting Goals and Budget Priorities

Sustainable exhibiting doesn't have to be expensive. In fact, by setting sustainable goals and budget priorities, you save money in the long run. Identify areas where you can reduce waste and cost-effective, sustainable materials. You can create an environmentally and financially sustainable exhibit by prioritizing sustainability in your budget.

Reducing Costs Through Sustainable Practices

Using sustainable practices, you can also reduce shipping, storage, and waste disposal. For example, using lightweight and recyclable materials can reduce transportation costs and minimize your carbon footprint. You can also reduce waste by using compostable or biodegradable materials and choosing food and beverage options that are sustainably sourced.

Maximizing Your Exhibit's Long-Term Value

Finally, you can maximize your exhibit's long-term value by investing in a sustainable exhibit design. You can use your display for multiple shows by choosing reusable and recyclable materials, saving money on design and transportation costs. Additionally, by promoting your commitment to sustainability, you can attract environmentally-conscious customers and position your business as a leader in sustainability.


The Future of Sustainable Exhibiting


Emerging Trends in Sustainable Exhibit Design

The events industry is constantly evolving, and many emerging trends in sustainable exhibit design exist. For example, many use more natural and sustainable materials like wood and plants to create a more eco-friendly environment. Additionally, many exhibitors are using innovative technologies, such as augmented reality and virtual reality, to reduce the need for physical materials and create more immersive exhibit experiences.

Advances in Sustainable Materials and Technologies

Advances in sustainable materials and technologies are also driving sustainable change in the events industry. For example, new sustainable and cost-effective materials, such as bio-based plastics and recycled textiles, are being developed. New technologies, such as smart energy management systems, are also being developed to help exhibitors reduce energy usage and carbon emissions.

The Role of Exhibitors in Driving Sustainable Change in the Events Industry

As an exhibitor, you can play a crucial role in driving sustainable change in the events industry. Commit to sustainable practices and encourage others to do the same; you can help reduce the industry's environmental impact and promote social responsibility. By working together, exhibitors, show organizers and general service contractors can create a more sustainable show floor and promote a culture of sustainability in the events industry.


Continuing to Improve Sustainability for Future Exhibits


Finally, exhibitors should continue to strive for improvement in their sustainability strategies. This can involve setting new goals, adopting new technologies, and incorporating innovative ways to minimize environmental impact. By constantly improving sustainability practices, exhibitors can ensure that they maximize the benefits of sustainable exhibiting for themselves, the events industry, and the environment.

Trade shows are a great way to introduce your brand to a broader audience, connect with potential customers, and generate leads. However, they can also be costly and significantly impact the environment. Here are some tips on how to make exhibiting at your next trade show sustainable for your budget and the planet:

1. Have a plan: a sustainability plan will address the physical footprint of exhibiting (including travel, accommodation, booth construction and marketing materials) and the budget sustainability with a good trade show marketing plan that targets leads, segments them by interest or demographic, and measures success.

2. Choose a sustainable location: Look for venues with a good reputation for sustainable practices, such as using renewable energy, recycling, and reducing waste. The choice of location is one of the critical factors impacting your carbon footprint.

3. Use eco-friendly materials: Choose eco-friendly materials and products such as recycled banners, reused shipping crates, and recyclable displays. Selecting energy-efficient hardware is also a great option.

4. Avoid single-use or gimmicky giveaways: Instead of giving away items that are not environmentally friendly and potentially not wanted by attendees, offer to plant trees, choose reusable or repurposed swag, or products made from renewable fibres.

5. Go paperless: Adopt a digital approach to marketing and communication rather than providing printed materials that will eventually end up in the trash. The use of digital devices and apps can help to streamline communication and reduce paper usage.

6. Consider carpooling: Encourage team members attending the trade show to reduce their carbon footprint by arranging for carpooling or using public transport.

7. Reduce energy consumption: Use energy-efficient lighting, set up timers for electrical appliances, and switch them off when not in use. Also, consider low energy consumption hardware.

8. Offset Your Carbon Footprint: Consider calculating your organization's carbon footprint and find ways to offset it through participating in voluntary offsets, such as reforestation or investing in renewable energy projects.

In conclusion, exhibiting at a trade show can remain friendly to your budget and the planet if you plan and implement sustainable practices. By doing so, you will not only save money but also earn a reputation as a conscious and responsible company. 

Leveraging technology is an essential part of developing your marketing strategy. Advancements in technology over the years have transformed the way that businesses market themselves. From paperless event apps to social media and email marketing, there are many ways that businesses can use technology to reach their target audience and engage with them. These technologies can help you save time, money and resources allocated to other critical business areas.

A GreenTaps NFC embedded t-shirt for sustainable exhibiting
Exhibiting more sustainably at a trade show

Can we Agree On What Sustainable Marketing Means?

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