One area that can have the greatest impact on an event is the exhibitions. Think of the waste that is generated at an average event – all the cardboard, packing materials, brochures, pallets, carpet, etc. How can you make sure it doesn’t end up in the local landfill?

A good place to start is with your RFP. This is your chance to communicate to your vendors that having an environmentally sustainable event is important to you and your client. Ask questions. Is the general service contractor willing to participate in the facility’s recycle program? Here are some other practices that you can ask the decorator to implement:

  • Minimize energy use by reducing lights and HVAC during move in and move out.
  • Use electric forklifts and hand carts to move freight.
  • Minimize transportation to and from the show site and use biodiesel fueled trucks.
  • Recycle carpet

The good news is that there are many sustainable products and services available now to general service contractors. Some of these include corn-based products, which can be used as an alternative to vinyl for tabletops, compostable wastebasket liners, and several options for recycled and recyclable booth components. Ask your contractor for available options.

A very important step is to communicate with your exhibitors about your commitment to having a sustainable event. Include in your exhibitor contract items such as:

  • Participate in the facility’s recycling program.
  • Use recyclable, biodegradable shipping and packing materials.
  • Avoid large quantities of collateral and print materials. If printed materials are necessary, use soy/vegetable-based inks on post-consumer, recycled paper.
  • Use environmentally responsible signage substrates.
  • Use displays made with environmentally responsible materials.

Lastly, to have a truly successful event, educate your attendees about your sustainable meeting management efforts.

Put information on the registration website. Have signs at the conference so they know where and what to recycle. Then measure and share your results. You will be surprised at how event participants will appreciate being part of process.

The key is to communicate, communicate, communicate – and then don’t forget to follow up. Ask for a report of how much waste was diverted from the landfill and share it with your exhibitors and attendees so they can see the impact that they have. Remember, even if you implemented only a few things listed above you will have made a difference. As a sustainable conference management agency, we can take charge of the exhibits area and ensure it is a zero-waste event.