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How Trade Shows Are Working to Reduce Their Carbon Footprint

Trade shows are great ways for individuals and businesses to schmooze with the competition, network with potential clients, learn new tips and tricks, and get their name out there so that they can expand their market share.

Unfortunately, these types of large, short-term events also take lots of energy to put on, leaving a huge carbon footprint. Everything from shipping materials, powering booths with electricity, cooking meals for attendees, and all of the related travel create carbon dioxide emissions that are harmful to the environment.

That’s why many companies involved in trade shows are actively working to reduce their carbon footprint at the events.

Carbon offsets. Companies like Kimberley-Clark Professional and Grassroots Outdoor Alliance – both of which produce trade shows or products used at trade shows – have formed partnerships with organizations focused on carbon reduction to calculate the carbon footprint of their trade show activities and purchase offsets that will be used for projects involving reforestation and renewable fuel.

Reusing and recycling. It takes a lot of energy to make something completely from scratch, but most of the time companies want their trade show booths to be up-to-date and unique so that attendees who’ve been to multiple events won’t feel like they’re just getting the same old-same old. That’s why some companies are going to the source by created new booths from used parts. Kimberley-Clark is leading the charge with a booth that’s made from roughly 90% re-used or post-consumer recycled products.

Trimming the fat. Of course, using recycled material only goes so far. You still need to ship the booths around from event to event, and if you’ve got one that’s heavy and bulky, you’re going to be using up a lot more fuel. That’s why companies have been researching ways to get booths lighter and allow them to pack up smaller.

Gifting. Sometimes it’s just not possible to recycle old displays, but that didn’t stop Nalco and Nimlok from finding a way to get more use out of them. When it was time for Nalco to upgrade to new booths, they had Nimlok donate their old ones to the University of Illinois-Chicago so that students wouldn’t have to create new displays to use in presentations. Technically, the businesses didn’t reduce their own carbon footprint, but they were able to keep more carbon dioxide from being used to make new booths for the students.

Staying close to home. Rather than sending attendees from the home office all over the country, larger organizations with branches in many areas are choosing people to attend who are closer to the actual event. This reduces the amount of fuel needed to bring everyone in. Similarly, many companies now rent their displays from local vendors rather than building them and having them shipped to the event.

The Energy Star effect. Displays at company booths can take a lot of energy if they involve using televisions to display videos or power so that people can try out a product, but many businesses are actively working to cut their carbon footprint in smaller ways by doing things like using energy-efficient lighting and utilizing products that meet or exceed Energy Star’s standards for efficient use of electricity.

About the Author: Sarah Bridgewater has been a leading energy efficiency expert within the trade show industry for over 10 years, covering freelance stories on the side for companies like Nimlok’s display graphics. When she isn’t working you can find her at home with her family or training for her upcoming half marathon.

Clay Miller
the authorClay Miller
I am the creator/writer of and I'm an advocate for oceans, beaches, state parks. I enjoy all things outdoors (e.g. running, golf, gardening, hiking, etc.) I am a graduate of the University of Kentucky (Go Wildcats!!). I'm also a huge fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I was born and raised in the beautiful state of Kentucky.

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