No One Wants to Hang Onto a Gorilla: How IMEX Reduced Waste and You Can Too

November 24, 2013

When there is a 5,835 pound gorilla in the room, what do you do? Remember on Seinfeld when George knocked the clown over running out of a room that caught fire? That’s pretty much what I’d be doing …

That happens to be the same reaction you get from many show organizers, exhibitors, facilities, and yes … even service contractors, when there is a pile of old exhibit signage, banners and panels from past shows that aren’t being used any more.

That’s not the case at IMEX America. IMEX chooses to face the gorilla down. At the close of the show, just when everyone is at their peak of exhaustion, they motivate their team and vendors to start unpacking and reviewing all old material. Why? Because there’s a lot of good material that can be donated to worthy organizations. IMEX leads by example first – then sends the message to their exhibitors.

Green has always been an important part of the IMEX message but never more important than now. They encourage exhibitors to practice sustainability through “Green Goals” and joining a “Green Team.” They found that exhibitors love to join causes; it empowers them and they feel like they aren’t just throwing their money at something, but are actually a part of making a difference.

Here’s how IMEX America encouraged exhibitors to help them achieve their green goals:

1. Join the Green Team. Meet pre-set qualifications that show your commitment to sustainability. Action counts!

2. Use the recycling bins for USB sticks, brochures, signage, floral, or if you are unsure – just drop it off!


3. Mail unused brochures and other materials back to their office. Better yet – only bring what you need.


4. Participate in a “badge back” program to support local charities in the Las Vegas area, host city of IMEX 2013. Each ‘donated’ badge triggers a financial donation to a local good cause and the badges themselves are also reused.

5. Help with IMEX America’s Clean the World initiative at the show to recycle hotel soaps and shampoos into hygiene kits. These are gifted to local causes (no freight costs or environmental impacts!)


6. Consider carbon-offsetting their travel to Las Vegas.


7. Exchange a “standard booth package” for the GES sustainable booth option. This not only includes the booth structure but all the furniture, carpet, and wastebaskets.


8. Opt for sustainable catering in their booth.

My favorite actually isn’t on the list. It’s called the IMEX Challenge which takes place every two years. This year started 2014’s Shade Tree shelter project. The Challenge will call on members of the meetings and events industry to help with the landscaping, materials, and construction of a new healing garden for the Shade Tree shelter for women, children and their pets in Las Vegas.

GES was honored to be a sponsor of this project, and I was amazed at what this meant to the families in need. By the way, if you are wondering if this was a success or not? There was a second slightly larger 5,900 lb. gorilla sitting next to the first. His name was “exhibitor donations.”

A side note: IMEX America benchmarks its sustainable performance against the APEX/ASTM Environmentally Sustainable Event Standards, Level 1*. Last year, with the help of exhibitors, partners and suppliers, IMEX America achieved 63 percent compliance. Once audited, results are in for 2013, organizers hope to have matched or even exceeded these results.

Well done IMEX and Team!

Are you inspired to go green on your show floor? Share your 2014 plans below.

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