The Trade-Show Industry Can Get Greener! Here’s How…

May 18, 2017

Tim Jennings

Entrepreneur and drone enthusiast Tim Jennings is president of Custom Case Group – creator of DroneHangar cases and manufacturer of custom shipping cases for industries ranging from trade show and bio-tech, to military and aerospace. He has worked in the manufacturing business in San Dimas, Ca for over 20 years.

My company has been providing shipping and transport cases for the trade show industry for many years. As such, we’ve operated out on the periphery, which has given us a unique perspective. We get a “big picture” view of industry movements and trends a bit earlier than specialized companies more deeply entrenched in industry segments.

The Industry Is Taking a Greater Toll on Earth’s Resources

Through the years, I’ve watched the industry evolve in several ways. For example, the number of cases per show (and the case sizes) has continued to increase along with greater booth design complexity. And, more technologically advanced booth design has meant more technologically advanced cases.

All this increased tech is awesome (what’s more fun than a high-tech trade show?), but like all great things, these advancements come with a price. And with technology, it’s the environment that tends to pay the most.

But There’s Hope

Fortunately, there are a few steps we can all take to help the trade-show industry get greener. The best thing about these practices is that they increase sustainability and reduce the carbon footprint while boosting the bottom line – a win-win. Here are a few ways to start.

Buying Quality

Investing in top-notch exhibit materials is going to cost you initially. There’s no denying it. But in the long run, you’ll save big time. Cheap stuff breaks and gets dumped, adding to landfills and air pollution. Top-quality stuff not only pays out through years and years of use, it also looks way better, too.

Going Local

Look for elements in your exhibit that you might be able to rent locally rather than ship. For example, lighting, display tables and islands are easy to incorporate into custom designs. By renting locally, you save money on shipping and you lessen some of the toll that long-distance shipping takes on the environment. And you’re helping boost the local economies in the cities you visit.

Thinking Lean

Lean thinking is a powerful way to increase sustainability. There’s a lot to the lean philosophy, and it would serve you well to check out the educational resources available on the web. But the beauty of lean is its simplicity. Armed with a basic understanding of lean thinking, you can start taking steps to increase sustainability right away. The basic idea is this: Do more with less.

Train yourself to imagine ways you can minimize waste, in everything from office operations to shipping and factory floor practices. When you have time, check out the Toyota Motor Company’s official production system page. These guys invented the process, so this is a great place to start if you’re interested in learning more.

Repurposing and Reusing

It’s disclaimer time! Yes, I own a company that provides reusable shipping cases, however, that certainly doesn’t change the fact that reusable cases are pretty much a sustainability no-brainer (indeed, this is one of the reasons I’m able to feel good about what I do).

Shipping and transport are foundational to the trade-show industry. So, when it comes to getting greener, these are critical areas of concern. Reusable shipping cases reduce shipping-related environmental wastes in a big way. Plus, these types of cases are an investment that delivers long-term returns in the forms of reduced collateral damage and lower shipping costs.

But by far, reusable cases aren’t the only way. Reusing old booth elements is an equally awesome sustainability practice. To incorporate old resources in your booth design, simply make doing so an essential part of the design process – that is, always dig through the old stuff first! There are tons of ways to incorporate old signage, lighting, stands or pop-outs not only in your booths but also in other places, such as the company’s lobby.

Giving Back

There’s no reason to send old booth elements to the local landfill. Don’t do it! There are way too many nonprofit exhibitors out there looking for booth donations. Also, these organizations are usually happy to pick up the donated items, so you don’t have to deal with disposal.

The Takeaway

These few steps are just a few among many. There are tons of ways we can incorporate greener practices into our businesses and help to create a cleaner, greener and safer future. If you know of any green tips I didn’t talk about above, please share in the comments section below. I love hearing new ideas!

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