Is Zero Waste Really Attainable at Trade Shows?

August 15, 2015

Shane Shirley

Shane Shirley is CMO for SBS Brands, a 90-year-old global brand leader focused on creating digital and print business solutions that offers traditional and eco-friendly customized promotional products to accelerate trade show marketing.

The idea of going zero waste at a trade show is a pretty interesting notion and can be an intense undertaking. A recent study by Statista found that 18 percent of U.S. exhibiting companies felt it was possible to exhibit at a trade show while maintaining a goal of zero waste. It’s disheartening to see this number is so low, and unfortunately this low number means most people are not attaining a zero waste exhibition experience. With some careful thought and planning it is possible to go zero waste at a trade show. Here are 5 ways you can work to reach this goal.

1.     Recycle Everything - Paper, glass and metal are relatively easy materials to recycle, but you can also recycle fabric, wood, electronics and more. It may take research and legwork to recycle some of the trickier items, so be prepared to do some Internet research and consider partnering up with a local recycling organization to help you dispose of everything possible in an eco way.

2.     Only Use Materials that Can Be Recycled - Before purchasing furniture, signage, takeaways or anything for your booth, consider how you will dispose of it when it has fulfilled its usefulness. If it can be reused, composted or recycled go ahead and make the purchase. If not, look for an alternative material that can be disposed of in an eco fashion.

3.     Reuse Items - Purchase framing and furnishings with the plan to use it again for future trade shows. If you can use the same items for several shows you’ll save money and help the planet. Although, eventually you will need to switch things up either to stay current or because items have worn out - read on to learn what to do next.

4.     Sell or Donate Items When You’re Done with Them - Just because you no longer need an item does not mean it should be destined for the recycling center. Consider selling leftover furniture, flooring and electronics to find a new home for materials you just don’t need anymore. You can hold a sale in the office for your staff, put things up for sale online or donate items to local shelters, or charitable organizations. If the condition of the items is not acceptable for sale or donation then you’ll have to recycle them.

5.     Measure Your Company’s Environmental Impact - Take a good hard look at everything aspect of your trade show planning and how this impacts the planet. By identifying the areas where you are succeeding and areas where there is still work to be done you’ll be able to create a plan that is tailored to your business and the unique conditions presented by the trade shows you attend.

Going zero waste is not easy, but with planning and some creative problem solving skills you can get pretty darn close to implementing a zero waste plan. These are just 5 ways you can work to attain a zero waste trade show experience. Let us know if you have ideas or suggestions for other ways to reach this goal.

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