5 Ways Show Organizers Can Go Green at Their Next Event

September 12, 2017

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.

Since 2008, there has been a statistic making its way around the Internet that the EPA ranked the trade show industry as the second most wasteful industry - second only to manufacturing. You may have heard this statistic before. I have even used that information in an article I wrote for TSNN. Recently, I decided to look deeper into that stat that gives a bad rap to our industry. What I discovered was that even on the EPA website, I can find no reference to this statistic. Furthermore, many of the articles that referenced the statistic have been removed from the web.

Still, we all know that waste is one of the things we want and need to reduce at meetings, trade shows and events. From reducing plastic and energy use to promoting sustainability, our industry is one that can and should make less of an impact on planet Earth. Here’s how.

1. Choose a Green Venue

The venue itself is a major factor in determining how green your event can be. Construction and waste management processes all contribute to how green a facility can be. Green venues are certified, so it is easy to identify which spaces are eco-friendly. Look for venues with International Green Meeting Certification, like the Cobo Center in Michigan. This certification is awarded by the Green Meeting Industry Council (GMIC) which is a non-profit, membership-based professional organization led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

2. Hand Out Reusable Trade Show Bags

Takeaways are a staple of trade shows and industry events. Reusable takeaways made from recycled or sustainable materials give an event and brand the benefit of a takeaway that will market the brand at the event, as well as long after the event is over. Eco-friendly trade show bags can be customized to increase a brand’s awareness and recognition, while also staying true to a brand’s green objectives and delivering a great ROI.

3. Offer Eco-Friendly USB Drives

Flash drives are a popular item at trade shows for good reason. They offer a lot of value for both attendees and marketers, and are useful promotional items that attendees love and seek out. Eco-friendly flash drives that feature cases made from bamboo, recycled plastic and even cork, promote sustainability, reduce waste and plastic.

4. Recycle

This is possibly the easiest way to make an event green. It is not feasible to eliminate all waste from an event. However, it is possible to switch to materials that can be recycled and make sure all trash is responsibly handled. Place clearly labeled recycling bins throughout the space during the event. These recycling bins can also be sold as sponsorships. To better streamline waste management, make sure there is an option to recycle larger materials leftover after the exhibitors pack up.

5. Use Eco-Friendly Materials

Green up your displays by choosing eco-friendly retractable banners and working with companies like Eco-Systems Sustainable Displays. It is important to create a display that is eye-catching, but it is easier than ever before to create a display that is visually stunning and eco-friendly.

Integrating any of these changes into your event planning can have a positive impact. Going all in and including all of these changes can seriously change things for the better. What do you do to make your events green?


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HERE, hosting responsible meetings and caring for our communities are top priorities. Through its 'Focused on What Matters: Embracing Humanity and Protecting the Planet' philosophy, MGM Resorts commits to creating a more sustainable future, while striving to make an impact in the lives of employees, guests, and the communities in which it operates. Water Stewardship Efforts MGM Resorts understands the importance of using water efficiently, especially in the desert destination of Las Vegas. Conserving water has always been part of the mission, but MGM Resorts has expanded its ambition into water stewardship. In 2022, MGM Resorts President and CEO Bill Hornbuckle signed the CEO Water Mandate—a UN Global Compact initiative mobilizing business leaders to advance water stewardship. MGM Resorts International was the first gaming company to take this important step. MGM Resorts replaced 200,000 square feet of real grass with drought-tolerant landscaping in Las Vegas. MGM Resorts pledges to reduce water withdrawal intensity by 33% by 2025 and by 35% by 2030. From 2007-2021, use of more than 5.6 billion gallons of water was avoided because of conservation efforts. Caring for One Another MGM Resorts’ Food Donations Program collects and preserves unserved food from conventions held at MGM Resorts properties, then safely donates to food insecure people in the community. Since the program’s launch in 2016, more than 3.7 million meals toward a 2025 goal of 5 million meals have been donated into the community. Donations include: Unserved perishable prepared foods from events Perishable unprepared food from MGM Resorts’ kitchens Nonperishable food items from minibars and warehouses The collaboration with Southern Nevada’s primary food bank, Three Square, has developed the infrastructure needed to safely collect, transport, and store food from MGM Resorts properties in Las Vegas, reducing food waste while serving the community. Fostering Diversity and Inclusion To MGM Resorts, a diverse and talented workforce is essential to success. By cultivating innovative strategies that consider multiple perspectives and viewpoints, the company creates an inclusive workplace culture that benefits its employees and community. MGM Resorts takes pride in being a welcoming home for veterans, individuals with disabilities, people from diverse backgrounds, LGBTQ+ community members, and more. This commitment to inclusion is reflected in the company's recruitment and hiring practices and its social responsibility initiatives. From the workplace to the community, MGM Resorts' commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion remains unwavering, and its efforts continue to create a more equitable and sustainable world for all. MGM Resorts understands its responsibility to contribute to the social and economic progress of the communities in which it operates. HERE, we embrace humanity.