Is Sustainable Signage an Oxymoron?

June 12, 2017

Whether directional, advertising or general information, signage is a vital component of tradeshows providing necessary information to participants. Often, it is also one of the least environmentally friendly aspects of events and tradeshows. While it may not possible to do away with this form of communication, it’s environmental impact can be minimized by reducing, rethinking, recycling and reuse.

As large tradeshows and events become more sustainable, we are learning valuable lessons from their challenges and solutions. These three examples show how creative thinking and attention to detail can lead the way.

IMEX America: Each year after the show, large graphics created for exhibitor booths are left on the show floor to be discarded. The abandoned booth graphics are wall-size photos of beautiful destinations and, in 2016, were re-purposed to grace the walls of Veterans Village. The team collected and donated 1,250 lbs. of furniture and signage to Veterans Village, a local crisis intervention center that offers intensive support services for veterans.

Oracle OpenWorld: The numbers speak for themselves in this excerpt from their Sustainability Report: “Signage totaled 130,915 square feet in 2016, a 21% decrease from 2015. Of the total amount, 55% was recycled, 14% is available for reuse, 1% will be repurposed, and 29% was sent to landfill.” One creative solution was repurposing the 1,200 square feet of Oracle OpenWorld fabric banners into draw-string backpacks for future event giveaways.

EclipseCon: As early adopters of sustainable events, show organizers started by not putting dates on general directional signage and reusing them for five years. This saved the Eclipse Foundation over $15,000.

While these three organizations are well along their journey to more sustainable events, you might be just getting started.

Consider implementing the following basic practices for your events:

·      Limit the number of signs necessary.

·      Reduce the use of disposable signage by designing signs for re-use. By not including the date or location, signage can be available for use in subsequent years or by other events, which can have a very favorable impact on your budget.

·      If signage is necessary, use recycled and recyclable or bio-degradable materials, especially if it’s only for one-time use.

·      Electronic signage provides the benefit of being easily updated without wasting materials and should be used wherever possible.

·      Avoid using foam core and vinyl to the greatest extent possible. These substrates use polluting chemicals and are not easily recycled.

Events are dependent upon many vendors and it is no different with green initiatives. The earlier you can enroll them in the process, the easier your job will be. The graphics and signage vendor plays an important role in your event, so great care should be taken when choosing this partner.

Consider including this checklist early in the RFP process:

·      Company has a written sustainability policy. (If yes, please provide)

·      Company is able to offer chlorine-free or chlorine compound-free paper options (i.e. Process Chlorine Free).

·      Company offers digital proofs.

·      Company offers paper made from recycled content.

·      Company offers papers certified for conformity with sustainability criteria (i.e. Forest Stewardship Council, Rainforest Alliance).

·      Company is able to offer more sustainable alternatives to foam core signs (i.e. cardboard substrates).

·      Company is able to offer PVC-free banner and sign options.

·      Company uses Energy Star® copiers, fax machines and computers with these features enabled.

·      Company purchases packaging material that is made from recycled content material or is recyclable.

·      Company has a written policy to purchase sustainable options for all items procured within their operations, including consumables (paper, cleaning supplies, etc.) as well as hard goods (furniture, equipment, etc.).

·      Company offers more sustainable ink options (i.e. UV, vegetable based).

·      When shipping, company is able to provide SmartWay or similar certified options.

·      Company participates in a recycling program for materials produced during typical operations, including paper, plastics, electronics and ink cartridges.

·      Company participates in the Sustainable Green Printing Partnership.

·      Company has policies and practices in place that provide a healthy, safe, inclusive and equitable work environment.

Start early in the process, rethink all signage and visual communications, and make a plan for the materials after the show ends. Remember, your event doesn’t have to be 100 percent sustainable the first year, or even the second, but every step will make a difference. Share your accomplishments with your key stakeholders. Today’s attendees will be pleased to hear you are considering the environment when planning and it will reflect positively on your organization’s brand.

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Partner Voices
Dallas already boasts 35,000 hotel rooms, award-winning global cuisine, and a walkable downtown. But we are just getting started. Visit Dallas is thrilled to announce that the city of Dallas is doubling down with a massive new convention center and entertainment district. Featuring 800,000 square feet of exhibit area, 260,000 square feet of meeting rooms, and 170,000 square feet of ballroom. The center will connect business travelers with dining and shopping options in the popular Cedars District means more places to get down to business, and even more ways to unwind. “Dallas is already a great meetings and conventions destination, with the accessibility of two major airports, affordable labor, and an outstanding hotel product,” said D. Bradley Kent, Visit Dallas senior vice president and chief sales officer. “The new center and Convention Center District will enhance Dallas’ competitive position and are exactly what our customers’ need and have been asking for." What’s New – AT&T Discovery District Located in the heart of Downtown Dallas, this new district on the AT&T corporate campus is tailor-made for groups of all sizes. It boasts a multi-sensory experience, including outdoor event space, the AT&T Theater, and multiple dining outlets including JAXON Beer Garden and The Exchange, a bustling food hall. Hotels Coming Soon Names like the JW Marriott (Downtown), lnterContinental Dallas (Uptown), and Hotel Swexan (Uptown) are adding luxury amenities and bountiful event spaces. The projects will debut in 2023 and beyond. JW Marriott This new, 15-story, 283-room hotel will open in the heart of the city’s downtown Arts District this year. The property features a 25,000-square-foot grand ballroom, as well as a spa, restaurant, lobby bar, fitness center, and a rooftop pool deck and bar. InterContinental Dallas  Located in Cityplace Tower in Uptown, InterContinental Dallas will feature sweeping panoramic views of the Dallas skyline. Guests will enjoy spacious, high-end rooms and amenities, including more than 21,000 square feet of event space.   Hotel Swexan Hotel Swexan, a new, 22-story luxury property, is rising in Uptown’s Harwood District and will make its mark on the Dallas skyline. Opening this year, it is a sculptural building with cantilevered upper floors, as well as a 75-foot rooftop infinity-edge swimming pool and a hidden underground lounge.