5 Ways To Be More Sustainable at Events

March 18 is Global Recycling Day. We understand the impacts our industry directly has on the planet and have gathered a few easy ways to help offset your carbon footprint when on show site — with the added bonus of reducing costs for the following year! 

1. Go digital to reduce paper waste.

Lean into new technology! Tech options like LED walls and digital signage have a number of benefits: They give your booth a sleek, modern touch; they allow for real-time messaging and graphic updates; and they offer a sustainable solution that can be reused every year!

While there’s still a time and place for printed literature, exhibitors can also rely on technology to reduce some of their paper materials. Consider sharing information about your company through new technology like QR codes and kiosks, and save the printed materials for the items that will have the biggest impact — and that won’t end up in the trash.

2. Use recyclable materials — and reuse what you can in future years.
After a couple of years of safety-focused, single-use materials that led to increased waste, the industry is bouncing back with an even wider selection of recyclable or compostable booth materials, like environmentally friendly wood alternatives, biodegradable carpeting, and recycled fabrics and plastics. Consider using those options when you can — and storing and reusing trade show displays for future years. Make a plan early by leaving dates and other year-specific branding off your materials. In addition to being good for the earth, your budget will thank you! 

3. Find local donation spots.

Many items that can’t be reused or refurbished — like food or decor waste, or materials that feature old branding — can be donated. Make some calls to local organizations, like hospitals, nursing homes, and schools, to ask if they’re accepting donations; many times, with a little time and research, you can find ways to donate old promotional materials, booth carpeting, or lightly worn exhibit furniture.

4. Be smart about swag.
There will always be space for traditional swag like branded pens, stress balls, and notepads — but be conscious of what attendees will really want to avoid having them end up in the trash. Lean into items like reusable tote bags made from recycled materials (which have the added bonus of not taking up space in someone’s suitcase!), or small, useful items like metal straws, gift cards, or raffles where you mail the prize to them. Quick tip: For annual events, keep dates off materials so they can be reused the following year.

5. Lean on your general service contractor.

Our number-one piece of advice? Ask your GSC for their tips and tricks. Sustainability isn’t something that you can think about at the last minute — it should be a part of discussions from day one. Your GSC can offer advice based on smart ideas we’ve spotted at other shows, and help you find the right vendors to meet your recycling goals. 

Thinking sustainably can sometimes require a bit of flexibility and creativity — so you’ll want to work with people who are motivated to get it right. (Spoiler alert: That’s us!)

Shepard is a full-service event production company. We design, develop and manage trade shows, corporate and other events throughout the U.S.