Creating Sustainable Exhibitions
IAEE, in collaboration with the Green Meeting Industry Council, an initiative of the Convention Industry Council, recommends the following guiding principles for sustainable exhibitions:
Minimize carbon emissions with a sustainable freight, shipping and transportation strategy.
With a significant amount of an exhibition’s carbon footprint coming from transportation, this is an important focus. Fortunately, there are several easy ways to do this. In North America, select SmartWay partners and affiliates. These companies have partnered with the US EPA to reduce their carbon emissions. Other best practices include shipping show-to-show, minimizing empty space in trucks, opting for vehicles that use renewable energy and adopting no-idling policies.
Focus on materials resource management.
Materials resource management is a comprehensive approach that goes beyond landfill diversion. It begins with using less, making the best choices of materials and life-cycle planning. From there, it moves to reusing, donating and upcyling, and finally to recycling and composting. For more information on each of these steps, see this waste management how-to-guide from GMIC.
Select suppliers and partners with sustainable practices, policies and infrastructure.
By far the easiest way to make your exhibition more sustainable is to work with partners with existing infrastructure (such as renewable energy sources, recycling, donation and composting practices, energy efficient lighting and equipment, etc.) and a commitment to sustainability.
Develop policies for your exhibitors and vendors.
Exhibitors and vendors (such as concession operators), play an important part in helping an exhibition to achieve sustainability goals. Developing policies and verifying compliance during the show will amplify your impact. Policies may include materials that are to be used (such as electronic promotional materials, and recyclable or reusable signage), materials to be avoided (such as styrofoam), or participation in post-show donation programs.
Ensure that your exhibition is accessible.
Selecting accessible venues and ensuring that the show floor is barrier-free will help you to not only meet legal requirements, it will improve your reputation and increase your potential audience.
Adopt a sustainable food & beverage policy.
Confirm that food choices and service ware available for your exhibitors and attendees will meet a wide range of dietary needs and meet environmental objectives. For specific guidance, see this white paper on sustainable food & beverage practices for events from GMIC.
Measure, report and share your story.
To successfully innovate, our industry needs ideas and best practices to be shared. We encourage you to measure your results, and share your successes and future opportunities with your stakeholders and our industry community