Greening Your Trade Show Booth: A Guide to Sustainable Exhibits

According to a recent Ipsos poll, 78% of surveyed Americans cite sustainability as an important consideration when shopping for any product or service.

The grand nature of trade shows, traditionally, doesn’t align with these ideals.

Elements like material waste, energy consumption, and the logistics that go into trade shows can really create their own carbon footprint. Luckily, trends are moving forward, and this means moving toward a more environmentally sustainable future for tradeshows.

There are many different strategies that can be implemented to create an eco-friendly trade show booth that puts into practice a brand’s commitment to sustainability. Keep reading for actionable tips you can use in your booth.

Booth Design & Materials

Booth design is where corporations can either really showcase their environmental commitment or wind up creating more waste. Choosing sustainable materials is an easy way to take that first step into sustainability.

Sustainable materials don’t take away from any booth design, and you might be able to incorporate biodegradable natural materials like bamboo, recycled materials, recyclable materials, or natural elements like real plants and flowers.

Adaptable design can also help you to limit your carbon footprint from show to show.

Rather than buying new and coming up with wildly different designs for each show, modular and adaptable designs allow you to repurpose materials from one show to the next without lessening the impact of your display. New elements, like plants, flowers, or displays, or furniture can be rented instead of purchased to ensure your brand isn’t contributing to trade show waste.

digital display monitor on a wall with green plants framing it.

Going digital can also mean going green.

Digital trade show display elements aren’t just eye-catching and attention-grabbing for modern attendees, they also give you a way to display or relay information without the need for printed materials. When paired with LED lighting elements, you have a bright and fresh exhibit that uses less energy than traditional lighting and printed displays.

Shipping & Transportation

Attending a trade show will likely mean travel from your home base and not all of your trade show booth elements will be able to be transported with you. Shipping and transportation are another space where it’s fairly simple to incorporate greener strategies.

When packing up materials to be shipped to your trade show location, consider how you’re making use of your space and materials. Consolidating shipments minimizes the number of deliveries and pickups necessary for a trade show setup, and while you’re packing up, consider the materials you’re using.

Reusable containers and recyclable packing materials allow you to ship confidently while still paying close attention to your environmental impact.

In the shipping and transportation space, you will face unavoidable environmental impacts, but there are things you can do to lessen them.

Rather than having a team of employees travel to staff a trade show booth, consider temporary staffing agencies that hire locally for you.

When sourcing materials, buying or renting locally to your trade show can limit what you need to transport or ship, allowing you to lessen your emissions. For these unavoidable emissions, carbon offsetting can further show your commitment to sustainability.

infographic of 6 ways to create a sustainable trade show exhibit

Energy Consumption

One surprising statistic shows that 68% of all energy produced in the United States is wasted through energy inefficiencies. Your trade show booth doesn’t have to contribute to energy waste.

If possible, corporations can inquire about using renewable energy sources to power a trade show booth.

You can also commit to using energy-efficient appliances like tablets, laptops, and other potentially energy-saving devices. When devices are not actively in use, they can be put into “power save mode” so they’re not wasting energy when not in use.

Waste Reduction

Waste is a major issue with trade shows, and it doesn’t need to be.

A recent 2022 report found that the average waste produced by a single trade show participant is around 3.5lbs. The breakdown:

  • 51% of this waste finds its way into landfills
  • 26% is recycled
  • 10% is combusted
  • 6% is composted
  • and just 5% is donated.

When breaking down these figures, each trade show participant will contribute around 1.75 lbs of waste to local landfills after a single show.

Waste reduction is possible, and it doesn’t have to take anything away from a trade show experience.

set of chairs and a small table with plants and flowers nearby and a rack of clothing in the background

Digital brochures, coupons, and giveaway materials help to reduce paper waste at trade shows. If your trade show booth is giving away swag, using eco-friendly materials like bamboo, reusable water bottles, or recycled fabrics provides impactful gifts that limit the impact on the environment.

Locally sourced food and beverages limit shipping emissions while supporting local businesses, and when these are enjoyed on compostable or reusable tableware, attendees can enjoy them guilt-free.

Engaging Visitors Sustainably

With a little creativity, sustainability and engagement really go hand in hand at trade shows.

Rather than giving away printed materials, engaging digital displays like games, quizzes, or green screen experiences make an impact without contributing to trade show waste. While attendees are engaging with digital elements, trade show staff is presented with the perfect opportunity to have meaningful conversations and create quality leads.

Partnerships also contribute to engagement or provide companies with an additional element to engage with attendees about.

Aligning your brand with local caterers, service providers, and decorators who provide eco-friendly services shows how much your brand values a commitment to success through sustainability. When engaging with attendees, this sets the tone for genuine and authentic interactions which immediately build a level of organic trust.

Every trade show display has the ability to make a difference in a space that is historically in need of a sustainable makeover.

Rather than contributing to landfill waste, energy inefficiency, and excess emissions, brands can make a few simple changes to limit their own carbon footprint with each show they attend.

Expo Ease provides sustainable trade show and expo services for brands coming to the Las Vegas area including floral installations, plant rental, photography, videography, and trade show staffing. Simply contact us to learn how we can help your brand maximize its impact at the trade show while minimizing its impact on the environment.

Peter Frigeri

Horticulturist. Entrepreneur. Eco-adventurer. Peter Frigeri has been innovating in business since he moved to Las Vegas in 1991 to run trade show operations for Showtime Florists. Just a couple years later, he went out on his own, founding Falcon Floral, and within five years, he evolved that business into Expo Ease. In 2000 he took advantage of technological innovations to expand his company to offer a full suite of event services, from show decor to photography marketing. Meanwhile, in 2009, Peter launched his third business, Gaia Flowers Plants Gifts. With a focus on local and sustainably-grown products, Gaia is also a full-service company, with services ranging from event floral, delivery to commercial plant maintenance. And as if that weren’t enough, Peter is an officer on the boards of two local nonprofits, Great Basin Permaculture and Friends of Gold Butte. In both his personal and professional lives, Peter does everything he can to fight for the preservation of the Earth and its resources, so that his children and grandchildren can enjoy its bounty as much as he does.

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