6 Green Practices for Trade Show Organizers

Global consciousness toward sustainability has reached an all-time high, but the events industry is very much lagging behind. If the events industry wants to survive, it must adopt greener practices on various fronts.

Lina Allen, Event Marketing Manager at Act-On, joined Swapcard on the latest episode of Marketing Minutes to present a few climate-friendly solutions. 

Here are six practices you can adopt for a more sustainable event:

  • Choose your venue carefully

  • Be selective about your tableware

  • Streamline your event using an app

  • Be thoughtful about your swag bags

  • Explore virtual event options

  • BYOB: Build your own booths

Let’s dive into each of these six points. 🤿  


1. Choose your venue carefully

We all know that choosing the right venue or the right hotel can make a big difference for your trade show, and make or break your event. But more than that, choosing the right venue can play a huge role in your environmental impact, especially when you've got thousands of attendees who are coming to your event.

When choosing a venue, here are some things to look at: 

  • Electricity: At the minimum, your venue should be using energy-efficient light bulbs. Some venue providers use predominantly renewable sources of energy. Some venues are self-sufficient and solar-powered.

  • Recycling: Check to see if there are recycling bins on the premises. When you've got thousands of people, all of their trash is just being thrown into a trashcan, which will end up in a landfill. So when you're touring a venue, make sure they're set up to handle recycling.

  • Accommodation: Choose a hotel that's LEED certified or one that's built using recycled materials. Some hotels even use recycled water for their laundry!


2. Be selective about your tableware

“Most trade shows I've been to are already using real plates and silverware…it's a great first step in limiting your environmental impact.” - Lina Allen

If your event is going to have catering, which most of them do, try to limit single-use items. Stay away from disposable silverware like paper plates, cups, and napkins. With some events attracting thousands of attendees, you can only imagine the mountain of waste single-use items produce.

Serving your attendees with real silverware and plates not only makes for a happier planet, but happier attendees too - most would agree that real silverware makes for a much better dining experience than a plastic fork and a knife. 

If you want to provide a to-go lunch for your attendees, consider a reusable bento box as opposed to a plastic container. You can even brand the bento box to keep your brand fresh in your attendees’ minds.

Get your attendees in on the act too by encouraging them to bring their own reusable coffee cups. Reusable coffee cups are a great alternative to paper cups and plastic lids at coffee stations.

Bonus tip: Do away with single-use milk sachets, creamers, sugar sachets, and sauces!


3. Streamline your event using an app

Green practice number three is to streamline your event using an app.

Event tech can enhance your event in so many ways. From an environmental perspective, event apps eliminate the need for paper resources. In just one app, you can house your event program, a map, a newsfeed, live updates, and more!

It’s time we did away with flyers and brochures that end up in the trash at the end of the conference.


4. Be thoughtful about your swag bags

While swag is a great way to get your brand name out there and remind people about the conference after it's over, most people at the trade show are probably already bringing a water bottle, a notebook, and a pen. And who doesn't have enough T-shirts at this point?

When you're ordering merch for your swag bags, it's worth really thinking about what people are going to keep. A good litmus test when thinking about swag is to ask yourself what people are actually going to value so much that they are willing to take it back in their luggage with them. 

While it’s true that different people value different things, there's a higher chance that things like T-shirts and water bottles are going to end up in a landfill sooner rather than later. 

Why not try to find something that attendees are inclined to keep for a long time? E.g. Bluetooth speakers at a music event or high-quality rain jackets at a sporting event.


Bonus: Sustainability doesn't have to be boring. Here are 24 sustainable event ideas for 2023.

5. Explore virtual event options

While events are excellent for networking and connecting face-to-face, they come at a huge cost—both financial and environmental.

Think about the environmental impact of traveling to an event for just one person. Let's say you're flying from Portland, Oregon to an event you're putting on in Nashville: You've got to drive to the airport, then take two flights as there are no direct flights on your route, then drive to the venue, and then do the whole thing again a couple of days later when heading home. And that's just for one person! 

Virtual events are a great way to curb your impact on the environment and are one of the biggest contributors in moving the needle toward more sustainable events. With virtual events, there’s also no need to provide catering (bye-bye food waste).

If you've been focusing on in-person events, consider adding a virtual component to them or replacing some of your in-person activities with virtual events and webinars. Here's a beginner's guide to get you started.


6. BYOB: Build your own booths

More and more trade shows offer turnkey booth building for their exhibitors where the exhibitor submits the artwork and then the organizer creates the booth on-site. 

This has a lot of benefits for organizers, exhibitors, and the planet. 
With the BYOB model, exhibitors can cut down on carbon emissions and unnecessary packaging.


How does BYOB work?

There are a few ways to implement a BYOB, but the most sustainable option involves organizers creating a unique backdrop or banner for each exhibitor but reusing the frames and the rest of the display. The result is a polished and uniform exhibit area with much less waste.

At the end of the event, exhibitors are free to take their backdrop or banner with them in their carry-on! 

Swapcard_Eventapp_sustainabilitytipsAdopt these six practices to:

  • Get ahead of the pack and demonstrate more social responsibility 

  • Save money, create less waste, and reduce your carbon footprint

  • Influence your audience while promoting a positive brand image

Want more tips on how to make your next event a success?


Blessing Lola A.
Blessing Lola A.

Blessing Lola is a multilingual content marketer with a passion for the art of storytelling. For her, stories are the bridge connecting a brand with its audience, and she takes pleasure in using them to inspire, educate, and drive growth. When she isn’t crafting killer content for global brands, you’re likely to find her pondering the gender of an inanimate object in a random German supermarket. Die Nutella or Der Nutella? Das ist the question.

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