Tips to Go Green with Your Next Trade Show Exhibit

Trade shows and other marketing events are incredibly taxing on the environment. So many disposable resources are used to make an event the best it can be, from hydro and other utilities, to signage, marketing materials, and all the additional amenities that need to be made available to ensure comfort and satisfaction from show attendees. Responsible brands in 2018 and beyond need to focus on lowering their carbon footprint by becoming responsible corporate partners — to be the driving force behind sustainability for future generations.

The good thing about going green is that it benefits everyone. Indy Displays, one of the first display booth companies which focus on offering their expertise online, explains that not only eco-friendly LED illuminated light box displays and LED booth lighting are beneficial for the environment, but these are also beneficial for clients and the display booth companies themselves in term of costs and pricing considerations.

Gaming tech tradeshow digital display
photo credit: Official GDC / Flickr

How to Go Green with Your Trade Show Participation

The concept of going green at trade shows is much easier than you might think. It simply involves ditching antiquated notions about how an event should be ran. Living and working in the digital era makes the transition from wastefulness to a more sustainable footprint much easier than it was ten years ago.

Here are 7 tips to make your next trade show experience better for the environment, without sacrificing the experience for anyone involved.

1. Choose Eco-Friendly Venues

Whenever possible, avoid setting up exhibits in old buildings that haven’t been updated recently. There are a lot of designations you can look for to identify an energy-conscious venue such as LEED, Green Seal, Green Globe, Green Key, and many others. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the hardest to get because of the organization’s exacting standards. The key is to ask the trade show coordinator in advance of booking a booth space about their energy saving practices. Any green-savvy venue will understand and even expect this request.

2. Use an Energy-Efficient Display

A large 2k or 4k display is a must for most brands who want to dazzle potential customers or investors with their offering. An ENERGY STAR rated 2017 or 2018 energy-efficient backlit display is a great way to ensure you’re being as Eco-responsible as possible, while not sacrificing on image and video quality for trade show attendees.

For occasional trade shows, renting an energy-efficient display, as needed, makes the most sense. If you attend lots of trade shows throughout the year, consider purchasing or financing. This goes for signage too — digital displays are a great way to avoid wasting money and environmental resources on one-off sign usage. Motion-activated displays also offer energy savings if you think this option fits with what you’ll be doing.

3. Ditch Water Bottles in Favor of Water Stations or Fountains

Human beings purchase over 1,000,000 plastic bottles per minute. Half of all plastics manufactured every year will only be used once and discarded. Worse, less than a quarter of plastic bottles, bags, and other plastics are recycled. If you want to go greener, it’s up to you to limit the use of plastics wherever possible. Events such as trade shows are a great place to set up water filtration stations or to use spring water dispensers with larger plastic jugs that you can make sure find their way to the recycling depot — or to be returned to the supplier to be cleaned and refilled for multiple uses. Ask local businesses about providing such stations to market their products to consumers.

Disposable plates at a tradeshow

4. Don’t Offer Disposable Plates, Glass-ware, etc.

If you’re in charge of distributing food or beverages in any capacity; rent or borrow kitchenware items rather than opting for inexpensive disposable paper and plastic variations. While costs might be higher, your overall footprint will be much, much less. Most catering companies will offer both options and will happily provide catering and cleanup staff to ensure attendees aren’t overwhelmed with dirty dishes all over the place. Larger catering outfits won’t even charge extra for this, as they’ll have branded kitchenware. This offers an obvious marketing advantage for their business.

5. Avoid Using Fancy Paper and Plastics

Fancy laminated or heavy card-stock business cards, and paperwork such as itineraries or marketing materials might seem necessary, but they’re not. Let other attendees know that you’re committed to the green movement and that you’d rather your product or service exceed expectations rather than generating waste for a single one or two-day event. Consider offering a small (storage size and bandwidth usage) app to give attendees and prospects the information they need whenever possible.

6. Leftovers Should be Donated to Local Causes

It’s likely there are several families and individuals in the area your next trade show will be held that could use extra food and drink. Some venues, such as hotels and convention centers will already have programs in place to have unopened food and beverages sent to a charity. If you’re promoting such products, or involved with managing the catering side of the event, make sure nothing finds its way to the garbage that doesn’t belong.

7. Encourage Recycling

Make sure your booth has a recycling bin located close by. You can’t control every trade show attendee’s wastefulness, but you can still make recycling as easy as possible. Encourage recycling by offering to take care of recycling consumables for attendees when you see an opening to do so. Get creative and find ways to encourage recycling amongst the group, such as setting goals that all attendees can strive to work toward as a team rather than individuals.

Energy saving
photo credit: Kuobo / Flickr


Remember that any important issue such as going green ultimately starts with YOU. After all, if everyone takes the stance that “somebody else” will take care of it, the outlook for the continuation of our planet is indeed very bleak.

Have fun at your next trade show, but do everything you can to ensure you’re doing everything you can to promote a sustainable future for our planet.