Hey Newman, We exhibit at about four trade shows a year, and I’ve yet to do one that didn’t give me a headache. And I mean that literally. Is it the noise? Dehydration? I know you’re not a doctor, but what do you think? –Ann in San Francisco
As part of our ongoing dialogue with the green marketing experts at The Good Mix, we’d like to turn our attention this week to the incredible toxicity of trade show carpeting. You can smell it when you walk onto the trade show floor. Some people have allergic reactions. It emanates from the backing materials and carpets themselves. Breathing in the fumes for three days is bad enough for trade show attendees — and for those of us who make a living on trade show floors it’s an even bigger issue. Inhaling VOC (volatile organic compounds) can absolutely give you a headache. But far more seriously, those VOC’s have been linked to asthma and cancer. And when that carpeting ends up in landfills, it becomes an environmental problem that affects us all. Trade shows should be about the fun of dynamic presentations and the excitement of new products; it should be about the “atmosphere” of the event … not the actual atmosphere.
The good news is the trade show floor is an environment that’s controllable. It’s temporal (built and shut down) as opposed to the L.A. freeway. We can change the materials at these events. We can even change the trade show culture, and with it the “default” materials and products used.
There are companies that create carpet squares made from 100% recycled materials, lowering the amount of carpet that ends up in landfills releasing toxins into the air. There are low- and no-VOC paints for booths. There are plenty of alternatives to using vinyl, which is one of the greatest toxic offenders in the industry (and most industries).
Management companies pride themselves on giving out presentation awards such as “Top New Product.” What if they created incentives for their exhibitors buying booth space along with a “Top Green Exhibitor” award? What if the following year that exhibitor got a discount on booth space or better yet, preferred exhibit space in a prime location for having the greenest booth, most sustainable giveaways and smallest carbon footprint?
There are ways to have a friendlier trade show environment and incentivize the process to keep all parties happy. It will just take a few good ideas and a lot of commitment.
And if you’re looking for some information on how to “green” your trade show presence, please contact Janet at The Good Mix. She’s a great resource.
Do you have an industry-related question you’d like answered on “Hey Newman”? Send him an e-mail and get your inquiry answered on the blog.