Tag Archives: Green

Not Green Enough For a Green Tradeshow or Event?

When is green not green?

Recently a client told me about a “green product” tradeshow for businesses to showcase for purchasing agents at a large local governmental facility.

When I wrote for information about participating, I received a reply that said that, based on our website, our products are not green.   I was flabbergasted.   Then I realized, it was just a matter of perception:  we’re not selling anything “solar”, don’t provide organic cleaning materials, and trees don’t get planted in the Amazon basin through our efforts.

Because we DO sell “green”.   The last several years have seen the development of many “green” or at least “greener” products for exhibiting at tradeshows.

What makes a tradeshow display product “green” or “eco-friendly”?

When one or more of the following are true:
  • Designed to use less materials, reducing both direct and indirect impact on the Earth.
  • Uses less or no VOC inks in the printing of the graphics  –  referring to Volatile Organic Compounds which give off toxic gas fumes.  Think of your typical “ink” smell.  Now, erase that smell, and you see the difference.
  • Replacing toxic PVC-based vinyl graphic panels (printed using VOC inks) with fabric material (printed using low or no-VOC inks).
  • Built with significant amounts of recycled materials  – e.g. plastic bottles turned into fabric panels and old aluminum within new extrusions.  This not only reduces what goes into landfills, it helps preserve natural resources that otherwise would need to  be extracted, prepared and shipped.
  • Many components can be recycled after use.
  • Designed-in flexibility allows components to be re-used instead of being jettisoned after one show, or used only rarely.  They can often be re-configured either for small 10’x10′ or 10’x20′ booths and as elements within larger island exhibits.
  • Designed to reduce weight, dramatically, which minimizes the jetfuel and gasoline required to ship them.  Not just by a few pounds but in many cases by half, three-quarters or even more.  Why set up carbon offsets when you can reduce the carbon load?
  • As a side-benefit of their re-configurable and light-weight structures, these display products generally require much less time to install and dismantle, reducing I&D costs, or removing them entirely.
  • Collapsible aluminum structures, constructed from smaller components, means smaller storage requirements too.
  • Easy adaptability.   A change in branding or message requires nothing more than printing and sending light-weight fabric panels weighing a few pounds, in what could be as small a package as an overnight letter!

As you see, many of our display products and the processes used to decorate them are directly and indirectly “green”, whether or not it is obvious.

So hearing about our “not being green” did make made me realize that there’s still a need – on my part and on the part of many people in the tradeshow and event industry – to explain that everything that is “green” does not need to contain solar panels.

In fact, I am surprised at the number of “green” businesses which exhibit at tradeshows using very un-“green” displays.

Looking to green your tradeshow booth or event display products?

The rep of “green” products, in any industry, is that they must cost more.  As you can see from the above list, even when products occasionally have higher up-front costs, many of the costs associated with shipping, storage, drayage and I&D are so reduced, that very soon, your earth-friendly products have become budget-friendly as well.

We are dedicate to helping our clients understand and act on green initiatives, in a cost-effective way, whether it’s a big push or an incremental-over-time policy change.

We’ve started coding products to make it easier to spot what is green, and why.  If there are any questions about your options, and how to move in the green direction –  we’re happy to help.

~ Look for an upcoming list of The Twelve (Easiest) Ways to Green Your Tradeshow ~

Deborah Elms is CEO and head of the Trade Show and Event Division of Imprinted Originals.  She is passionate about helping new and growing businesses, non-profit organizations and associations create and retain customers through the effective use of tradeshows & events.



Do you care about the environment? As well as your budget?

If you’re like many, you want to say yes to both, and yet believe you must make trade-offs between “being green” and “saving money” when it comes to trade shows and events.

There is a lot you can do that is “eco-friendly” without extra cost. Even where there are upfront costs, in most cases, they are offset by a lower overall cost of exhibiting.

And you may already be more “green” than you think! An increasing % of the products we’ve sold over the last few years had “green” components or processes, whether our customers knew it or not!

In addition, even where there are upfront costs, in most cases, they are offset by a lower overall cost of exhibiting.

In this tip, we look at:

  • What do exhibitors say makes a display “green”?
  • How can you know if products meet your “green” goals?
  • Doesn’t “green” cost more?


In its 2008 report “An Inconvenient Booth”, Exhibitor Magazine included the results of a survey of exhibitors on the factors they use in determining what makes for a greener display or exhibit product.

The following factors, ranked by their mean ratings, were considered to be the most important [based on a scale from 1, not at all important, to 7, extremely important]:

1.  Product design more efficient to ship (5.90)

2.  Whether the product has or avoids toxic or harmful components (5.68)

3.  Whether the product is made from products that are endangered or in short supply (5.63)

4.  The extent to which a product has a modular design, allowing flexibility and reuse of components (5.54)

5.  Product designed to consume less materials overall (5.45)

6.  How recyclable is the product (5.30)

7.  How much product is built from recycled materials (5.22)


For greener displays and products, look for the following characteristics:

Efficiency in design and shipping:

  • Constructed with new materials leading to greater flexibility in design
  • Reconfiguration rather than replacing entire booth for each show
  • Design and packaging for efficiency in shipping: fewer cases, which may double as podiums and can be shipped via UPS or FedEx

Manufacturing Processes which involve:

  • Replacing harmful chemicals with products with lower or no toxicity (i.e. using water-based solvents instead of high VOC chemicals)
  • Reclaiming scraps for recycling (aluminum, plastic or organic)
  • Reduced manufacturing steps & lower energy requirements

Components which are:

  • Recycled from post-consumer or post-industrial products, either fully or in part (i.e. EcoFi-based materials which use fibers made 100% from recycled soda bottles)
  • Recyclable – not thrown out after use, reclaimed and reused in creating other products (aluminum, plastic, Ecofi fabrics)
  • Renewable or Sustainable – built from organic materials which are replaced through natural or protected growth (i.e. bamboo, eucalyptus)
  • Much lighter, reducing fuel requirements for shipment and therefore leading to reduced “carbon” impact

Planning and execution which include:

  • Less energy-intensive lighting (low voltage or LED lights)
  • Reusable packaging materials such as blankets rather than plastic
  • Re-purposing of packaging, cases and crates as part of exhibits
  • Rental – customization hybrids
  • Local storage – rather than storing and shipping heavy booths to regional shows, designing appropriate small displays for local offices
  • Limited use of marketing collateral – printed close to the show instead of shipped, using print-on-demand, or handing out USBs
  • Taking advantage of functional, reusable giveaways made from recycled, repurposed, biodegradable or otherwise “green” materials
  • Using versatile exhibit products which reconfigure for different size booths, allowing re-use rather than full replacement

Being able to include any of these factors will increase the level of eco-friendliness of your trade show or event program.


The perception that “green costs more” is increasingly out of line. Often, the eco-friendly alternative costs no more or has become standard, as with most dye sublimation processes for stretch and tension fabric products.

Even when the upfront costs are higher, the overall cost of ownership is often lower, when all aspects of a trade show program are factored in.

Which components may cost more?

  • Some fabric products which use fibers made from 100% recycled bottles still cost more – but not all
  • Sustainable products such as bamboo come at a premium
  • Aluminum which contains recycled aluminum still costs more

Note: as products become more mainstream, prices are dropping

In what ways does “green” lower overall cost of ownership?

  • Lighter weight for exhibits leads to dramatic savings in shipping and drayage which quickly offsets additional upfront costs
  • Components are consciously repurposed instead of discarded
  • Easier setups lead to reduced staffing or hired labor costs
  • In our hearts, we all know that, in the bigger picture, the less impact we each have on the planet, the less time, money and energy will be required “fixing” our planet Earth later.

At Imprinted Originals, we’re happy to say – the products we offer are getting greener and greener, and the price points have become increasingly more budget-friendly every year.

As with an increasing number of conscientious display designers and producers, we are happy to help you balance out your requirements so that you can “do what you can” to do your part!