Is the Trade Show Industry Going Green?

Posted on by K2 Team

Greening up the trade show industry is no longer a trend being tossed around in staff meetings. It’s become a unified, save-the-planet movement that is now part of exhibitor’s and builder’s daily to-do lists. Yes, greening up the industry is a tall order, especially since eco-friendly terms alone can be mindboggling. Deciding which ecologically responsible changes to make can be intimidating. But those working in this busy, high carbon-footprinted industry aren’t afraid of the challenge. 

Exhibitors are working with builders to find eco-friendly alternatives to replace earth-clogging gimmicks on the show floor but are still skittish about building a green exhibit because of cost. That’s ok, because going green doesn’t mean you go it alone. Exhibitors who look past the show floor to enhance their “good steward of the planet “standing can team up with an eco-conscious exhibit builder that uses more affordable means to combat industry waste. Brand impact is still the number one ingredient, it just has positive environmental impact injected into the formula.

Let’s chat with K2 Design and Fabrication Founder Dave King to find out how the green movement is making a difference.

Q: How is K2 helping to green up the trade show industry?

A:Running an eco-conscious exhibit company has always been a vision of mine and K2 co-owner Claudia King’s. We listen and learn from industry research and collaboration while working through waste-reduction barriers that keep many companies from moving forward. As a result, we’re constantly evolving by incorporating sustainable strategies into our daily operations. We focus on replenishing, not depleting, our earth’s natural resources by using sustainable materials, recycling, repurposing and charitable giving. Taking steps that matter benefits clients, the industry and the planet.

Q: How does this benefit exhibitors looking to reduce their carbon footprint?

A:Our build, re-use, dispose and other sustainable in-house practices are always incorporated into exhibitors’ projects. Our green practices support theirs, and beyond. We recycle leftover aluminum, steel, paper, plastic, carpet and e-waste so our clients know that their project-related waste is ultimately utilized in another way. We also donate materials, booths and computers to charity and local school districts. In a way, trade show booth components can live on for decades. 

Q: How important is it to use green materials for exhibits or display environments?

A:For some clients, it’s important, but for most the cost of building a zero-waste booth out of sustainably harvested materials goes beyond their budget. A $200,000 exhibit can quickly become $300,000, and many sustainably harvested materials have a short life. We have built green booths, but mostly focus on building exhibits that last and can be easily refurbished down the road to save money. Our exhibits will last five to 10 years or more, which is considered a long time in an industry known for excess waste. We use environmentally friendly materials, such as graphics, flooring and aluminum wall frames with fabric faces that can be recycled when they’re changed out. Also, about 90 percent of the structures we build are painted with VOC-free paint to reduce emissions, which dramatically decreases the use of non-sustainable laminate and powder coating. 

Q: Are there other ways you work with exhibitors to reduce waste?

A: Absolutely. We believe efficiency and minimalism are essential to reduce waste. Therefore, we always build exhibits backwards, meaning that we start with what happens on the show floor. While exhibit clients are focused on replacing marketing items with eco-friendly alternatives, we’re focused on the cost and ease of building, shipping, drayage and set-up, but in reverse. Using the least amount of materials and structures possible throughout the entire process will save costs all around – less material equals less set-up hours, drayage, shipping and storage. 

Q: Are you able to repurpose exhibit materials?

A: Yes! That’s the fun part. It’s amazing to watch used material take on a new life. We send fabric walls that clients want to change out to the fabric company that made them so they can make fabric bags. We also send structure walls to a local paint ball company to use in their playing course. Also, a large part of our production includes 3D printing to create objects to be be used in booths and other display environments. After the show or exhibition, these items can be used or repurposed in clients’ offices, at events, and for other marketing purposes. And, 3D materials are completely recyclable. 

Q: Are there laws that mandate your green practices?

A:Yes, there are many environment-related state and federal laws and regulations. We go above and beyond being compliant on all mandated material and system requirements and are always on the forefront when laws come around the corner. In fact, many times, we are already compliant before a practice or materials requirement is mandated. 

Q: What types of challenges do you face in your green efforts?

A:Most of our challenges have to do with recycling. It’s hard to find recycle companies that want the materials and don’t charge exorbitant disposal fees. We always work it out, but it’s definitely more challenging than it was a decade ago. Despite the challenges, we never waiver on our waste diversion goals. We’re extremely mindful of recycling’s impact on the environment, so we always make efforts to do our part. We stay focused on a zero-waste end goal, and the state of the planet for current and future generations.

Q: What green efforts are in K2’s future?

A:Our green efforts are both personal and professional so that makes eco-friendly actions a no-brainer. As of today, K2 is about 50 percent green with plans to steadily increase that number. I remember when I was young trying to play sports in smog-filled air. Fortunately, people cared enough back then to change it. For me, that’s proof that when we team up with others, we can lead the way for a cleaner future. 

For all of your trade show and branding environment needs, please contact the K2 Design and Fabrication team today to talk about how we can help.