The Trade-Show Industry Can Get Greener! Here’s How…

May 18, 2017

Tim Jennings

Entrepreneur and drone enthusiast Tim Jennings is president of Custom Case Group – creator of DroneHangar cases and manufacturer of custom shipping cases for industries ranging from trade show and bio-tech, to military and aerospace. He has worked in the manufacturing business in San Dimas, Ca for over 20 years.

My company has been providing shipping and transport cases for the trade show industry for many years. As such, we’ve operated out on the periphery, which has given us a unique perspective. We get a “big picture” view of industry movements and trends a bit earlier than specialized companies more deeply entrenched in industry segments.

The Industry Is Taking a Greater Toll on Earth’s Resources

Through the years, I’ve watched the industry evolve in several ways. For example, the number of cases per show (and the case sizes) has continued to increase along with greater booth design complexity. And, more technologically advanced booth design has meant more technologically advanced cases.

All this increased tech is awesome (what’s more fun than a high-tech trade show?), but like all great things, these advancements come with a price. And with technology, it’s the environment that tends to pay the most.

But There’s Hope

Fortunately, there are a few steps we can all take to help the trade-show industry get greener. The best thing about these practices is that they increase sustainability and reduce the carbon footprint while boosting the bottom line – a win-win. Here are a few ways to start.

Buying Quality

Investing in top-notch exhibit materials is going to cost you initially. There’s no denying it. But in the long run, you’ll save big time. Cheap stuff breaks and gets dumped, adding to landfills and air pollution. Top-quality stuff not only pays out through years and years of use, it also looks way better, too.

Going Local

Look for elements in your exhibit that you might be able to rent locally rather than ship. For example, lighting, display tables and islands are easy to incorporate into custom designs. By renting locally, you save money on shipping and you lessen some of the toll that long-distance shipping takes on the environment. And you’re helping boost the local economies in the cities you visit.

Thinking Lean

Lean thinking is a powerful way to increase sustainability. There’s a lot to the lean philosophy, and it would serve you well to check out the educational resources available on the web. But the beauty of lean is its simplicity. Armed with a basic understanding of lean thinking, you can start taking steps to increase sustainability right away. The basic idea is this: Do more with less.

Train yourself to imagine ways you can minimize waste, in everything from office operations to shipping and factory floor practices. When you have time, check out the Toyota Motor Company’s official production system page. These guys invented the process, so this is a great place to start if you’re interested in learning more.

Repurposing and Reusing

It’s disclaimer time! Yes, I own a company that provides reusable shipping cases, however, that certainly doesn’t change the fact that reusable cases are pretty much a sustainability no-brainer (indeed, this is one of the reasons I’m able to feel good about what I do).

Shipping and transport are foundational to the trade-show industry. So, when it comes to getting greener, these are critical areas of concern. Reusable shipping cases reduce shipping-related environmental wastes in a big way. Plus, these types of cases are an investment that delivers long-term returns in the forms of reduced collateral damage and lower shipping costs.

But by far, reusable cases aren’t the only way. Reusing old booth elements is an equally awesome sustainability practice. To incorporate old resources in your booth design, simply make doing so an essential part of the design process – that is, always dig through the old stuff first! There are tons of ways to incorporate old signage, lighting, stands or pop-outs not only in your booths but also in other places, such as the company’s lobby.

Giving Back

There’s no reason to send old booth elements to the local landfill. Don’t do it! There are way too many nonprofit exhibitors out there looking for booth donations. Also, these organizations are usually happy to pick up the donated items, so you don’t have to deal with disposal.

The Takeaway

These few steps are just a few among many. There are tons of ways we can incorporate greener practices into our businesses and help to create a cleaner, greener and safer future. If you know of any green tips I didn’t talk about above, please share in the comments section below. I love hearing new ideas!

Add new comment

Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.