Earth Day + Trade Shows: Making a Difference

May 12, 2022

It's no secret that trade shows haven't necessarily been the most environmentally-conscious industry out there. Traditionally they've often had a reputation for being wasteful, and I've seen some horrific examples of that – sometimes all the mess left behind looks like a bomb went off after the show closed. Thankfully, here in the U.S., a lot of convention centers, show organizers, and exhibitors are doing their part to minimize the effects on the planet. I want to introduce you to some of the trailblazers within our industry who are working hard to change that long-held reputation.

Smart Ways to Exhibit Green

Al Mercuro is one of these thought leaders, and in this rebroadcast of Virtual Lunch, he shares some often overlooked ways to be more sustainable at trade shows and events, including how to:

20x30 rental booth
  • Creatively repurpose everything from graphics to print materials
  • Take advantage of EDPA’s new sustainability partnership
  • Tap into solutions you may never have considered
  • Start the conversation within your organization (or with everyone involved in your event)

Here are the links mentioned in the interview:

Convention Centers Going Green

Huntington Place in Detroit (formerly the Cobo Center) has made it a priority to become more green. A few years ago, I interviewed Claude Molinari, who was then the general manager, and he shared details on:

  • The role the convention center's Green Committee plays in day-to-day actions
  • Changes made to the facility itself
  • Maximizing food service efforts, both in and out of the Center
  • Strategies for educating the in-house team, event organizers, and guests

And speaking of education … there are a wealth of tools on the convention center's website, including a statement of their green practices, 20 Ways Events Can Go Green, the venue’s formal Environmental Policy, and more.


Detroit is just one convention center that's taking bold steps to be more environmentally responsible. Here's a list of examples of what other venues are doing.

Trade show organizers are also putting green initiatives into practice. I wrote a post featuring a few of them here, including Natural Products Expo, TexworldUSA, and the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA).

There are still some persistent myths about going green at trade shows, so just like the popular TV show “Mythbusters” we’re busting those wide open! Here are just a few ...


And if you're looking for budget-friendly ways to be sustainable, this article from TSNN has some great ideas.

Exhibits Going Green

One great way to bust the myth of going green is showing exhibitors how choosing a sustainable display won't necessarily cost them more. And one of my favorite companies building these earth-friendly exhibits is Eco-Systems Sustainable Exhibits. You can check out their Green Guide here.

Green Up Your Giveaways

Randomly handing out tons of promotional items (that often get tossed before they ever leave the convention center) is wasteful – not only for the environment, but also for your budget.

You can be more sustainable with your giveaways. Lev Promotions offers some great suggestions for eco-conscious promotional product ideas.

And if your audience wasn’t quite as wild over your gifts as you anticipated, you may have boxes of items that you really don’t want to ship back to the office.

Never fear! There are ways to repurpose those items so they don’t end up in the dumpster, or back on your desk. Here's an article from Meetings Today with some creative ideas.

Going Green in Ways You May Not Have Thought About

Scott McKye from KleerTech offers easy steps that exhibitors, show managers, and meeting planners can take to create more environmental-friendly events with everything from badges to bags to giveaways.

(Note: While the company he mentioned that upcycles trade show materials is no longer in business, there are others out there such as the EDPA partnership with Vycom, mentioned previously.)


So as you can see, with all these amazing resources and options available, there's really no excuse for trade show organizers and exhibitors to NOT become more sustainable. What are YOU doing to make your trade shows and events more eco-friendly?  

Guest blogger: Marlys Arnold:

With experiences as both an exhibitor and a show organizer, Marlys Arnold has a unique perspective on trade show exhibiting. As an exhibit marketing strategist, she teaches how to create experiential exhibits that produce significantly higher numbers of qualified leads. She’s led workshops for events ranging from local consumer expos to some of the largest trade shows in the U.S. She hosts the Trade Show Insights blog/podcast, and is the author of Build a Better Trade Show Image, the Exhibitor Education Manifesto, and Exhibit Design That Works. She’s also the founder of the Exhibit Marketers Café, an online education community.

New call-to-action



Download one of our Resource Guide Catalogs!

Our custom, modular, portable, and rental exhibits catalogs are a great resource for trade show information as well as exhibit designs.

Download A Catalog

We promise that we won't SPAM you.