In March, some 80,000 people will convene in Anaheim, erecting 3,500 exhibitor booths, 40-plus sampling stations, more than 20 food trucks, two music stages and more. It’s like building a small city for a weekend!
Natural Products Expo West is a lot of work and a lot of fun. It’s a great way to have a big impact within the industry that’s having a big impact in the world. One impact, however, warrants concern: the ecological footprint of this extravaganza is greater than most of us would care to admit.
New Hope’s sustainability team continually works with the Anaheim Convention Center and GES to minimize overall impact, but still, says GES’s Kathy Embler, “There’s a lot of waste, from cardboard boxes to trash, packing materials, putting visqueen on the floors if you have forklifts coming through.” Flights, water bottles and rental cars all make the list, too.
GES works to encourage reuse and recycling, to collect composting and to encourage more sensitive freight options. “We track, at the end of a show, what goes into a landfill, what can be recycled, what can be reused for other shows,” Embler says. This will hopefully confirm that Expo is reducing its eco-impact over time. No matter how you slice it, though, there’s a lot of waste.
Here are nine tips exhibitors can consider to minimize impact.
Shipping a lot of stuff to Anaheim is unavoidable. Take note, however, of the varied booth components that can be rented onsite to reducing shipping. Furthermore, GES's Sustainable Exhibit Packages include many items—displays, seating, flooring and more—made from 100 percent recycled components.
What you do ship, ship via SmartWay-certified haulers. At no additional cost, these freight providers voluntarily adhere to EPA-recognized sustainable shipping practices.
Eliminate polystyrene (i.e. packing peanuts, No. 6 or foam plastic) from shipments to eliminate non-recyclable waste materials. (Bonus! You can always put the compostable packing peanuts out as samples if you run out of product!)
As you unpack, be sure to recycle all of your cardboard on designated collection pallets on the show floor. A GES representative can give you a box-cutting Sharpie (a very Sharpie!) to assist in breaking down the boxes.
When possible, reuse banners and signage for multiple shows. For the messaging that’s specific to this show, request recyclable material such as cardboard signage, and avoid landfill-bound foam core.
Collect and separate your in-booth waste. GES offers rental wastebaskets and even a porter service to empty them every two hours. But that’s not the only option. “You can bring your own wastebaskets and dump them yourself at the end of the day,” Embler says. Either way, pay attention to what’s collecting at your booth. Keep it segregated so you can take a load off the landfill by recycling and composting. “If you’re doing a lot of sampling, gather all that,” she says.
Go digital! Provide your product literature digitally when possible. Take the opportunity to get contact information from prospective buyers, and email them the goods later. You’ll lighten their carry-on as well as environmental impact.
Turn off all electronic equipment at the close of each day. Do what you need to do to keep perishables unperished, of course. But make sure the rest of the stuff is off.
Donate! As the show comes to a close, donate excess stuff. Start with putting good quality food leftovers in the provided bins. This will feed locals in need through Second Harvest. You can also donate any extra exhibit material onsite through Habitat for Humanity. Pick up donation stickers at Exhibitor Services desks.
Find more details, see the sustainability program page at expo.com.