For decades the exhibition and events industry has been accused, quite rightly, of producing staggering amounts of waste – big business and corporations think nothing of spending tens of thousands of pounds on a 3-day show, only to throw it all away and start all over again for the next event.
Following the announcement of The Net Zero Carbon Events Pledge at COP26 in November 2021, here are some tips and links to suppliers to help you hold a sustainable event, and explain how at Cableflor we are making a difference in the events space.
Don’t use carpet
Single-use plastic is pervasive in events, and one of the biggest use of single-use plastics is actually carpet. Famously, green activists have been campaigning for years about the use of kilometres of red carpet at Cannes film festival, with the carpet being replaced up to three times a day. Progress is now being made, but it’s the problem is far from fixed.
This is because even when cutting down use of carpet, there is still much single-use plastic being used in the process of flooring events, such as double-sided tape, and a polythene sheet used to protect the carpet during the build.
We have developed a solution to the event carpet problem – Cableflor. Cableflor is a cable management event flooring, with our black standard floor made from recycled plastic. We can mould the floor into custom colours too, and all flooring is made to last multiple shows. Moreover, once it starts to wear out we remould your old floor into new, for closed-loop recycling.
Buy or hire a reusable modular system
An important and easy way to make your event more sustainable is by using a reusable structure.
Germany and mainland Europe traditionally led the way 40 or 50 years ago environmentally, with the introduction of re-usable modular systems. These are basically set lengths of beams which lock together to create different shapes and sizes – usually described by salespeople as a box of Lego.
Over there, there are no carpet in the aisles and even 30 years ago, if you built any exhibition stand in Scandinavia and you had wrapped your walls in PVC, you had to take the plastic back to the UK but you could leave the rest there.
These days there is a huge selection of modular options for sale or hire in the UK and due to declining budgets and build up times, these usually outnumber custom built solutions. Our founder has worked with most of them over the last 30 years, and here are his favourites for use in different situations:
Use eco-friendly graphics
Once your floor and structure is down, the next big problem is the cladding and more specifically the graphics. Solid cladding is reusable, with the most common cladding being Foamex. This is a cheap, light weight panel made from expanded PVC.
While the fact that it is reusable seems better for the environment, PVC is very harmful for the environment. Because of its high chlorine content, it creates toxic pollution in the form of dioxins which accumulate in animals’ fat, permeating through the food chain. Additionally, exposure to PVC often includes exposure to phthalates, which may have serious health effects. Besides health problems, there are a number of negative environmental impacts from the production and use of this material, such as problems in disposing of PVC, which is very difficult to recycle.
Graphics create one of the biggest areas of waste, so when holding a sustainable event avoid vinyl graphics and PVC banners and above all, Foamex (or any expanded pvc panels) . Choose fabric graphics instead, which is printed using a process called dye sublimination. Simply, this is when the ink is heated up to a gas which is then absorbed by the fibres of the material where it condenses. As the print is part of the material and not just sprayed onto the surface, it can be stretched into a frame without cracking. You can even put them into the wash (on a low heat) to give them a clean.
Use LED lighting
On the note of graphics, lighting can be a huge source of energy consumption. Events often require bright and continuous lighting.
LED lighting is better for the environment in three ways- LED lightbulbs have a longer lifespan than conventional lightbulbs, the lightbulbs are non-toxic and LED bulbs are up to 80% more efficient than conventional lightbulbs.
Don’t use single-use plastics
Events, especially large ones, entail endless amounts of plastic bottles, coffee cups and plastic cutlery being used once and thrown away immediately. They are a huge source of plastic waste, with Glastonbury wasting 50,000 single-use plastic bottles each year with 11,000 event-goers.
Make sure your event doesn’t contruibte to the problem by avoiding single-use plastics. Don’t give out bottles and encourage guests to bring reusable bottles and have plenty of water-filling stations. Give-aways should be plastic free and don’t print on plastic tote bags or use plastic name-tag holders.
Support local caterers
Catering is a huge part of any event, and while there are numerous big catering firms offering event catering, consider going local.
Not only does this mean you have access to different homemade/organic catering, but it cuts travel costs and supports local businesses, which is much needed after two years of disrupted events.
Book an ‘Eco’ venue
Now you have you structure and all your materials for the event- where should you hold it? It would be a real shame if, after making all these changes in your event, that in order to reach the venue all guests and exhibitors must take a car.
Consider booking a venue that is close to public transport links, so that those who are able to, don’t need to drive. Additionally, there are a number of ‘eco’ venues which uphold environmental values. Event planners like HeadBox can help you find locations that are mitigating their impact on the environment.
Use digital communication
Now to the event, when there is so much information to get across to people in a short period of time, how can you get this across to guests?
Traditionally, events were full of brochures, posters and business cards. These are a huge source of waste and are often glanced at once and thrown away. There are a number of ways of doing that, for example having QR codes that people can scan on their phone to be redirected to a website or a page that has all the information on it, and collecting and sending emails to interested parties, to avoid the use of paper or over sending of emails.
Cableflor’s low-profile cable management flooring for events is a sustainable alternative to carpet. It cab be customised into your brand colours and used over and over again. Contact us here to get in touch about making your next event more sustainable.