How to Build a Sustainable Exhibition Stand
The Drive for Sustainability
After a long hiatus, the exhibition industry in the UK and Europe is now back in full swing. It’s inevitable that there have been big changes within the industry after an 18-month period with very little activity. Some of them are a real challenge – i.e. much reduced capacity across the whole sector, but others are positive.
One of the real improvements that we are seeing is the drive to make exhibitions stand far more sustainable. Clients are demanding a sustainable approach, and suppliers are spending time and effort researching innovative ways to produce highly engaging experiences in a green and environmentally friendly fashion.
Sustainability Since 2012
Iguana has been working with our clients on a sustainable approach since 2012, when our “Eco Design” for Starwood Hotels & Resorts first went live at ITB 2012 in Berlin. Including design innovations such as “edible furniture” and a reception desk manufactured from upcycled firemen’s hoses, the stand won the coveted Silver SKA award for sustainability – a real achievement at the time within the exhibitions industry.
Ideals for Sustainability
1. Recyclable materials
The cost of fully recyclable materials has dropped significantly in the last 5 years, and there are lots of exciting options on the market. Some of our favourites are the various reinforced cardboard systems that are available such as Re-board® and Swedboard®. 100% recyclable, they are produced with a negative CO2 emissions footprint for a truly sustainable solution to building creative structures. Add to that their light weight and ease of installation which also brings the transport footprint down. A large part of the DPD stand at Fully Charged Live 2022 in Farnborough was constructed out of Swedboard’s SB Fibre product.
2. Low Power Consumption
Low-power lighting is a no-brainer and should be a basic expectation of your contractor(s). LED lighting solutions are cheap, highly available and use a fraction of the power that traditional fluorescent or halogen lights consume. Most up-to-date audio-visual equipment is highly efficient and shouldn’t draw a heavy load. Catering equipment such as coffee machines, hot water urns and hot plates can consume a significant amount of power – even a Nespresso machine will have a high energy footprint when used to serve coffee all day long. Consider whether this is a “must-have” for your stand, or whether serving soft drinks is an appropriate alternative.
3. Environmentally-friendly printing
Graphic imagery still plays an important part in most exhibition stands, and the need to print to a variety of materials isn’t going away any time soon. Make sure your graphics are printed using inks with a low environment footprint. A popular choice are the HP latex-based “R series” inks, which produce zero discharge of hazardous chemicals and are produced with 95% recyclable materials. Consider also the medium that is being printed to – avoid plastic PVCs where possible and consider re-usable tensioned-fabric solutions or recyclable papers such as DISPA.
Upcycling is the creative re-use of pre-existing objects or materials. A good design agency will relish the challenge of producing exciting design ideas for upcycling! Think scaffolding boards, used pallets, tyres, old planters…the list is endless. We have even created a hanging feature display by upcycling a client’s previous exhibition stand!
5. Dispose of waste responsibly
Inevitably there will be waste from an exhibition stand. A responsible agency will always look to dispose of these in the most sustainable way possible i.e. by depositing wood waste at a wood recycling centre. But there are other options for re-use: many charities would welcome receipt of little-used items from a tradeshow such as furniture, giveaways, and even leftover catering items. Social housing associations will often accept carpet and vinyl flooring that has been used on an exhibition stand. Creative thinking doesn’t finish with the stand design, it should be present through the whole process
6. Re-use your stand
We will finish this article with what is probably the most obvious option – re-using your stand. A well-designed “kit” stand should last for at least 3 years and can be designed in a way that it can be used in multiple configurations across different sized spaces. Ultimately, minimising the need to manufacture new stand materials is the most sustainable (and cost effective!) approach of all.
Iguana Group is committed to finding sustainable solutions to our clients’ exhibition needs. We have a wealth of experience in this area and will take on any challenge that is thrown our way. Our sustainability charter is available to view on our website here.