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July 14, 2015
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Sub-Saharan Africa: Greening Your Event in 2015 (Part Two)


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By Kim Crowie

Click here for Part One

Part Two: Opt for the Greener Stand 

One of the first things we consider when we think of greening an event is the construction of exhibition stands. Meetings Africa has been one of the pioneers of promoting the event greening movement in this regard, with annual Green Stand Awards at their trade show. Companies like Scan Display – whose Managing Director, Justin Hawes, is also Chairman of the EGF – promote greener business practices from the ground up. 

A rather unique innovation in this sector is Xanita’s X-Board. Most displays were made of chipboard, metal, plastic, Perspex or medium-density fibreboard, all of which brought their own sets of problems along with them. Polystyrene – a foam-based rigid board made from a petroleum derivative – is not eco-friendly and cannot be recycled, but the X-Board is a completely recyclable laminated board that can be used to create anything from in-store displays to massive signage and even furniture. Xanita’s been around for almost eight years and is represented today in most global markets. Their products are becoming a conference and exhibition staple because the boards can be used for complex stands that can be fashioned into anything. X-Board is lightweight, strong, printable, reusable, customisable, labour saving and most importantly is 100 percent recyclable. 

Another trend in the eventing industry is the use of fabric for branding purposes as a lasting and reusable option, especially for regular exhibition goers. “Fabric is lightweight and easier and more economical to transport compared to hardboard structures which are heavier and more difficult to transport, generating a larger carbon footprint,” the EGF Chairpersons explain. The use of LED lighting is also a big energy saver in the long run, while the use of raw rather than painted wood has been a growing local trend at expos. 

Pick the Right Venue

When it comes to the trade shows themselves and the venues they turn to, it’s important to understand that within the events industry, greening is never ‘one size fits all’. That said, the principles and requirements for green events are the same for all elements of the industry. According to the EGF, “Venues may implement water jugs and pencils for their facilities in an effort to reduce waste and improve their responsible procurement processes and PCO’s, organisers and sub-contractors need to understand that and work with the venue in meeting its targets and obligations. Too often, PCO’s insist on bottled water even though they know it to be environmentally harmful and they override the environmental objectives and standards of the venues they use.  A lack of awareness is the problem.”

The Forum goes on to say that venues have “a huge role to play and they can make or break an event in terms of greening.” In South Africa, the Sandton Convention Centre and the Cape Town International Convention Centre are examples of venues that have green practices in place. These include on-site waste sorting and the use of LED lights. One of the problems with country-wide implementation of green values in venues, however, is the fact that most meeting spaces were designed and built long before these practices were considered important. For this, Greg McManus, Vice-Chairman of the EGF and with Heritage Environmental Company, has a simple piece of advice: “Choose only certified venues and facilities – and that makes organising a green event almost a walk-in-the-park for any company.”

Da Costa says that the only way event organisers can ensure they have a greener event is by staying on the pulse of what’s happening globally. “Keep abreast of the latest technology,” he says, “There are some amazing ideas and products becoming available that event organisers can adopt and use when creating events. Educate your clients on the importance of being green conscious, and remember we are in the industry to inform, educate and set trends.”
Accommodation during conferences and expos also plays a role in the overall carbon footprint of events and as such, needs to be considered when deciding on a venue. Proximity is an easy way to cut your footprint, although hotels themselves are implementing green practices. A stellar example of this is Hotel Verde, located near Cape Town International Airport. It is hailed as Africa’s greenest hotel, with every aspect of the design aimed at being as sustainable as possible. It has received numerous awards for some of its innovations. These include recycling bath and shower water for toilet flushing, only eight rooms with bath tubs in an effort to use less water, an eco-pool that functions as a living ecosystem, a ‘living wall’ that creates a striking feature and helps clean interior air, wind turbines for renewable energy and regenerative drive elevators. The hotel offers carbon-neutral conferencing at no additional cost. 
Spier Wine Estate is another venue that’s at the forefront of green innovation. Not only does it recycle 100 percent of waste water, 97 percent of solid waste and most organic waste, but it has a holistic conferencing plan if you’re keen to go completely green. The estate uses energy efficient lighting, and filtered tap water bottled in reusable glass bottles. Leftover stationery goes to local school children, while their food is locally grown on or around the premises. “Spier’s Conscious Conference package includes environmental and social components, supporting our sustainable business ethos. The Conscious Conference Package enables you to join us in supporting local industry, fair trade and our commitment to a sustainable planet. And your delegates will have a great experience in the process!” says Mark Bland, Brand Manager at Spier.


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