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April 16, 2008
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GOING GREEN:Is it just short-term bandwagon-jumping?




Have you heard the one about the UK venue that decided to commit to being green. It provided numerous colour-coded bins for various recycled products, only for exhibitors to dump their rubbish in the nearest recepticle, whatever colour, during breakdown. And oh the irony! It was actually a show encouraging green behaviour.

In the intervening years since this ‘eco-disaster’, the UK events industry has steadily developed its approach to green issues to the extent that there is now a good number of contractors, venues and organisers who have initiated schemes designed to limit the impact exhibitions have on the environment.

All worthy efforts indeed. But does it make any difference? Does anyone really care? Are these firms not doing worthy things simply to appear worthy themselves?

Getting floored

A good place to start is Reeds Carpet Recycling which has been committed to developing recyclable and sustainable exhibition flooring for several years. The company now has products that are completely recyclable and can be turned into other plastic products, thus saving the world’s oil stocks.

The firm’s managing director, Clare Reed, is a passionate supporter of green strategies and totally refutes the notion that companies like hers are doing it to be trendy. As a mother she is keen to do her bit to ensure that future generations benefit from a safe environment in a world whose landfill sites aren’t brimming over with the waste that we created decades before.

Reed masterminded the development and launch of the company’s Evo-Collection of recyclable carpet systems, keeping it firmly at the forefront of ‘green’ research, offering the UK’s only totally in-house supply-to-recycling service.

“From our point of view, as the largest independent carpeting contractor in the UK, if not Europe, we are the biggest criminals,” she says. “It was well over one and a half million square metres of waste carpet last year and with our sales growing at 30% this is only going to increase.”

Reed thinks that influential people from across the industry’s sectors need to come together to form a consensus on how the industry takes its green strategy further.

Setting the standard

The organising of this would appear to be an obvious job for the Events Industry Alliance. Its project director, Chris Skeith, is pleased to report that the events business is on the threshold of an industry-wide strategy. This is the British Standard BS8901 which will be an industry benchmark that gives guidelines on the disposal of waste, recycling and carbon footprints, indeed the whole question of sustainability in the events industry.

“It is a sort of checklist that people can use to measure their effectiveness in the way they are approaching green issues,” he says. “It is at its final stage and will hopefully be issued for stakeholder comments in the next few weeks.”

Apparently there has been a keen and positive reaction to the project. “There isn’t any requirement for the industry to adopt these policies, so it is a tribute to the people in the industry that they are keen to embrace the ideals that the initiative contains,” he adds. “The industry has been very proactive in getting things moving.”

Skeith agrees with Clare Reed that people seem to be ‘going green’ for genuine environmental reasons rather than wanting to make themselves appear altruistic and worthy.

“I would say that there is real concern about the effects our business have on the future,” he says. “There is a general willingness to seek guidance and to learn about how we can limit the wasting of precious resources.”

Shifting opinions

Again the idea of ‘worthy aspirations’ springs to mind and it is probably not too much of a sweeping statement to suggest that most people are, in principle, keen to help save the planet.

However, we’ve all been in an exhibition hall during breakdown when, after three days at a show, all we’re worried about is getting home. The thought of lovingly sorting the detritus of exhibiting into manageable piles is not one that fills us with enthusiasm. After all, we think to ourselves, what difference does it really make?

As Reed points out, just think of two million square metres of carpet being buried underneath us every year. That’s the difference it makes.

That show several years ago where it all went horribly wrong was only the beginning. With the introduction of the BS8901 coupled with serious industry-wide education, such calamities should quickly become a thing of the past.


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