The Meaning of Greening

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Greening of events is now a necessity not a luxury or fad. And it’s easier than you think. Susan Reynard reports.

Greening Hotel Boardroom interior

Spier has a host of sustainable conferencing options.

Greening an event is such a widespread concept today that it may include everything from LED lighting and conservation of resources (water, energy, waste) to recyclable stands and digital take-home information rather than paper catalogues, all aiming for a carbon-neutral footprint.

“Everyone has a role in greening,” stresses Justin Hawes, chairman of the marketing committee of the Event Greening Forum. “However, the event organiser has overall control of the event and is in the best position to drive this process. They can encourage the client to make their event greener, select a green venue, source suppliers who are willing to fulfil their green requests, and can make it easier for delegates to do their part (such as using the recycling bins). Venues also have a significant role in ensuring greening success. If a venue puts systems in place (such as recycling) it becomes a lot easier for the organiser and event to take advantage of them.”

As MD of Scan Display stand building company, Hawes says they are doing a lot to be more sustainable, both internally in how they operate, as well as through client offerings.

The team at Spier have put together a sustainable conferencing toolkit that addresses the needs of local and international business and leisure travellers looking for sustainability when making hotel, venue, event and tour decisions. Spier is a pioneer of sustainability: it recycles 100% of wastewater and more than 98% of solid waste; is a WWF Conservation Champion; is recognised by Fair Trade in Tourism and Wine Industry Ethical Trade Association; and its cellar carries FSSC 22000 certification and Fairtrade accreditation.

At Spier, conference organisers can measure the carbon footprint of each delegate. Greening includes stationery made from recycled materials; leftover stationery donated to local schoolchildren; supporting local suppliers and farmers; uplifting local communities; healthy, seasonal and ethically sourced meals, beverages and snacks served during breaks (such as SASSI-approved fish and eggs from free-roaming chickens on the estate); inspiring excursions for delegates to showcase sustainability projects; and suggestions of delegate gifts that carry the message home, such as solar lamps or indigenous plants.

A green exhibition should ultimately start with the infrastructure, says Karen Healy, director of Resource Design. She and fellow director Gary van der Watt work closely with Xanita based in Somerset West. Xanita board or X-board made from raw materials (post-consumer repulped paper waste) from a renewable resource. Its virgin fibre supply is Forest Stewardship Council accredited. One tonne of recycled board saves more than two cubic metres of landfill and 17 trees, states their corporate literature. Fossil fuels are not used in the origin of X-board raw materials and the finished product is reusable and recyclable. They are free from volatile organic compounds, elemental chlorine in bleaching, carbon dioxide by-product and adhesives are organic. The product is made in the Cape and the board can be sold back to Nampak for recycling when it reaches the end of its lifespan.

Healy says after more than two decades in the exhibition industry, she knows only too well how wasteful an industry it is. Five years ago she and van der Watt decided to find a new solution with engineered fibre board that was reusable and recyclable.

The real cost saving comes in the logistics, time saved and lower labour costs. Boards are produced offsite, making for a quick, clean installation that doesn’t require tools. It is light so lower tonnage trucks are needed for transport. X-board works particularly well for 3×2, 3×3 and 3×4 business stands, as seen on location at Wines of South Africa (WOSA) wine tasting counters. The company also has international clients and depots in Australia, the UK, Dubai and South and North America. The product has a far wider versatility than exhibitions: they also make retail point of sale materials, signage, bulkheads, furniture and even coffins.

Carol Weaving, chairperson of the Association of African Exhibition Organisers (AAXO), adds, “I don’t believe the responsibility for event greening lies with only organisers, venues or suppliers, but it requires buy-in from the entire exhibition supply chain. We currently have world-class examples of sustainability measures being put into place in the exhibition industry in South Africa, but taking a step back, it starts with associations like ourselves setting the standard.”

Weaving says that as the custodians of exhibition standards in South Africa it was crucial for AAXO to form a partnership with the Event Greening Forum (EGF) in 2016. “This organisation is dedicated to raising awareness and promoting training opportunities around event greening. Its ‘reduce; reuse and recycle’ policy gives EGF the lead when it comes to hosting events that show respect for the environment,” she explains.

For more on greening an event read Issue 7:

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