Sustainable Exhibits at the General Assembly

Stacked paper cubes.

General Assembly 2012 reduced waste per participant from 0.64 lbs to under 0.13 lbs per person per day.

General Assembly (GA) planners encourage exhibitors to apply these principles as they prepare exhibits and table displays:

Decorating Materials

The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) has forged a new partnership with Stetson Convention Services to provide materials and set-up for the Exhibit Hall. A Pittsburgh locally owned business, Stetson has worked at the David Lawrence Convention Center for many years. Through their frequency in the building and familiarity with staff, the Stetson team is well-versed in use of the on-site three-stream recycling services and back of house waste management systems. Volunteers will be on hand to help with waste sorting of:

Recycling: Paper, cardboard, bottle and container plastics and cans. (No polystyrene or food contaminated materials).

Compost: All food and plants along with compostable serviceware.

Landfill: Everything else! And remember—when in doubt, throw it out!

By focusing on increasing compost and recycling at GA, UUA has reduced waste sufficient to fill 1.5 garbage trucks.

Honeycomb Strategies has partnered with Stetson to further the sustainability of exhibit booth furnishings, including the development of a sustainability policy the eliminates any unsustainable options (such as foamcore) from the exhibitor ordering manual.

Printed Education and Attendee Gifts

Exhibit hall waste was determined to be a key contributor to not achieving waste goals in the past. As a result, monitoring and sorting of materials left behind in the exhibit hall has been stepped up. We are getting better, but still have a long way to go. We encourage all exhibitors to limit the waste, primarily paper from over-printing that they bring to GA. Providing information digitally and collecting customer contact information for future follow-up isn’t just good environmental practice, but good business practice. We also encourage those with a smart phone to take advantage of the GA app to access events and participate in the online social dynamic of GA! Every 8,300 sheets you don’t print saves one tree!

Offering bottled water to participants seems like a nice gesture, but have you considered the environmental impact? If all 4,500 participants at General Assembly reused their water bottle just twice, it would save enough water to make 15,000 cups of tea. Make sure that materials that are unable to be reused are recyclable. By focusing on reuse, recycling, and composting, GA 2015 was able to divert 62% of waste from landfill.

Sustainable Exhibits Provide Cost Savings

Although we tend to focus on being environmentally “green”, there is a different kind of “green” benefit to sustainable action: money. As business-minded people, we understand that adding cost to become more sustainable sometimes isn’t an option. The good news is that there are many ways to not only reduce waste, but reduce cost as well. Here are just a few:

  • Make sure that your booth materials can be reused for next year’s GA, and many more to come. This will not only save you money, but time by avoiding the purchase and conception of a new exhibit year after year.
  • Offer reusable giveaway items. Although not initially a cost benefit, a reusable item will help with long-term name recognition and business growth when compared to an easily-discarded single- use one.
A picture of the three-stream recycling system in the GA Exhibit Hall in Portland Oregon.