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Sustainable Exhibits at the General Assembly

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 a long-standing partnership with Heritage Exposition Services to provide materials and set-up for the Exhibit Hall. Heritage has worked hard to further the sustainability of their business, including the development of a sustainability policy and procurement criteria for their business in response to a direct request from the UUA. Many of the changes under this policy are invisible to GA participants. For example, all carpeting is made from more durable, 25% post-industrial content and is in its third year of re-use. Trim pieces that could not be salvaged represent a mere 2% of carpet used. Carpet reuse not only presents significant environmental benefits by reducing manufacturing footprints, it also means Heritage can eliminate Visqueen, a wasteful plastic film that many trade shows who use new carpet employ to protect carpet from damage. Carpet padding also includes recycled content and furnishings, booth panels, drape and framing are all collected for reuse. Heritage staff and local labor also worked with Global Green Integrators to collect 221 pounds of film plastics like shrink wrap and tabletop material for recycling locally.

Printed Materials

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.

Why Go "Green"?

For The Earth

  • 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.
  • Provide digital information with website promotion and email communication to limit the amount of paper waste created at GA. Every 8,300 sheets you don’t print saves one tree!
  • Make sure that materials that are unable to be reused are recyclable. By focusing on reuse, recycling, and composting, GA 2014 was able to divert 66% of waste from landfill.

For Your Wallet

Although we tend to focus on being environmentally “green”, there is a different kind of “green” benefit to sustainable exhibiting: 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.
  • Use energy efficient lighting and remember to turn off lights and other electric devices at the end of each day. Not only is energy efficient lighting more cost-effective, but turning off lights and devices will help to extend their life.
  • 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 non-reusable one.

For Fun

  • Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run a 100 watt light bulb for 20 hours, a computer for 3 hours, and a TV for 2 hours. (Environmental Protection Agency)
  • By focusing on increasing compost and recycling at GA, UUA has reduced waste sufficient to fill 1.5 garbage trucks.
  • Over the course of the 2014 General Assembly, each conference attendee was responsible for more than 1,100 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions. This is nearly the amount that a single person emits as a result of driving their car for an entire month!

For more information contact gaexhibits@uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Wednesday, October 15, 2014.

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

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