Walking the Walk at Greenbuild 2009

Mike Loughery

Mike Loughery

An interesting thought occurred to me this week at the Greenbuild  International Conference & Expo, the world’s largest Green Building Products exhibition, held in Phoenix, Arizona.  A couple of years ago, as “green” was really taking off, many of the recycling practices and sustainability efforts at the show seemed foreign to many of us. 

Now, it just seems so natural.  We went to the show this year knowing that the 2010 rules for exhibiting at the show are going to be much more stringent in terms of booth specifications, and the sustainability requirements for manufacturers shipping, building, dismantling, and discarding of their booths.  This year, you had trash “hawks” telling you which recycling receptacle to use when discarding waste.  Gone were the piles of magazines lining the walls that simply end up in the trash.

It’s now ingrained in our thinking and “feels” like it really makes sense.  The excess and waste demonstrated by many manufacturers (including us) over the years is really under a microscope.  At this year’s show, there were booths that were going to be chipped up and recycled into mulch and you really had a sense that, in most cases, the manufacturers who were exhibiting had solid products and services that truly represent sustainability.  There are some really interesting and creative products being developed.

In an earlier blog, I commented a bit about what I termed “greenwashing” that still goes on;  however, at the latest Greenbuild, I sensed a more subdued, more responsible approach toward promoting sustainability.  There were smaller booths, for one thing.  Whether that’s a sign of the economy or just a smart way of cutting the carbon footprint, I’m not sure.  But next year, we’re all told that we can’t exceed the size of the booths that were present this year.  We’re told it’s due to space constraints at McCormick Place in Chicago.  However, I know that it will keep the mega-monster booths away and the tremendous negative carbon impact they have away from the windy city.

Let’s also take a look at the other shows we typically attend.  Why can’t simple rules like the ones we’re required to follow at Greenbuild go into effect at the International Builders Show, the Remodeling Show, AIA, and so on?  Straightforward, green-oriented practices at all trade shows could save us all a lot of money, reduce the tremendous waste these shows generate, and allow us to focus on what’s really important—one-on-one conversations with our customers.

It was a good show this week.  It always is.  Traffic was the best I’ve seen at any building products show this year and the quality of the attendees and their questions was far superior to the others.  Now, let’s apply the lessons we’ve learned from Greenbuild to our other shows.

Mike Loughery is Director, Corporate Marketing Communications at CertainTeed Corporation.