Event marketers have a real challenge on their hands when it comes to building eco-friendly pop-ups. Creating these immersive, temporary experiences is inherently wasteful because it often demands the same investment in building materials as a trade-show exhibit or one-time event, but without the long-term reuse plan.
But as event marketers get savvier about being green, they also get more creative. Check out some innovative and impactful ideas that can give a short-term pop-up build a sustainable vision for the future.
When Portland, OR-based eco-friendly clothing brand Nau used a pop-up to put its product in front of New Yorkers during last year’s Christmas season, it tried to do so with minimal environmental impact.
“Our goal was to literally come into New York City and bring in as little amount of stuff with us as possible,” says Mark Galbraith, general manager at Nau.
Galbraith accomplished this by building out most of the brand’s pop-up, which was housed inside a space in the SoHo shopping district, using repurposed materials. His team transformed the boxes and crates used to transport items from Portland into tables, stools and other pieces of furniture. Instead of buying racks or fixtures at a hardware store, Galbraith picked from the local waste stream, repurposing old metal cables, pipes and wood his team found in Brooklyn. This way, he says, “You’re not shipping tons of extra stuff that you’re going to use only for a month or two.”
New York City-based e2 Marketing president, Corrin Arasa, hires locally for all of her company’s pop-up programs. She requires the contractors build in a method that allows them to later dismantle the materials (like screws, two-by-fours and sheet rock) completely intact so they can be reused for future construction jobs. Does this make it harder to find a contractor? Arasa says no, and suggests turning to local LEED-certified architects who can share their list of contractors. For décor, Arasa visits secondhand stores, like Housing Works Thrift Shops in New York City, for lamps and furniture that can be refurbished. She usually donates the items back when the programs are over.
Food can also be wasteful, so during the 2008 Project Green House fundraising event in the Hamptons (handled by e2 Marketing), the Lexus Hybrid Living pop-up hosted celebrity dinners prepared with ingredients sourced within 50 miles of the venue.
Sometimes the best ideas come from unexpected places. New York City-based greendog, the green arm of LeadDog Marketing Group, is made up of a former organic food industry director, EPA consultants and artists, who dream up new ideas like bathroom towels embroidered with brand messages (instead of paper) which the team featured inside its Better Homes and Gardens pop-up a couple of years ago. For companies that don’t have this caliber of creative and environmental expertise in- house, seeking freelance artists in hip ’hoods can help provide the vision for reuse and recycling a brand is after.
LeadDog also consults with Alter Echo (alterecho.com), an environment management consulting company made up of biologists, geologists and engineers, to co-present the long-term cost savings and environmental benefits of eco-friendly methods to clients.
THE NEXT BIG THING
Shipping containers may just be the next big thing in eco-friendly pop-ups. Last summer, Puma apparel brand used 24 shipping containers to create Puma City, a multilevel retail store, bar and event space that stopped at events like the traveling Volvo Ocean Race in Boston. And the trend seems to be picking up again this year.
For the next run of Project Green House, e2 plans on using shipping containers for its pop-up space with the dual mission of raising funds for shipping container housing in Haiti. Containers are available for sale by importers and the prices range from about $3,000 to $6,000—a budget-friendly option considering they’re reusable and easily stored outside. EM