World of Concrete’s Director Offers Five Tips on Building a More Sustainable Event

Sustainability is top of mind for a vast range of industries, and the commercial construction and masonry business is no exception. It comes as no surprise, then, that the yearly exhibition for the industry, World of Concrete (WOC), just completed its most sustainable event yet. Held Jan. 18-20 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, the 47th annual show, put on by Informa Markets, drew nearly 37,000 attendees, including 1,100 exhibitors. And thanks to show partner HILTI’s renewable electricity sponsorship, WOC’s use of sustainable energy sources saved an estimated 204 tons of CO2e (or Carbon Dioxide Equivalent, the standard for measuring carbon footprints). And tapping into renewable energy sources was just one of the tactics that contributed to a more environmentally-friendly event.

For Jackie James, group director at World of Concrete, the willingness of all players within the event’s ecosystem, from the vendors to the venue, to make small steps toward a more sustainable event was integral to its success. All of those little adjustments, she says, added up to big change. But it was WOC that led the charge, so we asked James how she and her team elevated the event’s sustainability components without compromising the attendee experience.

subaru-winterfest-2022-teaserMore on Sustainability in Events:

1. Require Online Registration

Many events offer the option to register online or in person, but implementing an all-digital registration system is a more environmentally-friendly strategy. It’s also an opportunity to get a clearer sense of who’s planning to attend before it begins.

“One of the biggest things that we did that I think is pretty amazing is that we went to online registration-only, as opposed to having people come to the show and register,” says James. “They still can if there’s an issue or a mistake or a correction that needs to be made. But we’ve made it very clear that you must register online. And I think that’s been really successful in terms of knowing your numbers better ahead of time. It gives you a lot more data ahead of time. Plus, we don’t have all the paper forms and the pencils and all the different things that come with on-site [registration].”


2. Embrace Bare Floors

WOC eliminated aisle carpeting at the event this year. As James pointed out to us, it wasn’t difficult to get World of Concrete attendees to embrace a show floor comprised only of… concrete. But eliminating carpeting has sustainability implications for event marketers in many industries to consider.

“We did away with aisle carpet and that was a huge one, really difficult,” says James. “I love the look of a show with carpeting and I’m not saying anything bad about it, but not having the aisle carpet has made it a lot easier to move in, a lot easier to move out, less labor intensive. And it’s been well received.”

Bonus: Without carpets to scrub, cleaning crews will be using fewer chemicals to keep your event sparkling.


3. Ditch the Printed Program

Another paper-saving strategy is to turn your printed show program into a digital destination. These days, nearly every attendee has a smartphone that will provide access to program information with a few taps. WOC made the move to eliminate its traditional paper program at this year’s show, but made an extra effort to provide a smooth transition to its replacement.

“We thought, what are the things that we can do that would make it more sustainable and still very user-friendly?” says James. “So we started using a pre-show planner that we’d always had just prior to the show, which was digital and very well-received. We decided we’ll mail it twice—we’ll make it the pre-show planner and we’ll make it the online [guide]. Everything’s connected; it’s all linked. That has worked very well and we no longer print 60,000 publications for handout, and distribution bins and such.”

World of Concrete 2022_exhibitor interaction

World of Concrete relied on everyone in the event ecosystem to help build a more sustainable show this year.

4. Use Biodegradable Signage

Signage can be a big offender when it comes to sustainability, particularly at large trade shows, so reducing the number of signs on-site is a step in the right direction. But it’s also critical to ensure the ones you do use are made of sustainable materials. At WOC, there was a “fewer but better” approach, with a smaller number of event signs, all made of biodegradable materials.


5. Secure a Sustainable Partner

Where it makes sense, consider working with a sponsor that can help advance your on-site sustainability efforts—and then think about putting the money saved toward a green initiative. One of the major ways organizers formalized WOC’s commitment to sustainability this year was by collaborating on a renewable energy sponsorship with one of its biggest exhibitors, HILTI, a company that makes construction and manufacturing products, and participates in global sustainability efforts.

James says the strategy makes most sense “when you are able to partner with an exhibitor to sell a sponsorship to benefit the sustainability of the event, as well as their own desired efforts. That certainly has an impact and it did this year for us with HILTI… I think it helped in that people saw HILTI as a sponsor of this renewable energy and, ‘Hey, they’re using renewable energy at WOC. What else might they do? What else might we do next year?’ So I think it has an impact.”

This story appeared in the Spring 2022 issue
Kait Shea
Posted by Kait Shea

Kait joined EM in 2015 and today enjoys her role as senior editor, digital content. When she’s not in reporter mode, rocking mermaid pants at Comic-Con or running laps at MWC Barcelona, you can find her at home listening to music.
View all articles by Kait Shea →

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