Countless numbers of trade shows, conferences, exhibitions and other large-scale events are held around the world each year. The billion-dollar meetings industry, euphemistically referred to as MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions), undeniably delivers considerable economic benefits to the towns, cities, regions and countries that act as event hosts.
But looked at through a different lens, this global behemoth could also be viewed as being something approaching an eco-terrorist in terms of the less-than-mouse-sized carbon footprint it leaves wherever it sets foot. Long-distance travel … excessive use of print … disposable everything from food and drink containers to branded ‘goodie bags’ … the list of things that are not good for the environment is an impressive one when it comes to events.
As a consequence, over recent years, there has been a concerted effort on the part of responsible event producers to “green up” their acts. Many industry associations have put in play voluntary best practice codes to drive improvements, giving birth to the concept of the sustainable event.
Producers of fully sustainable events aspire to minimise the impact of their events on the environment through following these best practices at every stage of the event’s life from registration through to the physical mop up afterwards. In response, a sub-industry of innovative technology providers has sprung up offering an amazing variety of viable alternatives to conventional event practices across the board.
In the realm of printed materials, where the waste volumes are eye-wateringly high, ShowGizmo is one such product. A web and smartphone event application, Show Gizmo incorporates a digital event programme and floorplan and allows people to exchange v-cards and connect with each other without any paper changing hands. The system’s smart use of QR codes opens the door for printed exhibitor/vendor brochures in any quantity to be a thing of the past as attendees can simply collect and store them using the app on their phones.
‘As the uptake of smartphones increases exponentially, mobile event apps like ShowGizmo are a ‘get out of jail free’ card for the environmentally concerned event junkie,’ says Frances Manwaring, co-founder of SmartShow, the company that launched ShowGizmo nearly two years ago.
‘One of the reasons we decided to create ShowGizmo was because we were going to a lot of events and were sickened by all the waste – that awful moment of guilt when you consign half a forest in paper form to the bin at the end of the event. All we could think of was how cool would it be to hit a delete button on our phones instead!’
At the moment, more people on the planet allegedly own a mobile device than a toothbrush and it’s estimated that in a couple of years time the majority of business transactions will happen via smartphones the foundations are there for the genuinely paperless event.
‘Hopefully this means the days of exit survey forms being left on every seat are numbered. But people will have to really get their heads round doing things differently. The tools exist to make it happen, it’s only the will that’s lagging behind. Ultimately, attendees will drive the revolution,’ says Manwaring.
‘It may not be a case of saving the planet single-handed, but event people can certainly do their bit their bit… one event at a time.’
Manwaring says SmartShow does its best to practice what it preaches.
‘The recycling bins in our HQ are an eyesore in the office, but the feel-good factor is high. We use online rather than face-to-face meetings where we can and offset what little power we use by donating to our favourite green initiatives. In addition, for every sale of ShowGizmo, we make a loan of $25 to a KIVA community project.’
SmartShow was established in early 2010 to harness the power of smartphone technology to drive more connected events with higher returns for participants investment which also. ShowGizmo is now being used by event producers on every continent … except pristine Antarctica of course!