In recent years there has been a movement toward minimizing waste in the exhibit and event industry, from minimizing printed materials to laying down carpet tiles that can be re-used. Nancy Zavada founder and president of MeetGreen, was thinking outside the box when she found a way to donate graphic murals from the IMEX America Show, which often get trashed after one show, to a senior citizen home for use in their common areas.
But one hurdle that hasn’t been overcome is the problem of what is known as “Build & Burn.” That’s when a custom exhibit is built for a particular event and when the show is over it literally gets tossed into a landfill. I hope it’s obvious that this practice is inherently wasteful, but while it has largely fallen out of favor in the U.S., Build & Burn is still commonplace in Europe and Asia.
A few years ago, for example, one of my financial clients needed me to design and build three 20-foot inline exhibits, one for the US, one for Europe, and one for Asia. She accepted our proposal for two of the three but said she found a much lower price for the exhibit in Asia. I warned her about the Build & Burn issue and asked her whether the exhibit will be designed and constructed for long-term, multiple-event use. Well, three months later, she called me to say the vendor disposed of the exhibit after the first show.
The Environmental Impact
“Even though there are increased efforts internationally to use sustainable or recycled materials in the construction of trade show exhibits, Build & Burn is still the predominant method of booth construction in many parts of the world,” says Tom Beard, Regional Sales Manager of Classic Exhibits. “It has a major impact on the environment due to the amount of materials sent to a landfill.”
There are some legitimate reasons why companies choose Build & Burn exhibits. Some shows may only happen once every three or four years and exhibitors won’t want to pay to have their exhibits shipped back and stored, especially if they’ll need new design and graphics to match the company’s future marketing messages.
However, there are eco-friendly alternatives to Build & Burn. One alternative is what some call “Euro-Booths.” They’re modular designs based on a common white-wall structure, each with the same counter. Exhibitors rent the booth and just bring their graphics. The booths are reusable and since they’re usually stored on-site or near the venue, they also cut down on shipping costs.
The Rental Alternative
“Rentals are the most eco-friendly way to exhibit internationally,” says Beard of Classic Exhibits.
Some vendors, however, want a unique look that will differentiate them from their competitors. To fill that niche, some vendors are now offering custom rental solution that looks more like a custom-built exhibit with the sustainability benefits of a reusable exhibit.
As companies increasingly emphasize sustainability throughout their businesses, they’ll want to work with event partners that can support those goals through re-usable alternatives, that often also save money, rather than wasteful Build & Burn exhibits.
“From what I’ve heard, the tide is turning from Build & Burns based on awareness of the wastefulness of it in some areas and the associated shipping/labor/disposal costs,” says Candy Adams, The Booth Mom, expert Exhibit Management Trainer and well known Tradeshow Speaker, “Another cost factor is the availability of more aluminum extrusion systems/SEG (silicone edged graphic) fabrics; it’s getting to the point of being cheaper to rent the extrusion, and print it in Asia and ship it to shows, rather than building a one-time-use exhibit onsite and then trashing it.”
The Future of Build and Burn
As we look toward the day when live events resume, let’s hope that sustainability becomes an important part of the conversation. The Pandemic Pause could provide an important opportunity to rethink the events business and move past Build & Burn exhibiting. Glenda Brungardt, Global Tradeshow/Event Manager at tech giant HP said it best. “Bottom line for me: Build & Burn may be a simple solution for a specific show. But as an event planner it is my job to look at the bigger picture and what impact my choices in the construction of a booth have not only on the environment but also on the brand I represent.”
President Biden took
office last month and was tasked with bolstering an economy that has struggled
with the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic for almost a year.
With millions of people still unemployed due to the pandemic and businesses across
the nation facing continued uncertainty, reestablishing a sense of economic
security will be a daunting challenge.
As Biden and his team
weigh their options and decide how best to proceed, they should prioritize
lifting the tariffs that the last administration made central to its trade
strategy. While the tariffs were intended to level the playing field,
especially in trade with China, they have actually created complex and
difficult problems for U.S. businesses and consumers, especially as they navigate
the struggles posed by COVID-19.
Tariffs Punish American Workers and Companies
These problems arise
from the very simple truth that tariffs are taxes paid by the importer to the
U.S. government. They do not punish companies in China or Europe — they
punish businesses, consumers, workers, manufacturers, and families right here
Since the Trump
administration handed down its first slate of tariffs, igniting the trade war
in 2018, businesses such as ours have been forced to reckon with difficult
choices about how to handle the new costs. Either we could take on the costs
ourselves, which in many cases would simply prove burdensome, or we could pass
those costs on to customers, regardless of whether they were everyday consumers
or other businesses — as is the case with our own companies.
including ours, cannot simply pick up and move operations. Doing so would mean
jumping through extensive regulatory hurdles and incurring heavy costs
(sometimes tens of thousands of dollars for just a single product) as we
work to establish new relationships and supply lines.
While there was a
process for seeking exclusions to the tariffs levied by the last
administration, this process was muddled, was non-transparent, and resulted in
denied requests for exclusions for many of the businesses that applied, leaving
them stuck with the costs of the tariffs.
The Cost to Small Businesses
While some larger
corporations may be able to afford these kinds of burdens, these costs are just
too much for many smaller businesses to bear. As these businesses fail, so too
does the broader economy. Small businesses contribute hundreds of billions of
dollars to the U.S. GDP annually, and every business forced to close due to the
excessive costs of tariffs represents a significant loss.
Biden and his nominee to be the next United States trade representative,
Katherine Tai, have pledged to implement a trade policy that puts workers first. But simply put, that is not possible as long
as we remain engaged in a trade war that has cost the U.S. more than $68 billion, whose toll grows greater with every passing day and still has
no decisive end in sight. Every day that the trade war continues means greater
pressure on job creators and further job losses for hard-working people trying
to get their families through the coronavirus pandemic.
It was clear from the very beginning of the Trump administration’s trade wars that the heaviest losses would be felt at home, though the past administration pushed ahead, regardless. Now, Biden, Tai, and the rest of the administration’s economic decision-makers have the opportunity to right the ship and help businesses and families emerge from this pandemic even stronger.
Tim Patterson, aka TheTradeshowGuy, interviews Tom Beard and Harold Mintz about Classic Conversations on his Monday Morning Coffee program. Very well done! For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rental exhibits will dominate once trade shows and exhibitions return. That’s a fact. What you may not know is that rental design has evolved. Gone are the days of ugly and boxy rentals constructed with dirty and dinged extrusion sitting on shelves (often for years).
Want proof? Checkout the designs below and download all six pages of rental exhibits arranged in “Under” categories. Prices start at Under $8K. Then explore even more inline, island, and accessory rentals in Exhibit Design Search. With over 300 rental designs.
For more information about rental exhibits for trade shows and exhibitions, contact us at www.classicexhibits.com. We’ll put you in touch with a Classic Rental Exhibit Expert in your local market.