How Event Marketers Can Start Offsetting Their Carbon Footprint

September 20, 2022

The first thing to consider when trying to decrease your carbon emissions is to become familiar with the categories and what is being measured within your carbon footprint. Even if you don’t calculate your footprint, getting comfortable with the categories can influence your decision-making.

Carbon footprints are calculated using three categories or “scopes” of emissions, Scopes 1, 2 and 3.

Scope 1  

Scope 1 is defined as emissions from sources that are owned or controlled by the company, per the EPA.  

Scope 2  

This scope includes emissions from purchased electricity.  

Scope 3  

And lastly scope 3 has 15 categories and includes items like employee travel, commuting, purchased goods and services and any capital goods.  

While Scopes 1-3 are clearly defined by the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol, these scope measurements look different for each company. Considering each of these categories and how the events industry influences emissions, we can see some common themes emerge about where emissions come from:

  • There is a lot of “stuff” at events
  • There are a lot of materials being moved to and from events
  • There are multiple stakeholders involved with individual exhibits  
  • Events are usually short-term, lasting less than a week in most cases
  • Many vendors, spaces and attendees are at the mercy of their surroundings
  • Event spaces, types of booths, vendors and attendee activities are all relatively similar
  • There are not a lot of opportunities to choose a more eco-friendly options  

Identifying these trends helps us to see how we can change emissions and be in control where possible.

Let’s look at a few of these trends and see some different options available for reducing your carbon emissions. We’ll look at the amount of “stuff” that exhibits house, how to use vendors to reduce your emissions, and how to think about emissions during set up and  break down of your booth.  

Your Exhibit and Its Contents

First, is the question of “stuff” at events. Most of these items are categorized as Scope 3, meaning an exhibitor has limited control.  Anyone that’s set up or taken down a booth will share the myriad of inputs that must come together to make an event happen. However, exhibitors have options in choosing partners that have sustainable options for booth and booth items. As an exhibitor, you should be asking the questions around the disposal and reuse of your booth items. This conversation will open the door to help both you and your partners to work together to reduce both your carbon footprint as an exhibitor- specifically your scope 3 emissions- and at the same time help reduce the footprint of your exhibit house partner.  

For example, at Steelhead, on average over 95% of client booths are returned into our Access Inventory to be redesigned and used by the next brand. Companies without an access model who dispose of client booths would then count this waste as part of their Scope 3 emissions.  

Learn more about Steelhead’s rental model here.


Second, transportation to and from events. It’s helpful to your scope 1 and 3 emissions to keep an eye on transportation costs. Whether they are your travel and Uber rides for your team, to your exhibit house tracking miles for getting your booth to and from the show. Companies and exhibit houses can reduce emissions associated with transportation by using hybrid or electric vehicles, limiting and organizing trips, checking with freight and shipping partners on fuel efficiency and having a plan in place for transportation. And if you’re attending events, consider how you’re getting to and from event spaces and the distance you’re traveling to attend.  

Conscious Partners

Third, work with partners and encourage all stakeholders to consider environmental costs and opportunities. When engaging with suppliers across the planning and implementation process, ask about environmental options, and their practices and share any practices that you have, too. Do they have sustainability initiatives? Are they B Corp certified? Are they offsetting their carbon emissions? Asking about these can help you explore different options and compare partnerships based on different environmental benefits.  

Lastly, it’s important to play the long game. Combating the climate crisis will take all of us working together. Small, consistent actions and improvements beat big, static changes each time. Make a plan to incrementally improve and soon you’ll see results.  

Eliza Erskine

Green Buoy Consulting

September 20, 2022
October 3, 2023
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