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Kimberly-Clark Professional Develops Holistic Approach to Environmental Sustainability of Trade Show

It’s not easy being green, especially in the trade show business. Anyone who has attended a trade show – either as exhibitor or attendee – would likely agree that even just shipping a trade show booth halfway across the country creates a great deal of greenhouse gas emissions.
Add to that the shipping of ancillary materials, plane travel of trade show participants, energy usage for show activities and more, and the impact on the environment becomes apparent.

Savvy companies – in an effort to become more environmentally sustainable – are taking a close look at their trade show activities and adopting strategies to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases generated by those activities.

Case in point: Kimberly-Clark Professional. The supplier of products for commercial and institutional washrooms, “clean” and “industrial” manufacturing environments, healthcare facilities and DIY settings has created the most holistic approach to the environmental sustainability of trade show activities in its industry. Central to that approach is a new, environmentally responsible trade show booth and a carbon offsetting program with Carbonfund.org that reduces the company’s trade show-related greenhouse gas emissions as well as those of trade show attendees who visit its booth.

Reduce Today, Respect Tomorrow
Kimberly-Clark Professional’s sustainable trade show strategy is an integral part of its Reduce Today, Respect Tomorrow global environmental sustainability program. The program takes a big-picture approach to sustainability by seeking to reduce environmental impact at every stage of its business activities. This includes product design, manufacturing, distribution and use; sales/management activities and facilities; and now, trade show activities.

“We understand that the way we use resources today will shape the world of tomorrow,” says Lisa Morden, global sustainability leader, Kimberly-Clark Professional. “This philosophy is reflected in how we look at the entire lifecycle of the products we make – from raw material sources through final product disposal. It’s also reflected in how we conduct business – from obtaining LEED certification of our U.S. headquarters building to making our trade show activities more environmentally responsible.”

Sustainable Booth Design
Exhibiting at approximately 60 trade shows across North America every year, Kimberly-Clark Professional had been using a booth initially created in 1997. The booth did a good job at adequately showcasing the company’s full line of products, but according to Trade Show Manager Lori Bauer, it was heavy and expensive to use.

“Our old booth was made of heavy wood materials, resulting in high shipping and storage costs,” she explains. “We wanted a lighter booth that would reduce shipping and storage costs as well as drayage and labor costs for assembly and disassembly.”

The company turned to Expotechnik for help. A leading global exhibit house offering high-end custom rentals and turn-key services to customers on five continents, Expotechnik knew a lighter booth would also help Kimberly-Clark Professional align its trade show strategy with its environmental sustainability strategy.

“We consult with our clients to understand their needs and translate those needs into unique designs that are sustainable in terms of use, packaging, weight, transportation, life cycle, recyclability and the incorporation of A/V technology that reduces costly graphic production and printed materials,” says Cliff Hutson, Expotechnik. “Through 40 years of R&D, we have perfected the design and functionality of our proprietary materials, resulting in significantly reduced costs as well as reduced environmental impact.”

“Taking advantage of new booth construction techniques from Expotechnik gives us an opportunity to use materials that are lighter and more sustainable in nature, thus reducing our environmental impact,” Bauer adds, noting that Expotechnik created a modular design concept that allows Kimberly-Clark Professional to set up both island and in-line exhibits with a range of sizes, depending on the specific show need.

Unveiled in July at the BOMA 2010 International Conference & Every Building Show in Long Beach, Calif., the booth configurations are comprised of approximately 90 percent post-consumer recycled, rented or re-used products. These materials are nearly 100 percent recyclable or re-usable, so that when the booth is no longer needed by Kimberly-Clark Professional, the materials can be re-used again. In fact, about 60 percent of the materials are directly re-usable, meaning they can be returned to inventory without expending energy to recreate or recycle them.

Some of the environmentally sustainable booth construction materials include:

  • Post-consumer recycled polyester fabric called Enviro Celtic. It meets FTC guidelines for recycled products. It is also recycled at the end of its life with a minimum of processing to create shredded poly-fill.
  • Aluminum framing and joining sleeves, which are re-used or, if damaged, recycled by standard aluminum recycling methods.
  • Wood panels made of Forest Stewardship Council-certified, formaldehyde-free plywood; low-VOC contact adhesive; water-based clear finishes; and Green Guard certified high-pressure laminates.
  • The carpet is rented, and thus re-used locally at each show, eliminating carbon emissions that would be incurred by transporting it to and from each show.
  • Mercury-free, lead-free LED lighting, which delivers high-output light with low power consumption and low voltage.
  • Energy Star-compliant monitors that reduce the company’s reliance on costly printing and are recycled at the end of their life.

Offsetting Carbon Footprint of Booth Visitors
On the heels of unveiling its new environmentally sustainable trade show booth in July 2010, Kimberly-Clark Professional announced it would offset the carbon emissions associated with its trade show activities and the activities of customers visiting its booth. The carbon offsetting program started with its exhibits at the ISSA/INTERCLEAN Show and Greenbuild Conference in November 2010.

“Reducing our carbon footprint is one of the best ways that individuals and companies alike can lessen our impact on the Earth’s climate and provide for a more sustainable future,” Morden says.

To implement the carbon offsetting trade show program, Kimberly-Clark Professional and Expotechnik partnered with Carbonfund.org, the leading non-profit carbon reduction and climate solutions organization.

Kimberly-Clark Professional works with Carbonfund.org to calculate the carbon dioxide emissions generated by employee travel, shipping of the trade show booth and related materials, hotel stays, meals eaten, and booth electricity use.

Based on those calculations, Kimberly-Clark Professional will donate an equivalent amount of money to one of Carbonfund.org’s reforestation carbon reduction projects. The Amazon Forest Conservation Project, for example, will protect up to millions of acres from slash-and-burn forest clearing and prevent tens of millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions. The project will also provide essential ecosystem services such as erosion control; water cycling, filtration and storage; nutrient recycling; and habitat for thousands of native Amazonian animal and plant species. Carbon offsets generated from these projects are then retired on behalf of Kimberly-Clark Professional.

Kimberly-Clark Professional also offsets the carbon dioxide emissions of the trade show attendees who visit its booth. Together with Carfonfund.org, Kimberly-Clark Professional will calculate the carbon dioxide emissions generated by attendees’ roundtrip travel, meals eaten, hotel room stays and their share of the event’s overall estimated energy usage. Attendees will be given the option of donating their carbon offsets to support one of Carbonfund.org’s programs including reforestation, energy efficiency or renewable energy projects.

“A week after the ISSA/INTERCLEAN Show, we exhibited at the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in Chicago where there was a lot of excitement around what we were doing,” Morden concludes, noting that the company offset more than 1.88 million pounds of greenhouse gases throughout the two November shows. “We made it clear to our customers, prospective customers and others that the Kimberly-Clark Professional brand is synonymous with environmental sustainability.”

For more information on Kimberly-Clark Professional’s environmental sustainability philosophy, visit www.kcpreducetoday.com/us.

See story @ http://www.exhibitoronline.com/news/enn-display.asp?counter=9938

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