Sustainable Exhibitions: RX’s Guide to Embracing the Green Canvas

Here at RX, as we understand our urgent environmental challenges further, the focus on creating more sustainable exhibitions has become paramount within our events industry business. 

At RX we are serious about sustainability, which is why we have formed a dedicated Sustainability Council and we align with the science to limit climate change beyond 1.5 degrees. By 2030, we aim to cut our greenhouse gas emissions in half and achieve net zero by 2040 and we’ve already made a good start!

In this article, we delve into various aspects of sustainable exhibitions, and how we can create a sustainable future using sustainable alternatives covering topics such as costs, organisational challenges, comparative analysis, impacts, carbon footprints and future prospects. From understanding the definition of a 'sustainable exhibition' to identifying best practices.

How can businesses benefit from participating in or sponsoring sustainable exhibitions?

Businesses can gain several benefits from participating in or sponsoring sustainable exhibitions:


Improved Brand Image

Increased Visibility

Networking Opportunities

Learning Opportunities

Positive Impact


Participating in sustainable exhibitions can enhance a company's reputation, showing it to be socially responsible and conscious of environmental issues.

Exhibitions can offer businesses the opportunity to engage with potential customers and stakeholders who share similar values, therefore, increasing visibility and awareness.

These events can serve as a platform for networking, potentially leading to collaborations, partnerships, or new business opportunities.

Companies can learn more about sustainability trends, technologies, and strategies that could be relevant to their operations or products.

By sponsoring these exhibitions, businesses can help support educational initiatives and raise awareness about important environmental issues, thereby contributing to their corporate social responsibility goals.

Thus, involvement in sustainable exhibitions can be a valuable strategy for businesses looking to align themselves with environmental and sustainability objectives.

The series of questions discussed the various aspects of sustainable exhibitions, from costs and challenges to their potential impacts and future evolution. The cost of hosting such an exhibition in the UK for example, is variable, depending largely on factors such as venue, scale, and content. The challenges of hosting include sourcing sustainable materials, managing waste, and ensuring accessibility.

A comparison of sustainable exhibitions was made on the basis of their impact and audience reach, with a mention of various successful examples in the UK. Organising a sustainable exhibition with minimal environmental impact involves careful planning, sourcing local and sustainable materials, reducing energy consumption, and managing waste responsibly.

Understanding the meaning of 'sustainable exhibition' can indeed influence the cost of organising one, as it determines the methods and materials used. Misunderstandings of the concept can lead to greenwashing, inauthentic practices, and ineffective communication of environmental messages. The understanding of sustainable exhibition can vary across different cultures or regions, influenced by social, environmental, and economic contexts.

The impact of sustainable exhibitions extends beyond their environmental message to include educational, social, and economic effects. They can raise awareness about environmental issues, incorporate technology to enhance the visitor's experience, and stimulate local economies and businesses. They can also influence policy-making and provide businesses with opportunities for enhancing their brand image and learning about sustainability trends.

The future of sustainable exhibitions is likely to be influenced by ongoing technological developments, shifts in public awareness and attitudes, and the evolving challenges of the environmental crisis. There is the potential for greater integration of digital and interactive technologies, wider collaboration across sectors, and an even stronger focus on sustainability in all aspects of exhibition design and management.


Sustainable exhibitions can influence policy-making in several key ways:

  • Raising Awareness: By illustrating the urgency of environmental issues and sustainability, these exhibitions can help to bring these topics to the forefront of public and political discourse.
  • Providing Information: Exhibitions often provide detailed, research-backed information about specific environmental issues. This information can be used to support policy proposals and legislative changes.
  • Facilitating Dialogue: By hosting panel discussions and forums, exhibitions can bring together different stakeholders, including policy makers, activists, researchers, and members of the public. These events can foster dialogue, mutual understanding, and collaboration between different sectors.
  • Demonstrating Public Support: A well-attended exhibition demonstrates public interest and concern about sustainability, which can motivate policy makers to take action.

While the direct impact on policy can vary, sustainable exhibitions certainly contribute to the broader movement pushing for policies that protect our environment and promote sustainable practices.

The future of sustainable exhibitions lies in their ability to continually adapt, innovate, and maximise their reach. Here are some potential developments:

  1. Increased Use of Technology: As technology continues to advance, it will likely play an increasingly important role in exhibitions. Tools such as AR and VR can provide immersive experiences that bring environmental issues to life in a way that static displays cannot.
  2. Greater Community Engagement: Exhibitions could involve local communities more in their planning and execution, perhaps through initiatives like community projects or local sustainability workshops. This would not only make the exhibitions more inclusive but also increase their impact on local levels of awareness and behaviour.
  3. Focus on Actionable Steps: Exhibitions could provide more information on concrete steps that individuals can take to live more sustainably. This could range from tips on reducing waste, to information on supporting sustainable businesses, to resources for getting involved in local environmental initiatives.

By continuously evolving in these and other ways, sustainable exhibitions can continue to be a powerful tool for environmental education and action in the future.

Sustainable exhibitions engage and educate audiences about sustainability in several creative and interactive ways:

  • Interactive Displays: One of the most engaging ways of educating an audience is through interactive displays. These can range from digital touchscreens that provide information about specific exhibits, to hands-on activities that help visitors understand complex environmental concepts.
  • Workshops and Talks: Many sustainable exhibitions also hold workshops and talks as part of their programme. These sessions can offer a more in-depth understanding of the exhibition's theme, often led by experts in the field.
  • Use of Technology: From augmented reality (AR) to virtual reality (VR), technology can create immersive educational experiences. For example, a VR experience can allow visitors to virtually explore underwater ecosystems or see the impacts of climate change first-hand.

Through these methods, sustainable exhibitions can provide audiences with a greater understanding of sustainability and its importance, inspiring them to take action in their daily lives.

Striking a balance between aesthetic value and environmental consciousness can be a delicate task in the organisation of sustainable exhibitions. Here are a few strategies:

  1. Use of sustainable materials: Sustainable, recycled, or upcycled materials can be used throughout an exhibition. This not only promotes sustainability but can also add a unique aesthetic dimension to the work.
  2. Innovative design: Design strategies such as minimalism, modularity, and adaptability can allow for attractive exhibition designs that also reduce material use and waste.
  3. Integration of natural elements: Incorporating elements of nature, such as plants, natural light, or water, can enhance the aesthetic experience while promoting a connection with the natural world.
  4. Interactive experiences: The use of interactive experiences can engage visitors more deeply, creating an aesthetic experience that also educates and informs about environmental issues.

    Sustainable exhibitions can have a significant impact on local communities and businesses in several ways:

    1. Economic impact: By attracting visitors, sustainable exhibitions can generate revenue for local businesses such as restaurants, hotels, and retail shops. Additionally, jobs might be created both in the run-up to and during the exhibition.
    2. Educational impact: Sustainable exhibitions provide an opportunity for local community members to learn about sustainability and environmental issues, potentially leading to more environmentally conscious behaviour.
    3. Social impact: These exhibitions can foster a sense of community by bringing people together for a shared purpose. They may also promote local culture, heritage, or artists, contributing to a stronger community identity.
    4. Environmental impact: By showcasing sustainable practices and stimulating discussions about environmental issues, sustainable exhibitions can influence the approach towards sustainability within local businesses and community groups.

      Sustainable exhibitions can utilise technology in a number of ways to improve the visitor experience, often with a dual purpose of enhancing engagement and promoting sustainability:

      • Interactive digital displays: These can offer a dynamic way to present information and engage visitors, while also reducing the need for printed materials.
      • Apps and online resources: Exhibition apps or online resources can provide additional content, reduce the need for physical signage, and offer ways for visitors to interact with the exhibition before, during, and after their visit.
      • Energy-efficient lighting and AV equipment: Choosing energy-efficient options for lighting and AV equipment can both reduce the exhibition's environmental impact and enhance the visitor experience through high-quality, effective display techniques.
      • Virtual Reality (VR) or Augmented Reality (AR): These technologies can offer immersive experiences that bring environmental issues to life in a visceral way, helping to make the message more impactful.

      Sustainable exhibitions contribute to raising environmental awareness in several key ways. Here at RX we produce insights across all our events that highlight the sustainable initiatives happening at all of our events.

      1. Educational content: Many sustainable exhibitions provide educational content on environmental issues, aiming to inform their audiences about the challenges our planet faces, from climate change to biodiversity loss.
      2. Modelling sustainable practices: By adopting sustainable practices in their organisation and operations, exhibitions can serve as a tangible example of environmental responsibility. Visitors who see recycling bins, composting facilities, or solar panels in action may be more likely to implement similar practices in their own lives.
      3. Inspiring action: Many exhibitions aim to not only inform their visitors about environmental issues, but also inspire them to take action. This could involve providing resources on how to live more sustainably, or encouraging visitors to engage in environmental activism.

      Explaining the concept of a 'sustainable exhibition' to someone unfamiliar with it can start with a basic definition: A sustainable exhibition is one that seeks to minimise its environmental impact, contribute positively to social issues, and remain economically viable. It's not just about being 'green' – it's about making thoughtful, conscious decisions at every stage of the exhibition, from planning to dismantling.

      This involves considerations like:

      • Material selection: Using recycled, recyclable, or reusable materials.
      • Energy use: Opting for energy-efficient options and renewable energy sources.
      • Waste management: Minimising waste and ensuring proper disposal of any waste produced.
      • Social impact: Considering the exhibition's impact on local communities and aiming for inclusivity and accessibility.

      Essentially, it's about thinking beyond the event itself and considering the broader impacts on our planet and society.

      Challenges can include budget constraints, difficulty sourcing sustainable materials, and resistance from stakeholders. These can be overcome by careful planning, collaboration with experts, and effective communication about the benefits of sustainability.

      Success can be measured through both qualitative and quantitative metrics, such as visitor engagement, the amount of waste diverted from landfill, energy saved, and positive impacts on the local community.

      Given the understanding of a 'sustainable exhibition', best practices often involve focusing on the key areas of environmental, social, and economic sustainability. Here at RX we have created a playbook for our teams. Here are a few:

      1. Planning: Detailed and conscious planning is fundamental. This involves setting clear sustainability goals at the outset and making them integral to the decision-making process.
      2. Material use: Consider the materials used in your exhibition. Where can you use recyclable materials or recycle materials? Considering the materials the exhibition stand is made of. Opt for recycled, recyclable, or reusable materials whenever possible.
      3. Energy efficiency: Choose energy-efficient options, such as LED lighting, and consider renewable energy sources.
      4. Transportation: Encourage public transportation, carpooling, or cycling to the exhibition. If objects need to be transported, try to minimise the distance travelled.
      5. Waste management: Provide recycling bins, compost food waste, and limit the use of disposable items. A zero-waste goal, while challenging, can be a compelling target.
      6. Inclusivity: Sustainable exhibitions should also be socially sustainable, ensuring inclusivity and accessibility, fair wages for all staff, and engagement with local communities.

      A global standard could provide a broad framework of sustainability principles applicable to exhibitions, while allowing for flexibility and adaptability to local contexts. It should encourage sharing of best practices and learning across regions to foster continual improvement.
      Yes, cultural differences can indeed lead to varied interpretations of 'sustainable exhibitions'. For instance, an exhibition that seems sustainable under Western sustainability standards might not be considered as such in other cultures with different sustainability practices and understandings.

      The understanding of 'sustainable exhibition' may vary greatly across different cultures or regions, influenced by environmental, economic, and social contexts.

      1. Environmental context: In regions heavily impacted by climate change, sustainable exhibitions may prioritise themes of resilience and adaptation. In contrast, regions with abundant natural resources might focus more on conservation.
      2. Economic context: In developing regions, the economic aspect of sustainability may be emphasised, with a focus on creating job opportunities and contributing to local economies.

      Social context: Societal values also play a role. Some cultures might have a tradition of resourcefulness and reuse, influencing their approach to material usage in exhibitions. Others may prioritise community involvement and social inclusivity.

      Organising a sustainable exhibition with minimal environmental impact involves a multi-faceted approach. As part of the process at RX, we have armed our teams with a playbook so they can question every decision made during the planning of an event to ensure it’s as sustainable as possible.

      1. Planning: From the outset, sustainability should be a key consideration in all planning decisions, including choice of venue, exhibition design, marketing, and programming.
      2. Materials: Choose sustainably sourced materials for exhibition builds and merchandise, and plan for how these materials can be recycled or reused after the exhibition.
      3. Energy use: Opt for energy-efficient lighting and technology, and consider renewable energy sources if possible. You can also reduce energy use by ensuring that lights and equipment are turned off when not in use.
      4. Waste management: Provide recycling bins and clearly communicate your waste management policies to visitors and staff. Where possible, aim for a 'zero waste' exhibition.

      Education: Use the exhibition as an opportunity to educate visitors about sustainability, through the content of the exhibition itself and through additional programming such as talks, workshops, and resources.

      Comparing the impact and audience reach of different sustainable exhibitions requires considering several factors:

      1. Audience numbers: This refers to how many people visited the exhibition, either in person or virtually. Higher audience numbers generally indicate greater reach and impact.
      2. Visitor engagement: This can be measured through methods such as visitor surveys, social media engagement, and interactive elements within the exhibition itself. High levels of engagement suggest that the exhibition was effective in capturing audience interest and conveying its message.
      3. Media coverage: The amount and tone of media coverage can give an indication of an exhibition's impact and reach. Positive coverage in widely read outlets can significantly increase an exhibition's visibility.
      4. Sustainability measures: The impact of an exhibition's sustainability measures can be assessed in terms of energy use, waste production, carbon emissions, and other environmental factors.
      1. Logistical complexities: Sustainable exhibitions often require specialised materials and practices, such as low-impact installation methods, sustainably sourced materials, or energy-efficient lighting and technology.
      2. Higher upfront costs: While sustainable practices can lead to savings in the long term, they often require a larger initial investment. For example, installing energy-efficient technology or sourcing recycled or sustainable materials can be more expensive than traditional alternatives.
      3. Educating staff and visitors: Ensuring everyone involved in the exhibition, from the staff to the visitors, understands the sustainability objectives can be challenging. This requires clear communication and educational initiatives.
      4. Measuring impact: Quantifying the environmental impact of an exhibition can be a difficult task, requiring expertise in sustainability metrics and reporting.