Green Scene: OR takes steps to become winter green

Outdoor Retailer will introduce a "Green Steps" program at the upcoming Winter Market, intended to highlight environmental efforts by exhibitors and provide the industry with information on sustainable business practices.
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Outdoor Retailer will introduce a "Green Steps" program at the upcoming Winter Market, intended to highlight environmental efforts by exhibitors and provide the industry with information on sustainable business practices.

"The environment in which we live is integral to the health of the business of the outdoors and companies that are committed to helping sustain that health should be called out," Peter Devin, trade show director for Outdoor Retailer, told SNEWS®. "By highlighting outdoor companies that currently take 'Green Steps,' we are helping to emphasize the importance of building a greener marketplace."

The Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) also told SNEWS® that it stands behind the show's announcement of the Winter Market initiative.

"I think that any steps that Outdoor Retailer can take are not only great but a reflection of what the heart and soul of this industry is about," said Frank Hugelmeyer, president of OIA. Hugelmeyer had initially expressed concern with the program when there was talk of outside evaluation of environmental practices. Outdoor Retailer responded by revising its strategy, and inviting all exhibitors to nominate themselves for participation based on broad and general parameters.

"We don't want to create a standard," Devin said. "We're not experts on environmental responsibility, but we know that it's an important issue in our industry and we want to do what we can to help raise awareness. It's an issue that's got a lot of tentacles, and they're all healthy."

Bringing green practices to the industry trade show and highlighting companies engaging in best practices was the brainchild of Scott Leonard, co-founder and marketing director of Indigenous Designs.

"As an industry, we're behind the curve," said Leonard. "There is a lot of growth in natural products in Action Sports, for example, but almost none in specialty retail. If any one industry should be synonymous with the environment, it's the outdoor industry."

Before the winter show, exhibitors will have the chance to self-designate their status as "green" by filling out a short questionnaire and describing the company's environmental initiatives. All green companies will be highlighted in green in the show handbook. Those companies that want to distinguish themselves as green on the show floor can also shell out some green ($500), which will make them a sponsor of Green Steps, aisle carpet overlays, and brief factoids that will be displayed in front of each environmental ambassador's booth. Those companies will also be listed in a new green category in the back of the exhibitor handbook.

Although complete details have not been confirmed, Outdoor Retailer has told us it is working on greening the industry party. "Winter Green" party planners are hiring caterers that use organic ingredients. They're buying socially and environmentally responsible beer, natural colas and fair trade coffee. And there is a rumor that the company Seventh Generation will supply recycled paper goods. The Winter Market trade show staff said it is also investigating ways to make the party more energy efficient. Indigenous Designs has already committed to sponsoring the party and Timberland may also step up to the (recycled) plate (sorry, we couldn't resist that one).

Indigenous Designs has rented additional booth space to serve as a clearing house for information and to provide a space to establish a display of green products. Indigenous Designs is also working to create a handbook of green products and companies. Outdoor Retailer has told us it is considering an insert in the Daily giving an overview of green companies as well as providing extra press coverage of green stories in the Daily.

There are also plans for meter boards to be displayed around the show hall illustrating where the outdoor industry falls on environmental issues.

According to Devin, the biggest challenge ahead for the Outdoor Retailer team is wrestling with how to conduct the show in the most responsible way possible, and dealing with the huge volume of waste created by the semi-annual event. The show's operations team is working with the Salt Palace, the City of Salt Lake and the State of Utah on these issues. Outdoor Retailer also put the challenge to Sporting Goods Business (SGB), which publishes the Daily, and asked that it research printing this year's Daily on recycled paper.

"We believe green is important to some retailers," Devin said. "Our role as show producer is to offer the opportunity for people to identify themselves as taking steps. We recognize that environmental responsibility is not the only issue, but we feel it is a good place to start. This is our first step."

Leonard said we all can take steps, and that no one is perfect, including Indigenous Designs.

"It's nice to be seen as a visionary, but there are plenty of areas where Indigenous Designs can improve too. Nobody here is on a pedestal. We're in this together, and we need to work together to realize our potential and get ahead of the curve," Leonard said.

OIA will participate in the greening of Outdoor Retailer, possibly through a speaker at the industry breakfast. According to Hugelmeyer, plans are not final.

Companies that wish to support Outdoor Retailer's green initiatives can contact their show account representative or email Leonard -- scott@indigenousdesigns.com.

SNEWS® View: We applaud Outdoor Retailer for following through on Scott Leonard's ideas by getting behind a high-profile green awareness program. We also applaud Outdoor Retailer for working with the Salt Palace, the city and the county to provide solutions to the vast amount of waste the show generates. Indigenous Designs, and Scott Leonard in particular, have shown vision, passion and commitment, and have taken that vision to ears where it can make a difference. We trust that "Green Steps" will provide a baby step to help industry companies reflect on their own business practices, and provide an opportunity for companies to learn from their peers how to better run a sustainable business that protects the environment and generates a profit. Much more, certainly, needs to be done. In the future, we hope that there will be a way for retailers to participate as well. And while the self-nomination process for being recognized as green sidesteps the issue of creating an industry standard for being green, we expect companies will self nominate only for the serious and significant steps they are taking or planning that reflect a true commitment to lessening their impact. Anyone who self-nominates who is not taking recognizable green steps will only place themselves in a precarious public relations position since everybody knows that recycling office paper and printer cartridges is no longer enough. We do look forward to the day when the industry establishes or endorses criteria for a green path. The outdoor industry should be the poster child for a green approach to business that is at the same time environmentally friendly, socially responsible and profitable. If not us, then who?

Note: SNEWS® is very committed to further the communication of the green message. To that end, we are establishing a monthly column called the "Green Scene" which will take a look at what our industry is doing well, what it can do better, and provide inspiration and ideas for establishing our industry position as the leaders in green for both preservation and profit. If you have ideas or issues you would like to see us discuss, send an email to:GreenScene@snewsnet.com.

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