HFB show going green: Are you doing your part?

You may find yourself talking trash when it comes to the Health & Fitness Business Expo -- garbage, that is, and more specifically, how to reduce it.
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You may find yourself talking trash when it comes to the Health & Fitness Business Expo -- garbage, that is, and more specifically, how to reduce it.

"Statistically, the trade show industry is in the top five trash-producing industries," said Cindy Hare, VNU operations director. That's why VNU is spearheading the Green Steps program and trying to raise awareness at and lessen the impact of its sports and fitness group trade shows, including the Health & Fitness Business show.

VNU's Green Steps initiative was launched at the winter 2005 Outdoor Retailer show in January. There, VNU and its partners secured wind power credits to run the show, served organic food and drink on paper products that contained a high percentage of post-consumer recycled material, and asked vendors to self-nominate as green companies to draw attention to the environmental impact of the outdoor industry and to subsidize the wind power purchase. VNU is now taking aspects of the OR Green Steps program to HFB, as it will eventually to its other four sports and fitness shows before the program spreads slowly to several dozen other shows it runs.

"Our two main objectives for the Health & Fitness Business show are securing wind power credits and initiating comprehensive recycling," said Hare. The VNU turbine is spinning, but, as Hare and her team have learned, buying wind power credits has different rules and regulations in each state, and VNU is still in the process of working out the details for the HFB show in Denver, Colo., in August.

Tackling questions of environment at the Health & Fitness show is a bold move for VNU since it not traditionally an interest that has as much awareness of or concern for the environment as others do, such as outdoor.

"For us, environmental activism is not on the radar," said Ed Banasky, Fitness Master's sales manager. Though Fitness Master shreds its office paper and reuses it as packaging, it's not driven by the environmental credo of "reduce, reuse, recycle," but because it saves Fitness Master money. The company doesn't have a recycling program in its office or warehouse because at its headquarters in Farmer's Branch, Texas, according to Banasky, companies that want to recycle have to pay the city for the privilege.

"The environment is not something we talk about at Fitness Master now, and it's not an issue that's come up since I've been in the industry, which is over 20 years," Banasky said, voicing what many in the industry would likely say. "It may be in the future. Right now, we don't have any indication that our environmental impact is an issue or that it is important to our end consumer."

Baby green steps
For the fitness show, then, it's baby steps, with VNU doing its part in pre-show business, such as sending out the registration packet on CD, as well as suggesting to companies other ways they too can reduce waste and conserve resources.

"I like the idea of the trade show sending out the registration packet on CD," Banasky said. That step alone, the online VNU exhibitor information explained, conserves 50,000 pieces of paper, providing each exhibitor doesn't print out the packet in its office.

Companies that walk the line between the fitness market and the wellness market seem to have more environmental awareness. Beth Gibbs, sales and marketing director at Stott Pilates, a Canadian company that is new this year to the Health & Fitness Business trade show, said her company does what it can to reduce its environmental impact.

"I think it's really important to consider the environment, no matter what industry you're in," Gibbs said. "If we don't deal with it now, we'll have bigger problems down the road. I think in fitness we are linked strongly to wellness, and the environment is an issue that as an industry we should be considering."

Stott staff members are currently setting up internal task forces to consider topics such as charitable giving, and Gibbs said that the environment could certainly become a topic to be considered.

Program awareness nil
Neither Gibbs nor Banasky was aware of VNU's Green Steps initiatives for the Health and Fitness Business show. This may be because the show has not yet drawn attention to the first steps to kick-off a Green Steps program at the fitness show. Information is included in the Exhibitor Service Manual, but at this point exhibitors would have to pay attention to find it.

Lack of awareness in the fitness industry, however, has not put a damper on VNU's efforts. Though it's focused on show floor recycling and wind power credits for this summer's show, Hare said it is also researching using recycled carpeting with its partner, GES, and will work on continuing education on the importance of going green with its exhibitors. In the current Health and Fitness Business Exhibitor Manual, VNU has included a Green Terms list, a list of Green Packaging and Shipping Product Manufacturers, and a list of suggestions for companies that want to increase their environmental responsibility. Click here to go directly to it.

"I was shocked to learn how much waste trade shows produce," said Lance Camisasca, VNU group show director. "Changing our practices is the right thing to do. I'm excited and proud that we're taking steps, and that comes from the heart."

SNEWS® View: With the fitness industry showing little or no awareness of green initiatives as an industry, VNU may feel as if it's talking to a wall this first year. But we do hope it keeps up the efforts. Certainly recycling and conservation is becoming a part of daily life (more or less, depending on what area of the country you live in), so there's no reason why it shouldn't slip into industry life too. We understand why the outdoor consumer -- and therefore the customers -- would care more from the start since they interact with the outdoors and the environment as a part of what they do. But to be a good global citizen, it's time to wake up and think globally and that means thinking green.

Steps don't have to be big to start. Even recycling day-to-day garbage is a good start, just as recycling all those bottles and cans at the show is one small step (consider getting a water cooler for your booth, instead of handing out individual bottles, and use recycled paper cups for customers). Companies too can think about what and how much they print. Put materials on CDs so users (be it rep, retailer or journalist) can print out only what they need and refer to the rest on the CD. The information on the website cited in the story, above, is a great reference to getting the ol' brain thinking about what's possible. We encourage all to take a look. Even if the end consumer doesn't seem to demand green initiatives, isn't it time to introduce them to the concepts, force them to think about them, and for companies themselves to demand green initiatives?

We applaud VNU for taking this bold step and hope it continues to offer itself not only as gatekeeper but also as an educator. Now, for the fitness community, it just needs to better publicize its efforts and, if you will, strong-arm the industry a little to jump aboard. As a global trade show leader, VNU is well-positioned to educate manufacturers in multiple industries worldwide, including fitness and health, on best goods and practices, while leading the charge to bump the trade show industry lower on the list of garbage-producing industries.

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