The Big Gear Show, the new hardgoods-centric hike, bike, and paddle event launching in Salt Lake City this summer, has a very bold sustainability plan, aiming to be a zero-waste show within three years.

In terms of waste management, trade shows have a lot of challenges. “Trade show facilities are essentially constructing a small, temporary city, which they have to tear down and rebuild again every three or four days,” says Kenji Haroutunian, who knows a thing or two about trade shows. Haroutunian was the show director at Outdoor Retailer for seven years, and now he’s brought those skills to his role as Outdoor Show Director at The Big Gear Show (BGS).

Creating a zero-waste show entails managing a million moving parts, says Haroutunian. From working with the facilities to the exhibitors and attendees to all the service providers, achieving that goal will require a great deal of cooperation. And lots of communication.

“As we build this show from the ground up, we’re looking really closely at all our sustainability opportunities, and we feel cautiously optimistic about reaching zero waste in three years,” says Haroutunian, who says it’s much easier to build a strong sustainability ethos into a new event. “We’re lucky because we don’t have to break any old habits.”

It doesn’t hurt that the Salt Palace is a Silver LEED-certified building that generates 17 percent of the power they consume through a vast solar array on the roof. Or that the Palace (as well as its in-house food and service providers) have achieved Level 1 APEX Certification from the Events Industry Council, which is the gold stamp for green event.

On top of that, Haroutunian says that BGS will require all catered booth happy hours to purchase reusable drink cups to benefit local and national outdoor recreation organizations, which is a huge source of waste at shows in our competitive set, where many brands still rely on the single-use plastic, compostable cups for their events. BGS also intends to incentivize exhibitors who support sustainability initiatives and roll out a host of other innovative plastic and sustainability solutions as the show approaches.

“We’re excited to be working with the Plastic Impact Alliance,” says Haroutunian of the year-old coalition of more than 360 outdoor companies who have committed to working to eradicate single-use plastic from the outdoor industry. “The momentum of this new organization is just proof that the outdoor industry cares about our collective footprint,” he says. “We look forward to working with the PIA and all its members to make sure that our event reflects the sustainability ethos of our industry.”

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