WHAT'S HAPPENING NOW:
SUBSCRIBE TO MAGAZINE
Topics Magazine Find It Show eTrak FastTrak Certification Awards News Advertise
Topics
Exhibits
& Experiences
Exhibit
Design
Exhibit
Design Awards
Green
Exhibiting
Rental
Exhibits
Exhibit
Graphics
RFPs & Booth
Management
Small
Booths
Fabric, Flooring
& More
Technology
Case
Studies
editorial




 

"Statistically speaking, the average human has one breast and one testicle."
- Humorist and author, Des McHale

or the past six months, I've been on a statistical grail quest, hunting for a report issued by the Environmental Protection Agency that claims trade shows are the second biggest source of commercial waste in the United States. That sound bite has spurred discussion - even panic - as some fear the EPA report will put our industry in the eco-spotlight, resulting in environmental regulations that could cause tectonic shifts in how we do business.

I first read this startling stat in a Trade Show Week article from December 2007. A few months later, I heard it during a Peer2Peer Roundtable discussion at EXHIBITOR2008. By the time the statistic came across my desk in a press release last week promoting a new sustainable exhibit option, it had clearly reached critical mass. With so many people citing the same report, no one stopped to question its validity. But the commonly accepted stat did raise more questions than it answered: What was the No. 1 source of commercial waste? How did the EPA arrive at this finding? What other tidbits of information did the report contain?

To help get to the bottom of things, I began corresponding with the EPA in an unsuccessful attempt to locate the report. Next, I tried prodding a few folks who were propagating the stat. Several communications later, multiple sources tracked the statistic back to that same Trade Show Week article from December.

So I phoned Lisa Plummer, the freelancer who wrote the story, and my grail quest came to a screeching halt. The truth is, the alleged EPA report does not exist. In reality, the sound bite is an anecdotal opinion from a third-party source. Still, I personally witnessed dozens of people quoting this "fact" as gospel. Trade Show Week even issued a retraction in its March 3 edition, but as is often the case with retractions, no one seemed to notice.

So how did an unfounded, retracted statistic make its way to the moon and back without anyone questioning it enough to vet, verify, and validate it? Because when it comes to Green exhibiting, everyone - including EXHIBITOR - is hungry for answers and data. As the exhibition industry continues to trudge through what is, no doubt, an evolutionary progression to Greener exhibit pastures, there will be plenty of sound bites that will be easy to digest and regurgitate. But if we don't know where they came from or how credible they are, we walk a dangerous path.

Now I'm not pointing this out to put the kibosh on the Green discussion - nor am I doing so to embarrass Ms. Plummer (whom I can say from personal experience is a talented writer). I also don't mean to dispute the fact that our industry generates a tremendous amount of waste. My point is simply that we can't rely on sound bites alone or they'll end up biting us in the biodegradable ass.

The truth is, Green exhibiting is a tad scary on several levels. Many exhibitors are justifiably afraid of being perceived as Greenwashers, the majority of suppliers are unsure what constitutes a Green exhibit in the first place, and everyone's more than a little apprehensive about the sizeable initial investment it allegedly takes to go Green (a 26-percent premium, according to "An Inconvenient Booth"). And that brings us full circle with yet another statistic.

Ultimately, it's up to you to determine which stats and sound bites are worthy of being passed along. But in the words of author Rex Stout, "There are two kinds of statistics: the kind you look up and the kind you make up." Be careful which kind you cling to. Seek out sources you trust. And don't believe everything you read. After all, according to an EPA report, 89 percent of statistics are made up anyway.e


Travis Stanton, editor;
tstanton@exhibitormagazine.com



Share this article:
you might also like
FIND IT - MARKETPLACE
Banner Displays
Orbus Exhibit & Display Group
In-line Systems
Moss Inc.
Audiovisual Equipment
AV Dimensions, Inc.
Lead Management
ExhibitForce.com
>> More Products
courses
Join the EXHIBITOR Community Search the Site
TOPICS
Measurement & Budgeting
Planning & Execution
Marketing & Promotion
Events & Venues
Personal & Career
Exhibits & Experiences
International Exhibiting
Resources for Rookies
Additional Content
MAGAZINE
Subscribe Today!
Renew Subscription
Update Address
Newsletters
Advertise
FIND IT
Exhibit & Display Producers
Products & Services
Supplier to Supplier
All Companies
Compare
Jobs
Get Listed
EXHIBITORLIVE
Sessions
Exhibition
Networking
Certification
Get the Brochure
Exhibit at the Show
Registration
ETRAK
Sessions
Certification
F.A.Q.
Registration
FASTTRAK
Locations
Sessions
Certification
Sponsor
Registration
CERTIFICATION
The Program
Steps to Certification
Faculty and Staff
Reasons to Enroll
Enroll in CTSM
Submit Quiz Answers
My CTSM
AWARDS
Sizzle Awards
All-Star Awards
Exhibit Design Awards
Portable/Modular Awards
Euroshop Awards
Corporate Event Awards
NEWS
Associations/Press
Awards
Company News
International
New Products
People
Shows & Events
Venues & Destinations
EXHIBITOR News
© Exhibitor Media Group | The Leader in Trade Show and Corporate Event Marketing Education 206 South Broadway, Suite 745, Rochester, MN 55904 | (507) 289-6556 | Need Help? Ask Scott