Knight Errant


f you read EXHIBITOR magazineís research report ďAn Inconvenient Booth,Ē you may have noticed what I consider an interesting anomaly that might change in bright light as fast as New Hampshireís vote for Hillary. It has to do with Green certification.

Figure 11 of the Executive Summary charts exhibitorsí responses to a question about the factors that would be most likely to influence their adoption of Green options. According to the data, the top two factors are 1) a viable upgrade over traditional solutions; and 2) if management has a personal interest in Green exhibiting. Further down the list in the number six slot you find certification ó solutionís Greenness is certified in some objective way.

Ours is not an industry of standardization. Every general contractor has its own set of forms, which forces exhibitors to endlessly duplicate workorder effort. Lead-capture systems vary widely from show to show. And union rates and jurisdictions from city to city leave everyone guessing. In such an environment, can we reasonably expect a Green exhibit certification program to be developed and adopted? The answer depends, to a large extent, on our ability to tolerate chaos and ignorance.

Today, nobody knows what Green really means ó no common standards exist. Each client and supplier provides its own definition to its own satisfaction. To date, the number of reported exhibit-related Greenwashing incidents is almost nonexistent, but this could quickly change as the pressure from management to find Green exhibit solutions continues to grow.

In the very broadest sense, certification is a proxy for trust. It replaces the need to define how the product or process performs with a new confidence. Itís Green because an officially sanctioned body of responsible and accountable people say it meets mutually agreed-upon standards. Such certification would become a Green Housekeeping Seal of Approval, if you will.

Furthermore, certification simplifies your life. An Underwriters Laboratories (UL) tag dangling from an electrical cord assures you that the device meets certain safety standards, and you barely think once, let alone twice, about safety issues. You assume, and rightly so, that the tool you just bought is designed to operate safely even in the face of operator neglect and abuse, and a general level of active stupidity. In that respect, certification is a good thing, a prophylactic against our dumber nature.

As the search for Green options gets increasingly complex, certification will come to be seen not only as useful but necessary for the wider adoption of those eco-friendly alternatives. Why? Because most regular folks just want a Green exhibit. They donít want to spend their days trying to unravel the mysteries of Green materials. Most consumers have little or no interest in evaluating the pros and cons of so-called Green products, no matter how vital that information is to saving the planet. They want someone else to do that and report back. Itís what we call certification. And simplicity.

Green exhibiting is just beginning to grow, and with it issues like certification. If you happen to be at EXHIBITOR2008, you can explore more than 50 companies in the exhibit hall that are offering Green exhibiting options. While youíre there, ask them about certification. Do they subscribe to the idea? Do they think itís a good approach? Who do they think should provide it? Then stop by the Exhibit Designers and Producers Associationís (EDPA) booth. They are working on a project to establish Green certification standards for designers and fabricators. Ask them the same questions. Let them know how you feel.

By this time next year, I suspect that Figure 11 will change, and certification will move from sixth place to third or fourth among the factors that influence exhibitors. By then, the need will become clear, and understanding the difference between what is and is not Green will be certifiably simple. e

Lee Knight, editor in chief;


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