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Ask Mr. Green
Q.
Is it Greener to use PowerPoint to present graphics on big monitors or to print graphics on exhibit walls?

A.
This is a conundrum that nobody can solve. I certainly can't, because the research on benefits vs. harm has never been done. But that doesn't mean we're stuck – not by a long shot!

The Tradeoffs
Video screens use energy, yet newer LED monitors use a tiny fraction of the electricity that their predecessors required. We've seen horror stories about electronics recycling in poor countries, yet responsible e-waste recycling is now widespread in the U.S.

On the other side of the coin, graphic fabrics are made from oil, printing paper comes from trees, and printing requires energy and pigments. Yet, the list of Greener materials has grown too long to enumerate.

You can update video graphics endlessly without causing much environmental harm. The same can't be said for printed materials, yet trees are renewable, whereas TVs incorporate precious elements that do not regenerate.

So it's a genuine dilemma, and it's impossible to resolve. Nobody can honestly tell you which approach is Greener. So let's find a Green strategy by accepting this reality.

Let's start with your brand and marketing goals. What do they require? Are your presentations mostly intimate demos for one or two customers? Or, do you need to make a bold splash from several aisles away? What does your marketplace demand?

Your answer will depend on your needs, so pick the technology that delivers the performance you need. Then, go about it in the Greenest possible way.


What Do Printed Graphics Do Best?
Static graphics set the tone and establish your identity, and they express messages at a glance. Their static nature makes them constant reminders of these important themes. And visitors absorb all this instantaneously, not over time.

This tells us two important things. First, prints can reach everybody, not just the people who choose to engage. Second, they are good at presenting long-lasting themes.

Why not use them that way? Why not focus printed graphics on themes that will last for an entire season or more? Their timeless nature will conserve resources.

Then, select Green production techniques. The options range from substrates made of recycled soda bottles to panels made of sawdust and resin to vegetable-based inks to a host of other things that can deliver a big impact to attendees with less cost to nature.


What Do Screens Do Best?
If printed graphics deliver at-a-glance messages, what do video screens do well? For one thing, they add the time dimension. Video graphics can move and tell stories. Images and ideas can unfold. While this rarely happens at a glance, a well-produced video is almost impossible for people to ignore.

Video-based graphics are much less successful when they present static graphics. People are accustomed to seeing motion on video screens. Static video tends to turn people off.

Picking Green screens is easy: just look for the Energy Star label. It's as simple as that. Today, most Energy Star monitors use LED technology, which, happily, delivers the most striking images too.


Use It and Use It Well
As always, the Greenest choice is the one that delivers the marketing performance you need. Either technology can be used to its best advantage. When you use them that way, picking the Greenest details is easy. E



Tom Bowman, president of Bowman Change, Inc., helps businesses prosper in a clean economy. Tom chairs the Exhibit Designers and Producers Association's Sustainable Exhibits Leadership Committee and is author of the critically acclaimed The Green Edge. He has won numerous awards for developing and implementing successful green business practices at Bowman Design Group, a firm he founded in 1988. tom@bowmanchange.com.


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