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Review, Reimagine and Rethink? That phrase might cause some head scratching and you will need to read on a bit to understand what ‘Re:’ means. 

Whether we agree or disagree, whether we like it or not, we are all beginning to realise that we have to take action to address the issue of climate change. You can talk about it, you can go on demonstrations but what are we all actually going to do about it? Our governments are doing very little and the promises of being carbon neutral by any specific date are fanciful at best. The choices made by by individuals and by companies are going to be the key drivers of change. It’s up to us – each individual – every company.  

A simple example about choice and how quickly we can move is that if you offer somebody a car and that they have the choice of diesel, hybrid or electric, we now know that the least likely choice will be diesel. That would not have been the case five years ago and gives grounds for optimism that we can collectively turn the climate situation around if we put our minds to it. The choice has nothing to do with government policy or finance.  The choice is made because business has recognised the need and developed the product in the knowledge that the consumer will choose it on environmental grounds. In fact, it is now acknowledged that business is moving far quicker than governments. It involves the least amount of personal sacrifice with a healthy salving of conscience! This may seem to be a cynical statement but it is a fair reflection of human nature. Be thankful that something is happening rather than nothing. The more concerned environmentalist will of course challenge this premise because of the environmental footprint of the car itself, but in the end, we all have to move step by step to a new way of being. Without hard core environmentalists pushing the way they have done recently, the issue would not receive the attention that it deserves.  

The first part of ‘Re:’ is Re:view. We need to explore what we can all do to start making changes. Time to Re:think and Re:Imagine

As organisers of the ABTT Theatre Show, we have implemented a few initiatives recently. The lanyards that we use are being reused after being handed in on departure last year and the passes are made of recycled card. Small steps indeed but we have downsized from size 9’s to 8 and a halves. We are going for a bigger footprint reduction in 2020! 

We have reviewed this word recycling. Recycling has become a regular part of our lives where we consider that we have done our bit for the planet by separating recyclable stuff out from landfill. Dig a little bit deeper and the truth of what goes on in the use of resources in the creation of the product to be recycled and the resources used to recycle it does not make for good reading. How much recycling is shipped overseas for processing? If it is recycled; what does it become and how is it used? What about the stuff that should be recycled, which isn’t recycled? Recent documentaries by Liz Bonin and David Attenborough portray a really dark picture. Recycling is not quite what it seems. Consider the moves being made with take away supermarket carrier bags, coffee cups and plastic water bottles. Consider also that continuers of material for recycling are heading back to the UK from Malaysia! Recycling is a nonsense if you didn’t need to use products in the first place.  

Exhibition carpet is a classic. It is single use. Significant resources are used to manufacture it. It is transported several times and it is sent for recycling. We do not know what is becomes or what it is used for but what we do understand is that is a pretty cavalier use of energy and resources. We have decided to stop using it. If exhibitors wish to use carpet, we will point them to a sustainable and reusable solution. On the other side of the coin, modular shell scheme, truss, drapes and furniture all tick the boxes. It’s time to really question ‘single use’. 

Think laterally. In our industry, carpet can be floor canvas. Carpet could also be scenic floor paint, but we think that there are a few practical issues here! We are now working with J&C Joel to provide a solution where the exhibition hall aisles are constructed with modular strips of scenic floor canvas. Using velcro to join the network of strips together and tape to secure it to the floor, the floor canvas will be reusable until it is completely trashed. We can even turn it upside down. When unusable, we only need to replace it strip by strip. 

So far we have Re:view, Re:cycle and Re:use. When you start thinking about ‘Re:’, the words start coming. Repurpose, regenerate, reinstate, remodel, retrofit and so on. We want to encourage all exhibitors to contribute to this initiative so that ideas can be shared across the industry. No matter how small, no matter how insignificant the idea might be, everyone needs to understand that it all makes a difference. We all know that technology moves at lightning speed but what happens to the gear that has been superseded? Re:use? Re:purpose? Have you removed single use products wherever possible from your place of work? Have you developed new processes as part of your sustainability strategies?  

Exhibiting used to be about how flashy and successful you appear to be. Ego marketing. Taking it back to basics, exhibiting is all about communication. How can we communicate successfully whilst addressing the new challenges of sustainability? What is absolutely predictable is that those not embracing change will start to stick out like a sore thumb. We are all in a new era of change because we sat on our hands for too long over the past thirty or so years.  

Visualise the exhibition hall. We start, literally, with a blank canvas. Early ideas are that we could engage with the world of scenic design and create something extraordinary. We could use the canvas for graphics. Stencil logos and spray paint? Suggestions are welcome !  

Some of the companies exhibiting at The ABTT Theatre Show have worked enormously hard on environmental and sustainability policies. For the size of our industry, we are about to have a disproportionate impact on the world of exhibiting. Please contribute any thoughts, suggestions or other ideas on our Facebook page. 

Any exhibitors wishing to use carpet on their stands should start here:  Recommended products are Tarkett Stratos, Grain and Linon. We have a contact who is going to look after us. Please get in touch if you need his details. 

It is indeed interesting how quickly humans can adapt. As already illustrated, diesel cars and recycling were the ‘new’ and represented progress. Somehow, we got to sit on our laurels for just a bit too long though and the need to get a wiggle on has become imperative. To help you understand where we should be heading, have a look at this: 

… or you could ask yourself a searching question? ”Did I really need it in the first place?”