I do Declare. That’s a great green tradeshow idea!

If your exhibit booth could talk, what would it say? What story would it tell?

How would it answer these three questions: Where did it come from? What is it made of? And where does it go at the end of its life?

I’ve taken on a new project recently that has me thinking a lot about these three questions. Wading into the technical details of exhibit booth materials has me craving a simple nutrition-style label for tradeshow booth construction. Something that would allow an exhibitor to easily understand, mindfully purchase and declare their sustainability credentials simply and transparently.

Something, well, like this:


In 2012 the International Living Future Institute launched Declare, an ingredients label for building products. The simple and elegant label was recently integrated into ILFI’s unConference tradeshow in Seattle, where all commercial exhibitors were vetted for inclusion in the Declare database. Although intended to improve transparency about building products being showcased, it struck me how the idea also has appeal for exhibit booth construction itself. In the least it’s attractive in its disclosure of what ILFI refers to as Red List items.


The Red List  refers to materials that are “worst in class” for builders. Bad stuff to be avoided wherever possible. It includes materials such as asbestos, formaldehyde, CFCs, phthalates and PVC, to name a few. Suffice it to say that most trade show booths today would fail to be “Red List Free” based on use of the latter alone, PVC being found in everything from vinyl banners to tabletop coverings, name badges and kiosk hardwalls.

In today’s world bring completely Red List free is a difficult task. Difficult because design limitations may impede a builder’s ability to find alternative materials.  But therein lies the attraction: by communicating worst in class materials and rewarding those who eliminate and minimize use of them we can help to catalyze change, and innovation. Until the point when maybe, one day, our buildings and booths can be truly Red List free.

And that would be an awesome thing.

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