Your guide to crafting green expo stands | The Planner

Keen to have a sustainable exhibition stand but don’t know how to go about creating one? Relax, Chat’r has you covered with these simple but effective steps.

For most of us, transitioning into a more sustainable way of doing things is a slow and fraught process. But this isn’t the case for Chat’r Xperience, a boutique brand engagement company that specialises in designing and building green exhibition strands and marketing activations.

John Arvanitakis, CEO and founder of Chat’r and vice chairperson of the Event Greening Forum, is passionate about driving sustainable adoption in the exhibition industry and has made it look easy with his own business. Since committing to ‘going green’ as recently as 2022, Chat’r has signed the Net Zero Carbon Events pledge (to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050) and has been pushing the boundaries of traditional exhibition design with innovative ideas and solutions.

Recognition has followed, including a Best Green Event EXSAllence Award for the Exxaro Sustainability Summit 2023, an off-grid event in Lephalale, Limpopo, which included an exhibition component.

John says, “Many people think sustainability is hard, or expensive, or has inferior results. I’m out to prove them wrong!” In this spirit, he is sharing simple but effective ‘how to’ tips for designing and building more eco-conscious exhibits.


Green design

The sustainability of an exhibition stand is largely determined by one decision: will it be re-useable? Once-off structures are resource intense and wasteful, sending valuable materials to landfill after, at most, a few days. Instead, the green standard is to design robust, module structures that can be re-used over time, whether as a single structure or as elements that can be used interchangeably like LEGO®.
As an example, Chat’r recently used eco-board to create a poster display for the University of the Western Cape. The team is now transforming it into an alternative for shell scheme booths – a staple component at most exhibitions, so it will get a lot of use in the coming years.

Green procurement

Several eco-friendly materials are now on the market, and Chat’r has been quick to adopt eco-board for many of its designs. Eco-board has numerous environmental benefits: it is made locally, largely from recycled paper waste, and is fully recyclable. It can be assembled and dis-assembled quickly with fewer tools, making re-use easier. Plus it packs flat and is lightweight to minimise its transport-related carbon footprint.
And it doesn’t end there. Graphics can be printed directly onto the board using eco-friendly inks, ensuring it is free of chemicals and VOCs (volatile organic compounds).
However, creativity is a cornerstone of sustainability, and as such Chat’r has also embraced several other materials to work with, from upcycled cardboard cores used in the wall of a pavilion at Meetings Africa 2023, to raw wood structures for the exhibitors at the Exxaro Sustainability Summit 2023.

Reduce your landfill waste

The rubbish we throw away doesn’t literally go away. It sits in landfill and creates several environmental problems, from the methane emissions of rotting organic waste to the leaching of chemicals into groundwater, and more.

For this reason, it’s better to divert waste from landfill and ensure our resources are re-used, re-purposed, and recycled in an endless loop (i.e. a circular economy). Luckily, if you have followed step 1 and 2, chances are you will have already achieved this!

By way of example of how effectively waste can be minimised with a sustainability mindset, Chat’r could fit all the waste created from the Total Energies custom stand build at NAMPO Cape Expo 2023 into a single small bag. (See the photo for proof!)

Reduce your energy use

South Africa’s coal-supplied energy is a substantial climate change culprit, so it goes without saying that using less electricity is more sustainable. How can you do this? From smart design choices (e.g. harnessing natural lighting) to smart operations (e.g. turning unneeded appliances off) as well as using energy efficient technology (e.g. LED lighting and screens), you can significantly cut your energy demand.

If you need help creating an exhibition stand or marketing activation that will positively impact your target audience without negatively impacting the environment, call John on +27 (0) 83 415 2774 or, or visit