Go Green at the ISSA Show in Chicago

Go Green at the ISSA Show in Chicago

Thousands of people will be descending on Chicago from around the globe for ISSA Show North America 2022 on October 10-13. The event will feature educational sessions, meetings between vendors and buyers, introductions of exciting new products and programs, parties, and just plain fun. 

However, an event this big can leave a large environmental footprint. This article is designed to provide some easy and fun tips for show participants to tread more lightly in four categories:

  • At the hotel
  • At parties, restaurants, and bars
  • At the convention center
  • While traveling.

Greening your hotel stay

 Adjust thermostats and open the blinds. The temperature in Chicago in mid-October typically reaches only the mid- to high-60s F during the day and will get down into the mid-50s F during the evenings. When leaving your hotel room turn the thermostat down so the heater isn’t running and open the blinds so the sun can heat the room. It will only take 15 minutes or so upon returning to get the room to a comfortable sleeping temperature and there is no need to waste energy while the room is unoccupied.

 Watch your room electricity use. As of March 2019, the state’s net electricity generation by source was 7% natural gas, 30% coal-fired (which produces the most greenhouse gas emissions of all energy sources), 54% nuclear (the highest rate in the nation) and 10% renewables. Upon leaving the room, take a few seconds to make sure all devices using electricity are turned off, including lights, televisions, radios, laptop computers, and battery chargers. This simple step will help reduce the needless waste of electricity. 

Reuse towels and linens. Hotels use approximately 25 gallons of water per day, per room for laundry operations, along with lots of energy to heat the water and to dry towels and linens. Water is a precious resource, even in Chicago which is located along Lake Michigan. Reusing towels and linens reduces both water and energy use. Certainly if the items are dirty, get them laundered.  But in most cases, they do not need to be laundered every day.  Hang them on the towel racks because if you leave them on the floor or in the bathtub, they’ll automatically get washed. 

 Practice other water-saving tips.  If a faucet drips just one drop every second, it would waste five gallons of water each day. While this may not sound like a lot, with thousands of convention attendees occupying thousands of rooms, it can quickly add up. So make sure to turn off the faucets, showers, and bathtubs. If your room has a problem requiring a plumber, take a moment to call the front desk and let them know.  The sooner they fix it, the less water that will be wasted.

 Greening your meals

 Eat and drink locally. Chicago is a great food town. When going out to eat and drink, consider a locally owned establishment where the profits are more likely to help the local community. And check-out the menus for local options for meats and produce, as well as beers, liquors, and other beverages. Supporting local businesses is good for our communities and it can be a fun experience. 

  • Make wise meat choices. Raising cows requires at least ten times more resources than chicken, poultry, dairy, or pork. Chicken, dairy, and poultry are relatively similar in their “environmental burden,” according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. But “beef requires 28 times more land, six times more fertilizer and 11 times more water compared to those other food sources [and produces] up to about five times more greenhouse gas emissions.” So enjoy your meal, but understand that your menu selection really does make a difference.
  • Eat Healthy. Sure it’s party time in Chicago, but don’t forget to eat your veggies and consider skipping the fried foods for healthier preparations. You may find that you really enjoy other options and there are plenty of them in Chicago. If you have never tried one of the new meatless options (i.e. Beyond Meat or the Impossible Burger) give it a try. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how indistinguishable they are from beef with a much lower environmental footprint. Plus, our midwestern farmers appreciate it.
  • Don’t Waste Food. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that as much as 40% of the food produced in the U.S. is wasted, representing approximately 133 billion pounds and $US161 billion worth of food. This includes losses on the farm and through processing, packaging, and transportation. However, a significant portion of loss—the portion we can control—is what we take and don’t eat. Enjoy the dinners and parties but be conscientious about what you take. And hopefully the restaurants and hotels are donating untouched food to food pantries.

Greening your show habits

  • Opt for electronic marketing materials. No doubt much of the marketing handouts given at tradeshows simply get thrown away. These paper materials have significant environmental impacts, even if the paper is sustainably harvested printed using green processes. Rather than taking a paper brochure, ask exhibitors to email you the information.
  • Use refillable water bottles. Refillable water bottles are a must at trade shows. Not only will they reduce the number of plastic bottles thrown out or recycled, they also help to keep your water cooler throughout the day as they are insulated. Plus, bringing your own refillable bottle will save you money as water, sodas, and other drinks can be expensive on the tradeshow floor.
  • Request reusable serviceware. When given the choice between washable and reusable plates, cups, forks, etc. versus disposable alternatives—choose the reusable option. Washing these items does involve water, energy and chemicals, but it has much less impact on the environment compared to the manufacturing of the disposable or even compostable options.
  • Ask exhibitors what they are doing to be more sustainable.  Many companies in the cleaning industry are doing great things relative to sustainability so ask them about it. If you are an exhibitor, be prepared to talk about what your company is doing. The mere act of talking about sustainability sends a clear message that the cleaning industry cares and more importantly, is making great strides towards reducing unnecessary waste and becoming a more sustainable industry.

Greening your transportation

  • Walk: Walk to McCormick Place, especially if your hotel is close to the convention center. Not only is it better for your health and the environment, but it will eliminate waiting in lines for buses, cabs and Ubers and it will save money.
  • Bus: Take the convention buses that run every 15 or 20 minutes. No need to deal with Chicago traffic or parking when the buses are so convenient and they are free! Plus consider sitting with someone you’ve never met before. It could be the beginning of a great relationship.
  • Ridesharing: Whether driving your own vehicle or taking a cab, Uber, Lift, etc., share the ride with others. If you were already prepared to pay for the ride, adding another passenger won’t add any more cost. Plus it distributes the environmental impacts across all passengers. And this unexpected act of kindness will surely put a smile on someone’s face.
  • Carbon Offsets: For those who really want to minimize or completely offset the carbon associated with traveling and hotel stays, consider purchasing carbon offsets which are offered by numerous airlines and travel sites. The money typically goes to planting trees or other habitat restoration projects, and new offsets are being developed where the money will go to local projects which offer a component of social justice, in addition to the environmental benefits.

Finally, when you leave your hotel, please consider leaving a gratuity for the housekeeping staff along with a note thanking them for keeping the room clean and healthy. Afterall, we represent the best of the cleaning industry and if we aren’t willing to support them, who will? Together, we really can make a difference.


Stephen P. Ashkin

President, The Ashkin Group

Stephen P. Ashkin is president of The Ashkin Group, a consulting firm specializing in green cleaning and sustainability. He can be reached at [email protected].

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