Kudos to Eric Wallinger & the IMEX Green Dream Team!

IMEX, meetings
Eric Wallinger is shown here with Lorraine Kalayanaprapruit (center), facilities & sustainability manager of the Sands Expo, donating food to Veterans Village’s Wendy Grant (left).

The IMEX organizers have always been committed to sustainability, each year releasing a report outlining the results of their green efforts—and setting an example for the entire industry.

Heading up this year’s effort is Eric Wallinger, director of sustainability at MeetGreen, whose founder Nancy Zavada is one of the industry’s leaders in greening meetings. Eric worked hand in hand with the IMEX Champions, who deserve equal credit for their tireless efforts: Dale Hudson, Milda Salciute, and Roger Lehner.

Here’s a synopsis of what they accomplished at the October show, and a full report will be released soon:

No Straws

This was the first year IMEX America went straw free. (Compostable straws were available on request, but very few were used). Based on 9,500 cold drinks sold during IMEX America, and some Google research that a standard straw is 7.8 inches long, IMEX saved 1.17 miles of straws/single-use PET plastic.

New Lids

They also sourced, for the first time, straw-free compostable lids for both hot and cold drinks. They fit all sizes of hot and cold cups. This dramatically simplified green procurement for a show of IMEX’s scale, with 12,000 attendees every day for four days.  

Plastic-free Catering Menu

All items Sands prepared were served in 100 percent compostable packaging, including a compostable pizza box.

Sustainable Decaf

IMEX piloted the serving of Fair Trade Sustainable Decaf. In other years, the regular blend had been sustainable, but not the decaf.

Clean Plate Challenge

118 student future leaders cleaned their entire plates (took only what they could eat) during the second annual Future Leaders Forum Clean Plate Challenge.

Recycled Lanyards

Show organizers captured 2,566 participant badge lanyards for donation.

Less PVC

This was the first time the show used PVC-free floor decals.

Recycled Banners

200 vinyl show banners were captured and donated, to be used in making vinyl handbags.

Local Sourcing

IMEX’s catering goal is to source 50 percent of the menu regionally (within 500 miles of Las Vegas) to cut down on carbon.

Skip the Bottles

More than 20 exhibitors took part in first-ever IMEX America “Refill Movement” by sponsoring a water bubbler in their booths to help cut down on single-use plastic water bottles.

Recycling at Booths

This was the first time the show piloted a dual-bin recycling system for each booth.  


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Barbara Scofidio is editor of Prevue and heads up the Visionary Summits, our exclusive conference series targeting senior-level meeting and incentive planners. In 25 years of covering the industry, her articles have spanned topics ranging from social media to strategic meetings management. She is currently the media liaison for FICP's Education Committee and was the first member of the media ever to be invited to sit on a committee by GBTA, where she spent three years on the Groups and Meetings Committee. She has also been an active member of Site, chairing its Crystal Awards committee and acting as a judge. A familiar face at industry events, Barbara often leads panel discussions or speaks on topics close to her heart, such as green meetings or how the industry can help combat human trafficking. She is also on the board of ECPAT USA, the human trafficking organization. Barbara is based outside Boston, in Groton, Mass.