Intel Geekfest Goes Green

Hardware developer event reduces eco footprint.

There’s nothing like a big tech conference to generate mountains of paper, plastic and trash and Intel’s developer forum in San Francisco is no different. But behind the scenes, the company has been quietly “greening” the event that will draw thousands of hardware developers.

In an effort that began several years ago, Intel is living up to the philosophy to reduce, reuse and recycle whenever possible. A few years ago, Intel trucks that haul tons of demo equipment and exhibit booths began using special hydrogen injectors that save an estimated 53 metric tons of carbon emissions, according to event organizers. In 2010, 400 messenger bags were made from the 5,500 square feet of vinyl banners that hung from the rafters in the West Hall of Moscone Center. IDF organizers stopped distributing water bottles in 2008 and switched to coolers that have saved an estimated 43,583 bottles in the four events since. Even the carpeting and displays are reused. At least 95 percent of the materials used for the exhibit booths inside the 97,000-square-foot IDF Technology Showcase are repurposed.

It turns out that the City of San Francisco had a little something to do with this — a 2009 city ordinance mandates recycling. As a result, more than 86,000 pounds of materials from the trade show have been recycled, composted or donated rather than ending up in a landfill, according to measurements issued by Moscone Center.

Lead by example is the attitude of Lou Cozzo, who helps manage Intel’s corporate events. “We’ll share some fun facts with attendees at IDF again this year, letting them know how they’re contributing to our sustainability efforts, but our focus is to execute, track, measure and report out after the event to show improvements cycle over cycle,” he said.

When it comes to trade shows engaging in environmentally friendly practices, measurement often separates the players from the posers.

“Not all events that focus on sustainability actually measure results, and when they don’t there could be a wrongful assumption that an event is green when it really isn’t,” said Shawna McKinley, director of sustainability for MeetGreen, a Portland, Ore.-based green meeting management company that has worked with Intel since 2009.

Reusable Water Bottles

This year, IDF organizers plan to build on the success of the water cooler program by issuing reusable insulated tumblers to attendees that are projected to eliminate roughly 10,000 coffee cups in addition to the reduction in water bottles.

Mobile technology will also help reduce paper use. IDF organizers will introduce a mobile app this year designed to wean attendees off their main source for event information to date — the paper pocket guide. This year, the pocket guide will get a full printing of 5,800 copies on 100 percent recycled paper but the plan is to cut that by two-thirds in 2013 with the goal of going paperless in 2014 (as will the IDF events in Beijing and Sao Paulo).

“Many people don’t like to come to a show to learn they’re completely cut off from their No. 1 source of printed information, so we’re transitioning over the next few IDFs to reduce that jolt,” said Deidre Rippy, IDF operations manager.

Last year, the technical session survey went all electronic. Attendees completing the questionnaire via their mobile device saved 36,000 sheets of paper. Event organizers are expecting similar results with the upcoming event.

The sustainability efforts have become so ingrained in the event that the event team no longer does much to publicize them. “Now that green is embedded in what we do, we don’t actually call it out much anymore,” said Marc Wallis, program manager of the event.

“I respect companies that don’t show off to the extreme, whether it’s for a trade show or part of their corporate makeup,” said Michelle Holmberg, Northern California Chapter president of the Professional Convention Management Association. “These are the ones who are doing green the right way and being consistent.”