Blog : In an Industry Where Waste is Rampant, Vector5 a Green Beacon

By Jim Cavan | Jan 6, 2014 | in

Walk into any large trade show or expo, and the thought is liable to cross your mind: Once the party’s over, what happens to all this stuff?

It’s a question the folks at Vector5, which recently completed an official “sustainability evaluation,” are working hard to address.

Launched in 2006 by four Massachusetts entrepreneurs – who between them touted more than five decades of combined experience – the Fitchburg-based Vector5 stands today as the Bay State’s premier tradeshow display company, providing materials and strategic consulting across industries and sectors.

From marketing and graphic design to building services and production capabilities, Vector5 suite of skills combines industry expertise with a distinct, customer-driven approach.

But while a successful tradeshow display can often mean the difference between bustling crowds and traffic passing by, one side effect in particular had proven vexing for Vector5 and others in what Founder Buddy Miller describes as “a pretty wasteful industry”: A lot of superfluous materials.

“It’s been the elephant in the room for our industry for a while now,” says Miller. “So we decided a few years ago to start exploring and pursuing ways to mitigate that as best we could.”

In 2012, Vector5 joined Green Alliance (GA), a Portsmouth, New Hampshire based company that certifies and promotes sustainability-minded businesses, while connecting them to the region’s ever-growing green consumer base.

The partnership wasn’t completely without a green grounding, however. From offering eco-friendly and recyclable graphics and display materials to LED booth lighting options and efficient transportation strategies, Vector5 as already well on their way to setting an enviable curve within their industry.

But when the time came to conduct the GA’s Sustainability Evaluation – a 20-part questionnaire designed to lend an element of transparency to both consumers and the business itself – Miller and his team weren’t quite sure of what to expect.

“Just by virtue of what we knew about our industry, I wasn’t expecting us to do very well,” recalls Dawn Perkins, Partner and Sales Representative for Vector5. “Obviously we knew of the various green things we were doing. The question was how much were we neglecting.”

But the Evaluation, conducted on site and with both Miller and Perkins present, yielded some pleasant surprises: EnergyStar-rated industry equipment, minimal water use, giving excess wood to employees to use in their home woodstoves, a comprehensive recycling program, donating booth materials for use BaileyWorks bags – myriad things long taken for granted ended up weighing considerably on Vector5’s overall green score.

Even the company’s signature product – VectorpaK™, a custom 10-foot self-contained display Vector5 principals endearingly refer to as “a booth in a box” – was lauded for its compact design and efficiency-friendly transportation.

With the benefit of hindsight, Buddy Miller is able to see just how deeply rooted his company’s green ethics have been.

“Sometimes we drive the employees nuts with how much attention we pay to waste,” Miller says. “It’s pretty common for us to stop each other and say ‘don’t throw that out!” when we know something can absolutely be used down the road.”

For a company seeking a sharp, sleekly rendered tradeshow presence, such commitments – while noble – would seem to risk compromised quality.

Miller says that’s simply not the case. In fact, many materials can be reused or reconstituted so as to look like they just came off the graphic printing press.

“We look at it as one more element of creativity that we can wield,” says Miller. “Most companies like ours in Europe, for instance – they don’t do this. They would just assume throw everything away and start from scratch.”

Not only does Vector5’s commitment to recycling help their green street cred; it also helps bolster something equally important to their clients: the bottom line. That transparency, in turn, helps Vector5 retain clients at a higher rate.

“If can offer our client a new crate for x amount, or a used one for less than half, a lot of time’s they’ll go for it, because we can actually save money by reusing and recycling,” Miller explains. “In other cases we’ll credit an old client’s account if a new client decides to reuse the old client’s materials. Which happens quite a bit.”

When all was said and done, and after factoring in many hitherto neglected green initiatives, Vector5 ended up tallying a 7.85 out of 10 on the GA Sustainability Evaluation – good enough for “Bud,” the organization’s second highest rating.

The score might have caught Miller, Perkins, and the rest of the Vector5 team pleasantly off guard. But the months that followed also found them more eager to sound their own sustainability siren.

“I think we’ve developed a new appreciation for what sets us apart from our competition,” says Dawn Perkins. “And I think going through the green evaluation has given us different ways of talking about it.”

Rest assured, however, that language of Vector5 will remain steeped in one specific mantra: letting the booth speak for itself.