By Stephen P. Ashkin

More than 16,000 people from around the globe will be descending on Las Vegas for the annual ISSA Show North America, November 18-21.

[If you haven’t registered for this important industry event, do it now at]

The event schedule promises great educational sessions, meetings between vendors and buyers, introductions of exciting new products and programs, parties, and the enjoyment of spending time with friends in Las Vegas.

However, an event of this size comes with a large environmental footprint. Read on for easy tips to help us tread more lightly at ISSA’s flagship event.

1 | Greening your hotel stay

Heating, adjusting thermostats, and opening the blinds

The temperature in Las Vegas in November typically reaches only the mid to high 60s Fahrenheit during the day and goes down into the mid-40s Fahrenheit 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 about 15 minutes upon returning to get the room to a comfortable sleeping temperature, and no energy will be wasted while the room is unoccupied.

Room electricity use

Many people mistakenly believe that Las Vegas gets “clean” electricity from the nearby Hoover Dam when in fact most of it comes from burning natural gas. Upon leaving the room, take a few seconds to make sure all devices using electricity are turned off. This includes lights, televisions, radios, laptop computers, and battery chargers. This simple step will help reduce the needless waste of electricity.

Water and energy savings with 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 dry towels and linens. Considering Las Vegas is in the middle of a desert, water use is a big issue for the city. Reusing towels and linens reduces both water and energy consumption. If the items are dirty, have them laundered—but in most cases, they do not need to be laundered every day. Be sure to hang them on towel racks; if you leave them on the floor or in the bathtub, they’ll automatically be taken to get washed.

Other water saving tips

If a faucet drips just one drop every second, it would waste 5 gallons of water each day. This may not sound like a lot, but with more than 16,000 convention attendees occupying thousands of rooms, it can quickly add up. Make sure to turn off faucets, showers, and bathtubs. If the problem requires a plumber to make repairs, take a moment to call the front desk and let them know. The sooner they fix it, the less water will be wasted.

2 | Greening your eating and drinking

Eat and drink locally

When going out to eat and drink, consider a locally-owned establishment where the profits are more likely to help the surrounding community. Check out the menu options for local 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 experiment.

Make wise meat choices

Raising cows requires at least ten times more resources than raising chicken, poultry, dairy, or pork. Chicken, dairy, and poultry are relatively similar in their “environmental burden,” according to a study published in 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 it produces “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 Las Vegas, but don’t forget to eat your veggies and to substitute the fried foods with healthier preparations. You may find that you enjoy other options—and the city offers plenty. If you have never tried one of the new meatless choices, such as Beyond Meat or the Impossible Burger, give them a try. You’ll be surprised at how indistinguishable they are from beef, with a much lower environmental footprint.

Don’t waste food

Some estimate that up to 40% of the food produced in the United States is wasted; that’s approximately 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food. While this encompasses losses from the farm, processing, packaging, transportation, and from the food left on the table, a significant portion of it, and importantly, 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 banks.

3 | A more sustainable convention

Opt for electronic marketing materials

As much as two-thirds of marketing handouts given at trade shows are simply thrown away. These materials have a significant environmental impact from the paper on which they are printed, even if it was sustainably harvested and was printed using green printing processes. Rather than taking a paper brochure, have the exhibitors email the information.

Refillable water bottles

Refillable water bottles are a must at trade shows. Not only do you reduce bottle waste by refilling them, but they are more insulated than regular bottles and keep water cooler throughout the day. Every second in the United States, more than 1,500 plastic bottles are discarded, most of which end up in landfills. It is estimated that manufacturing all these plastic bottles requires more than 900 million gallons of oil annually. Plus, bringing your own refillable bottle will save you money—water, sodas, and other drinks can be expensive on the trade show floor.

Reusable serviceware

Given the choice between reusable plates, cups, and cutlery and disposable alternatives, choose the reusable option. Although washing these items consumes water, energy, and chemicals, the environmental impacts are much less than those associated with manufacturing the disposable or even compostable options.

Ask exhibitors what they are doing to be more sustainable

In the past few years, the number of S&P 500 companies, universities, commercial real estate organizations, retailers, hospitals, and others publishing sustainability reports has substantially increased. Many companies in the cleaning industry are also doing great things—ask them about it. And if you are an exhibitor, be prepared to talk about what your company is doing. Simply discussing sustainability sends a clear message that the cleaning industry cares and, more importantly, is making strides toward reducing unnecessary waste and becoming a more sustainable industry.

4 | Transportation while in Las Vegas


Choose to walk, 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 and cabs and will save you money.


Take the convention buses that run every 15 or 20 minutes. There’s no need to deal with Las Vegas traffic and parking when the buses are so convenient—and they are free! Plus, consider sitting with someone you’ve never met before and use the time to network.


Take the Monorail. It leaves every four to eight minutes and you can buy a four-day pass giving you unlimited rides for only $30.60. Although this is more expensive than walking or taking the convention bus, it is still less expensive than other alternatives. From an environmental perspective, it is much better than taking a car.


Whether driving your own vehicle or taking a cab, Uber, or Lyft, share the ride with others. If you were already prepared to pay for the ride, adding another passenger won’t add any cost, and it distributes the environmental impact 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. In fact, new offsets are being developed where the money will go to local projects, which offers a component of social justice in addition to the environmental benefits.

Finally, when you leave your hotel, please remember to leave a gratuity for the housekeeping staff along with a note thanking them for keeping the room clean and healthy. Together, we really can make a difference.



Why Going Green Matters at Your Next Tradeshow by Shane Shirley. Trade Show News Network, March 6, 2014.

Raising Beef Uses Ten Times More Resources Than Poultry, Dairy, Eggs or Pork by Rachel Nuwer., July 21, 2014.

Stephen P. Ashkin is president of The Ashkin Group, a consulting firm specializing in green cleaning and sustainability, and CEO of Sustainability Dashboard Tools LLC, for measuring and monitoring sustainability with the goal of protecting natural resources and reducing facility operating costs. He is considered the “father of Green Cleaning,” is on the board of the Green Sports Alliance, and has been inducted into the International Green Industry Hall of Fame (IGIHOF). He can be reached at