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Interview: Johnny Lance, co-director of the Showman’s Show shares their journey to improve event sustainability year-on-year

Vision: 2025’s Sustainable Event summit will return to The Showman’s Show in October 2023 for its eighth edition. The team at the Showman’s Show have hosted the Vision: 2025 conference from the outset, helping to promote sustainable solutions throughout the industry. In this interview we speak to Johnny Lance, co-director of the Show about their own journey to improve the event’s carbon footprint year on year, and what inspires him to lead the charge. Johnny highlights some of the sustainable suppliers and innovations he’s excited about hosting at the Show this and shares their progress in measuring and reducing emissions and impacts in the key areas of power, transport, waste and food.

QU: The Showman’s Show has always been keen to pioneer and showcase sustainable solutions for the event industry. What motivates you to keep on creating a more sustainable event?

Personally, I have always had a passion for nature and the environment, I think it comes from growing up in the countryside. As an event, it’s important that we keep in step with the industry that we serve and the importance of delivering events sustainably is no longer a nice to have, it’s essential for the long-term health of our sector and planet.

QU: What area of sustainability do you feel most strongly about tackling?

Right at this moment, I’m guessing that like many events, it is tackling the carbon emissions associated with the event. Whether this be from transport to and from the event by our suppliers and visitors, or the emissions produced at the event from power generation. I am also keen to stay on top of minimising the waste the event produces.

QU: Vision: 2025’s first connection with the Showman’s Show in 2012 was to help organise an area dedicated to showcasing sustainable solutions for suppliers. What sustainable suppliers are you excited to welcome to the show in 2023?

When Chris Johnson first organised a ‘Green Zone’ at the Show to showcase sustainable ideas and suppliers in 2012, I remember discussing that the ultimate goal was not to have a specific ‘Green Zone’ but to see every company exhibiting at the show have some sort of sustainable offering, whether that was a specific product, service or simply how they operated as a business in general. 11 years on, with engagement in sustainability vastly improved across the nation, I’m confident that the majority of our exhibitors are now doing something to either bring a product or service to the market or tackle their own impact.

With 4 months still to go until the Show, are only halfway through the booking process so don’t have a full list of what we will have onsite this year. However, I can point out a handful of sustainable offerings that have already booked in but this is by no means an exhaustive list!

  • UK manufacturer, BishopSound will be showcasing its new solar-powered pro audio amplifier for festival and outdoor event companies. ‘The Green Wave 4,000W RMS, 2-channel solar powered amplifier can run for eight hours on a single charge.
  • After making their debut at the show last year, we welcome back instagrid and their portable power solution. I love this product for its portability, multi-industry uses and a perfect replacement for the small petrol and diesel-powered generators.
  • Having tested the market back in 2021 at The Showman’s Show, PEEQUAL and their women’s urinals are returning. They are going from strength to strength. I love this product because of their attention to detail in the design. Their patented flat pack design allows multiple units to fit into an articulated. Manufactured in Britain from recycled sea plastic and sugarcane biopolymer that can be reshaped when damaged.
  • Direct Acoustics, along with their sound proofing lining for temporary structures and marquees also offer a thermal solution. This simple solution to insulate temporary structures to regulate the temperature saves on heating, or cooling, and resulting with less fuel and energy used.


QU: Last year you worked with your power supplier to increase energy efficiency and power the show with a combination of mains power and generators run on Green D+ HVO fuel. How did that go?

Since we started making a concerted effort to tackle the show’s impact in 2014, we have managed to reduce our fuel consumption by over 50%. We use the limited grid connection onsite for the event build and break down and then switch to generated power when the bulk of exhibitors move onsite, this is usually on the Monday before the show opens. We then continue to use the grid connection to power site offices, crew camping and catering areas. Overnight the Exhibition Hall switches back over to the grid which means we don’t need to leave the generators for this area running all night. Despite the sky rocketing cost of Green D+ HVO in 2022, we continued to use it in all our generators and tower lights in combination with finding efficiencies to counteract the increased costs. We did this by delaying when we switched on the site generators by a day and a half and switching them off as soon as possible after the Show had closed; saving nearly 200 litres of fuel. We communicated this change to our exhibitors in the lead up to the event. If exhibitors need to charge tools and equipment, we provide a free charging point which is connected to the grid for them to use.

Over the years, we have made simple changes to decrease the power demand, installing LED lighting in the Exhibition Hall and increasing the natural light in the hall which has also naturally increased heat in the hall putting less demand on the heaters. Since making this change, and with increased monitoring of the heaters by the supplier, we have almost halved the fuel consumption used by the heaters in the exhibition hall. In 2021 we also switched to fully electric buggies, which are recharged using the grid connection, cutting out a further 300 litres of fuel. The Showman’s Show’s registered offices also run on a 100% renewable energy tariff.

What do you hope to implement in 2023 to further improve?  

The technological advancements in battery storage powered tower lights are such that we plan to switch over to them completely for this year’s event. A fully charged tower light will last long enough for our lighting needs.


QU: The Showman’s Show describes itself as a zero waste to landfill event. Can you tell us how you engage with stakeholders to minimise waste and use the use the recycling bins and skips provided.

During Show days we provide plenty of clearly marked bins onsite for recyclable materials such as glass, plastic, metal and paper alongside a general waste bin. Our waste supplier has their own waste facility and hand pick through our waste to reclaim as much as possible which then goes into their recycling stream with anything they can’t recycle going to Waste-to-Energy. Most of our waste is wood, from things like pallets, carpet from exhibitor stands and mixed recycling (metal, glass, paper and cardboard). All of which our waste supplier puts into the recycling stream. All the carpet used in our exhibition hall is collected by the carpet supplier and recycled.

  • We provide skips at the exit of the show clearly marked for wood, metal and carpet for exhibitors to use on build and breakdown.
  • We have a sustainability policy that we ask our exhibitors to view and consider and we offer some actions for them to take: From considering what promotional materials they use and recommending suppliers that can assist.

The nature of our event means that the majority of exhibitors are producing marketing materials, or building exhibition stands, that they’ll be reusing at other events, so we don’t see the same amount of brand associated waste.

“Our exhibitors are a resourceful bunch and I think it has become obvious that it makes good business sense to reuse as much material as possible when it comes to exhibitions.”

Overall, the amount of waste produced at the show has been dramatically reduced from just over 17 tons back in 2014 to just over 5 tons in 2022, of these 4 tons were recycled and the remainder went to Waste-to-Energy.

QU: Were there any materials you couldn’t recycle?

There are always some materials we can’t recycle, things like coffee cups and catering serveware waste. Or when someone puts the remains of a hog roast a recycling bin which ruins a recycling waste stream. We do try and prevent this happening by giving everyone who is serving food a separate food waste bin.

QU: What do you hope to improve in 2023?

Last year we worked with Green Goblet and trialled using their reusable coffee cups. Green Goblet provided our café with the cups and spread collection bins around the showground. This worked really well and we are expanding this this year and they are providing more cups and in different sizes so the café can continue to provide ‘small’ and ‘large’ drinks.


QU: The Showman’s Show encourages visitors to use scheme and public transport where possible with a free shuttle bus from Newbury Station to the Showground during the show open days. In addition, the team balance their staff, crew and visitor travel miles with charity ecolibrium, making a donation that is invested directly into clean renewable energy. What works well about your sustainable transport plan?

This is a great question. In all honesty the ‘travel’ aspect to our event is one of the harder points to tackle. I’m not sure if anyone uses the GoCarShare platform for our event. We have it on our website and market it to at least get visitors and exhibitors to consider car sharing whether it be through the platform or share with their colleagues. We do know that a lot of visitors and exhibitors do travel in groups as it makes good business sense saving on fuel and mileage costs. The free shuttle bus we provide from Newbury station works well and has done for many years.

QU: Do you have any new measures planned for 2023?

We don’t have any new measures concerning travel this year, however in 2021 we made the decision to balance the travel miles of our visitors, staff and crew and have now incorporated this into our annual budget. We have been encouraging visitors and exhibitors to do this themselves over the last few years through the registration process, however we have found that there has been limited take up. As we know how many vehicles there are onsite, per Show day, and know roughly where they are coming from with information from our registration system, we can make a good estimate of the miles travelled and make a donation to ecolibrium.

This year we have also reviewed our onsite crew and office complex and have managed to cut out one office unit which will save on transport.

Food and catering

QU: In a bid to minimise single-use plastics on the showground, you actively encourage staff, crew, exhibitors and visitors to bring along a reusable water bottle and coffee cup and offer free drinking water fill up points at the show’s catering points. You encourage caterers to use reusable or compostable cutlery and ask exhibitors to do the same.

We don’t have stats on how much has been removed, but I can say that all the catering providers are no longer using single-use plastic cutlery and serve ware. 

QU: Do you have a plan for food waste? Do you know what % of packaging and/or food waste was successfully composted last year?  

We do have separate food waste bins around the catering areas and supply exhibitors serving food with a food waste bin. The catering exhibitors also make food to order, limiting food waste from their outlets. The organic food waste collected is then removed by our waste contractor and added to their food waste pool at their waste sorting depot and sent off to an anaerobic digestion facility. It is difficult to give you an exact weight of how much food waste is collected from our event however our contractor can say it is in the kilograms.

QU: Do you have any food standards in place e.g. organic, fairtrade, local?

When looking at our own catering areas we do favour suppliers that have addressed their environmental impact in some way i.e., using reusable service ware and packaging, minimising and recycling their waste, and offering sustainably sourced menu with plant-based options etc.

QU: What are your new plans for food sustainability this year?

This year we have a new local caterer called FINK Street Food, who are a social enterprise breaking down the stigma around mental health alongside being a sustainable food trader finalist at The British Street food awards. They will be serving up their delicious Mediterranean menu alongside The Duck Shed, who were with us in 2022. The Duck Shed was the first street food stall to sign up to Plastic Free City London. Their dishes are cooked fresh and made to order so food waste is minimal to zero. They also use the whole duck so nothing is going to waste!


QU: How are you tackling water consumption and the associated waste at the Show?

We set out to reduce our single-use plastic at the show and a big win is cutting down on bottled water. We provide free drinking water points around the showground, strategically placed at the catering outlets so it is easy for visitors and exhibitors alike to spot them. It’s definitely becoming much more common place for people to carry a reusable bottle, so for us providing free drinking water is a must.

QU: Do the toilets you use have a water saving element – if so please let us know which you use and why.

50% of our mobile toilets are compost loos and use no water. For the visitors and exhibitors that would prefer not to us a compost loo, the other 50% are recirculation toilets, fitted with water saving taps. The toilet supplier has in fact adapted to taps to make them even more efficient by only allowing water out when the tap is pushed and held.

Recording emissions:

QU: You use the Creative Green Tools from Julie’s Bicycle to record and monitor carbon impacts. What is the greatest challenge in terms of collecting data ?

Because of the nature of our event, we collect data from our visitors and exhibitors attending the show through the registration process. We know how many people attended and where from and we also know how many vehicles are onsite during show days and how many vehicles and deliveries are used by our crew and contractors. However, as our exhibitors are responsible for building their own stands and organising their own suppliers, it is very hard to monitor and collect data of the transport involved with this aspect.

QU: What is the benefit of recording emissions and how has the data helped inform your future strategy for sustainability?

The tool has been really important in identifying where the show has its biggest impact. It has also been really reassuring to see the incremental improvements we have made translate into reductions in emissions. We understand that we are not perfect and there is always room for improvement, which is what we strive to do each year. This is an open invitation to anyone who has an idea or suggestion which will help us on our journey to net zero to get in touch.

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This article originally appeared in our June 2023 Vision: 2025 newsletter. Sign up to receive monthly event sustainability news, case studies and guest blogs direct to your inbox.