An Eco-Friendly Way to Repurpose Exhibit Foliage

After the 2022 New York International Auto Show crossed the finish line, 1,000 plants used in its exhibits were donated to local organizations to help green all five boroughs of New York City.

Author: Casey Gale       

plants at subaru exhibit

Subaru of America dotted their display at the 2022 New York International Auto Show with scores of plants that were later donated. Subaru has provided support to more than 100 national parks as a sponsor of the National Park Foundation.

The automobile industry has been focusing on making more eco-friendly vehicles. And at this year’s New York International Auto Show, held April 15–24 at the Javits Center in Manhattan, the event itself followed the industry’s lead by making New York City a bit more leafy. The show worked with one organization, GrowNYC, to spread the thousand plants that filled Subaru’s exhibit and dotted the show’s sprawling electric vehicle test track around New York City’s five boroughs once the convention wrapped up.

Mark Schienberg

Mark Schienberg

“For Subaru, part of their whole marketing approach has always been, even going way back, a lifestyle-type of company,” Mark Schienberg told Convene. Schienberg is president of the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association, which produces the show. To reflect the company’s values, Subaru created an exhibit filled with live plants and foliage — described by Mark Lacher, dealer principal at Koeppel Subaru, as “an incredible interactive wilderness experience” in a press release.

“They probably could have done it with artificial flowers and plants, but that would’ve been the opposite of what they were trying to communicate,” Schienberg said, which is “the idea of sustainability and being considerate to the environment.” While Subaru’s exhibit — which showcases its relationship with the National Park Foundation as its largest corporate partner — travels from one show to the next, the plants don’t often hold up well in transit. Instead, Subaru team members often look for ways to donate the display foliage to local organizations.

“For us, it has been our philosophy for a long time to minimize the amount of stuff we throw out, to minimize the amount of paper and garbage that has to be picked up and brought to a landfill,” Schienberg said of the New York International Auto Show. At Subaru’s request, the event partnered for the first time with Grow NYC, the largest environmental organization in New York City that, in part, builds and rejuvenates community and urban farms throughout its boroughs. Between Subaru’s exhibit and a 250,000-square-foot indoor electric vehicle test track containing live plants, the event was able to have all the foliage distributed to more than 25 community groups including community gardens, churches, housing associations, and outdoor greening associations, as well as 15-plus senior centers, which received indoor plants “to bring joy to their residents,” said Mike Rezny, assistant director of green space programs at GrowNYC, in a release.

“Community gardening and local farming are both important steps in improving — as well as bringing awareness to — a more sustainable city,” Rezny said, “and we thank Subaru and the New York International Auto Show for their generous donation.”

“We wanted to make sure that after the show,” Lacher said, the plants would go “to good homes. Supporting so many community organizations as they help promote sustainability across New York City is a great thing to be a part of and it fits perfectly with Subaru’s core values.”

Schienberg hopes the initiative encourages others in the trade-show industry to make similar efforts. “It’s a good message in general to say you’re not just folding up your tent and moving on — you’re actually thinking about what you’re leaving behind. I think it’s what we all need to do in thinking about how we’re interacting with the environment. You can put on a great exposition,” he said, and promote good corporate social responsibility.

plants donated to NY boroughs

The plants from the New York Auto Show found homes in all five city boroughs.

Greening the City

Organizations like GrowNYC do more than create community green spaces. The organization, founded in 1970 in the spirit of the first Earth Day, offers programs in addition to building community gardens, in which more than 3 million New Yorkers participate each year. Among them: making food scrap and textile collection easy for better waste reduction, providing access to healthy, fresh foods through farmers markets, and offering education to 70,000 children each year to help provide meaningful interactions with nature.

GrowNYC also hosts complimentary online events, including a beginner gardener intensive series, virtual garden and farm tours, and virtual roundtables, including “Building Emotional Resilience Against Climate Distress.”

Casey Gale is managing editor at Convene.