The Green Room

Working alongside sustainable events and businesses. AMA

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Meg Strahle has a decade worth of education and experience across the events, hospitality and tourism industry in the USA, UK and Australia.
She joined The Bulb in 2021 as the newest Sustainability Advisor and has worked on a variety of projects including creating the sustainability strategy for an interactive experience at COP26, supporting a global ISO certification process and producing the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion strategy to drive social sustainability for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games.

You can usually find her researching or thinking up ideas on how to best guide clients on their sustainability journey and talking about the importance of inclusion and accessibility.

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Hi @megstrahle, thank you so much for joining us today to host this AMA session!

To kick things off, here are some questions from me -

What did you do before you got into a career in sustainable consulting?
What made you start a career in consulting?

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Hi all! I am here and ready to answer any questions about sustainability, sustainable events, working as a consultant or my squiggly career! Feel free to ask as random questions as possible including thoughts around Circular Economy or unique materials that are up and coming - or what i’m reading these days.

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Hi Karla! Great questions.

  1. I have a very squiggly career (highly recommend listening to the talk on this by Helen Tupper and Sarah Ellis from 2021’s Tedx London Women’s event). Growing up I wanted to be a lawyer or a businesswoman and ended up going to university for Media Communications with a focus on journalism. I realized when I graduated I didn’t want to live in New York or LA where all of the jobs were and took some time off to work in retail. During that time, my neighbor was expanding her full service wedding planning business and needed help - and it was love from the first event. Over the ten years that have passed since, I’ve worked in events ranging from charity to high - end galas and studied hospitality, tourism and events with a Masters and a Masters of Research as i’d like to do a PhD in sustainable events one day. It wasn’t until early 2018 when someone said it was her generations fault that we were in a climate pickle, but it was our generations job to fix it, and it hit me that we needed an overhaul on how we do things and started striving towards a more sustainable future in the industry.

For the second question - I think I always knew I wanted to go into consulting as it’s my first impulse to help people reach their goals and I’m a big believer in education and sharing everything I can to make the world a better place! I actually didn’t know you could get into consulting for sustainable events until I met my amazing boss at The Bulb and I have loved every minute since joining nearly a year ago.

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That’s really great! I can relate to you in a way, as I graduated with a degree in journalism.

What do you think is the thing that those in the events sector are struggling with when it comes to being sustainable?

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Journalism majors unite! I think it’s such a transferrable skill as we are taught about storytelling and that is important around sustainability communications.

I think there are a lot of reasons that the event industry really struggles with being sustainable and I think the most pressing one is that in the day and age of social media, any mistake or mis-step can be blown out of proportion and amplified with a larger audience. These days, mistakes are judged a lot harshly and that can make people afraid to try if they don’t have the knowledge or resources to get it right the first time around. (We are only human! We want you to try.)

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Speaking of social media, how can people utilise it to spread the importance of being sustainable and avoid mistakes and mis-steps being blown out of proportion?

Also, we’d love to know more of what you do at The Bulb!

Hi Meg,

How can young industry professionals go about asking for change in the event companies they work for?

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I think the biggest thing with social media is ‘tone of voice’. We have to watch how we say things so instead of -

‘You don’t have a recycling system in place for your event! You are destroying the world! Do better!’

We should say

‘I noticed that at this event, you didn’t have a recycling system in place. I recommend X supplier and Y supplier to help you organize this for your next event’

A call to action (including links or emails to the supplier / website) is really important as if there is no call to action, taking that initiative in the moment won’t feel important as they have to take more steps to figure out how to connect with the recommendations.

Transparency is also important - owning up to your mistakes and sharing what you learned will help others learn from your mistakes and use your learnings to improve their processes. There is a huge community of Event Profs on LinkedIn and Twitter that will love this information.

At my role with The Bulb, I am essentially a Jack of All Trades! Most days you can find me researching solutions, new products, sustainable innovations, and even things like government policies that will impact an events sustainability. I also help with report writing, take client meetings, meet with suppliers to vet them, take the time to attend events that discuss sustainability and network - we can learn so much from other industries and people working in those industries. It’s hard work and some days are more nitty gritty than others but the bigger picture is giving everyone the tools, knowledge and a safe space to have conversations around what we can do better is what I’m always striving for!

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I think that tone of voice is definitely important! There are times when messages can get too pushy and overwhelming and changing that to something more educational is the way to go.

It sounds like you do a lot!
What strategies do you recommend event professionals implement to host more sustainable events?

Also, what do you enjoy about what you do?

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Hi Sasha!

This is an important question because we are seeing everywhere that the young are imperative and a force of nature for encouraging change to become more sustainable.

The first recommendation I would suggest is listen to what clients and event attendees are saying and jot them down. When you open the conversation, mention that you heard x and y client say this, and we can do A, B, and C to be more sustainable for next time.

Pay attention to all of the areas you feel that need addressing and research a more sustainable option to recommend. When there is a problem, we should always be ready to present a few solutions. One of the issues I’ve been noticing is the lack of lead time to make more sustainable decisions - by having those ready, you are able to interject and suggest a different solution.

Don’t be afraid to speak up either! We need more people to help already existing businesses to change their ways and don’t be discouraged when changing minds is hard - many people are set in their ways and aren’t sure about doing the heavy lifting.

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I agree! As humans we never want to feel like we are doing something wrong / get scolded, so I try my very best to avoid picking people’s choices apart and give them actionable solutions for the next time.

The biggest strategy I can recommend is to think about what you are going to do from the concept stage and have those conversations with your selected suppliers early. Sustainable planning is not a last-minute thing, we have to think about it right from the start to really get it right. Don’t be afraid to ask your suppliers to change how they wrap things in shipping to reduce plastic waste or to implement a zero-waste site build, meaning any rubbish they bring in, they have to take out with them.

I enjoy so much about my job! But I think if I could only choose one thing - is seeing a client or someone I had a conversation with utilize their learnings and change the way they do things. It means that the hard work that my boss Selina and I put in behind the scenes is working and it makes me really proud.

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Thank you! How did you go about finding a role in sustainability?

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Thank you so much! Sustainable planning is definitely not something that you can plan last minute and takes time.

What up and coming innovations are you looking forward to seeing this year?

What advice can you give those who may be interested in going into a career in consulting?

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It was actually fate that I came into this job! I always stress the importance of networking and connecting people with others / opportunities. Someone saw the job posting and said I would be the perfect fit for it and the rest is history.

I do think that with sustainability in events - it’s challenging because large consultancies (ie: EY) focus on hospitality and tourism. I didn’t know that a sustainable events consultancy could be a career until I started in my job and met a few people in this space. You can go down the freelance route as some people I know who work in sustainable events are always picking up projects, work for a business who prioritizes sustainability, or carve your own space in your job to be the go-to for events and sustainability (do send me an email and i’ll connect you with a few people I met / follow on LinkedIn for sustainable roles).

I always talk about networking - people typically genuinely want to help and share what they know. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone that you think is really amazing and ask them for a conversation. At events, i’m always connecting with someone new on LinkedIn with a message to remind them who I am / what we spoke about at events and I find that someone will always know someone.

I follow Dezeen’s newsletters and they’ve shared a lot of really cool material innovations that will replace what already exists that is unsustainable. There are so many small up and coming material designers that are inventing really cool things. I think people always think “sustainable events = boring bamboo plates” and we have to show them that it can be really cool and innovative. There are also more conversations around Circular Economy in design and I geek out a bit on that and am excited to hear more.

My advice would be that you really need to love research and have patience - consulting can be hours of research to find a solution that works for everyone involved. Try to practice report writing and spreadsheeting! I’m terrible at math and coding so excel is not my best friend but I constantly try to learn to improve.

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I will check out Dezeen! It’s really great that more and more things are being created now and I look forward to seeing them too.

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That’s a wrap folks!

Thank you so much @megstrahle for giving us some great insight to what you do! You are doing a fantastic job in helping shape the industry to be more sustainable. We cannot wait to see what else you have to do.

If you have any more questions, please feel free to reach out to her here - megan@thebulb.eco

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Thank you so much for having me! Please do reach out with any questions at all, I’m always happy to talk to anyone and everyone to geek out over events and sustainability :slightly_smiling_face:

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