Making Sustainability Easy

Author: Cristi Kempf       

Julia Spangler, Owner, Sustainable Events LLC

Education

I grew up in a small town in the Midwest and was looking for a small-college experience, but in a bigger city with plenty of opportunity. I found this combination at the University of Indianapolis. I had always been interested in both computers and art, so I studied visual communication design.

My First Industry Job

My first exposure to the events industry came when I took a position as a graphic designer in the communications department at Protective Insurance. I discovered that the department was also responsible for planning seminars, banquets, relationship-building events, and more. Over time, I became more interested in the overall event-planning process, and particularly the opportunities I saw to reduce the environmental impact of the events.

What I Do Now

I help organizations and event professionals reduce the environmental impact of their events in order to preserve our planet and deliver great guest experiences. My services are currently focused on recycling, composting, food-waste prevention and donation, and floral donation, as well as sustainability consulting, training, and education.

My Favorite Thing About My Job

Being able to effect real change and advance the conversation about sustainability in the events industry. I’m located in the Midwest, and there’s still a lot of room to improve our region’s performance when it comes to waste and other environmental practices. I love helping people figure out how to turn their personal concern for the environment into practical programs for their organization.

Most Influenced in My Career By

My parents and sister are both entrepreneurs. Seeing their examples throughout my life definitely gave me the courage and vision it took to start my own business. And a couple of years ago, when I was focusing more intently on my personal blog about ethical and sustainable living, I was a member of a group called the Ethical Writers Coalition (EWC). It was inspiring to be part of a community of people who were creating their own brands and businesses, each with a core focus on effecting positive social and environmental change. The projects produced by members of the EWC helped me to think about what it means to be successful as well as sustainable, and how those concepts work together and support each other.

What I Learned From My Biggest Professional Mistake

My biggest mistakes have hinged on me making assumptions or thinking I know the answer to something I actually don’t. That’s why I’m a big believer in over-communication, asking questions, and keeping detailed documentation. And any time something doesn’t go according to plan, I determine the root cause and make a note of it so I can adjust and make the next event even better.

My Next Big Career Goal

My goal is to make sustainability an easy process for every event. There’s a huge opportunity for event venues to overhaul the industry by putting sustainable practices in place and making them the default for every event held there. I would love to expand my work with venues and thereby multiply the rate of change in the industry.

My Advice for Young Meeting Professionals

I encourage you to look at the industry with a critical eye and identify ways to improve it. Your perspective as a new professional is incredibly valuable, but it will fade over time. Make notes of repeated or systemic issues you see and brainstorm solutions. Identifying issues will help give you a unique point of view as a meeting professional and developing solutions will give you an opportunity for differentiation and success.