Editor’s note: Renowned anthropologist Dr. Jane Goodall has said of the climate crisis, “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” With that in mind, we are dedicating the November/December edition of Convene fully — our first single-topic issue — to the climate crisis, and what the business events industry is doing to address this global challenge. Find stories from the Climate Issue here, and read our cover story, “A ‘Watershed Moment’ for Events — and the World.”
Meg Strahle has studied on three continents, earning an undergraduate degree in the U.S., a Master’s of Tourism, Hospitality, and Events, Business, in Australia, and a Master of Research in the U.K. And she’s not done yet — Strahle has set her sights on earning a Ph.D. in sustainability and events. She is currently working for The Bulb, a U.K.-based consultancy focused on helping businesses and events on their sustainability strategies.
Strahle shared with Convene via email how she is combining her love for travel and events to create a meaningful career working around the world to create sustainable experiences.
Please tell us about your educational background.
Education is a big part of my journey. I went to Rider University in New Jersey and got a degree in media and journalism. Then a few years later, I went to University of Surrey in the U.K. and got a MSc in international events and worked my way towards University of Queensland in Australia to get a Masters in tourism, hospitality, and events. The pandemic sped up my goal to get a Ph.D. and I just completed a research year at University of Exeter in the U.K., investigating the potential of using sustainable events to connect sustainability at host destinations.
How did you first become interested in events, travel, tourism, hospitality?
Right after I graduated from undergrad, I realized that I didn’t want to work in media and took some time to figure out what was next. My neighbor was a high-end, full-service wedding planner and brought me on as an assistant and it was love from the first event! I always loved event design, experiences, and traveling and didn’t realize that you could do it as a job until she brought me on!
What was your first job, and how did it lead to your next?
My first-ever job was a summer camp counselor. I then worked in retail for a number of years before graduating from my undergrad. I always tell my students and young professionals that no matter what job you have, you will learn skills that you can bring to your next job and I learned how to navigate customer service, multi-tasking, team-work, and so much more that I use in my job today.
What are other roles you have held?
I’ve had a fun journey for nearly a decade studying and working around the world. I’ve worked as an events associate for charities and large events, front of house for catering, content creation for social media, and as a teacher’s assistant teaching undergraduate students an introduction to tourism, hospitality and events.
How did you become interested in sustainability as it relates to the travel, hospitality, and business events sector?
I was always unintentionally interested in sustainability in terms of how events impact host destinations, but it wasn’t until 2018 where my professor at the University of Queensland said, “It was my generation’s fault that we are facing a climate change crisis, and it’s your generation’s job to ensure that every decision you make prioritizes sustainability.” It really spoke to me and ever since then, I have been working towards research around sustainability in the tourism, hospitality, and events industries. We have a long way to go!
What is your current job?
I work as an assistant sustainability advisor at The Bulb. We work with event agencies, large sporting events such as the Commonwealth Games, and NGOs on sustainability strategies for their business and events, how to engage participants, and social sustainability strategies including diversity and inclusion. I do a lot of research behind the scenes to support Selina Donald, the chief sustainability advisor on the best strategies.
What are your goals in the next few years?
I have many! I think the most important few is to keep learning and improving. I would love to get back into teaching and one of my long-term goals is to get a Ph.D. surrounding sustainability, events, and the impact it has at host destinations but that’s not for another few years yet.
What advice would you give your colleagues about how to go about planning more sustainable events, beyond ticking off a list of obvious solutions like having water stations rather than individual plastic bottles of water, that will have a lasting and meaningful impact?
I could go on about environmental sustainability, but one aspect that is often missed in planning a sustainable event is planning for social sustainability. What this means is looking at the impact your event has not just on the attendees, but also the surrounding community it is hosted in.
Are your events and team diverse and inclusive? Are you making it accessible for everyone and all disabilities including invisible disabilities? True sustainability can’t happen without accessibility, diversity, and inclusion.
Michelle Russell is editor in chief at Convene.