Every month we shine the light on an Event Greening Forum member who is making noteworthy achievements in their event greening efforts. This month we feature sustainability consultant and the founder of Steadfast Greening – Grace Stead.
Q. WHEN AND WHY DID YOU START TO DEVELOP AN AWARENESS ABOUT SUSTAINABILITY, AND A DESIRE TO CHAMPION IT THROUGH YOUR WORK?
While working as a town planner for the municipality, I was asked to coordinate the Local Agenda 21 Program, which is the UN program for sustainability focusing on local governments. It started off a side project, but I soon realised that everything we do needs to be more sustainable. I did a lot of community based work in the townships at that point, and also developed the first draft of the green building guidelines. In 2006, I got involved with the ICLEI World Congress (Local Governments for Sustainability) where I was responsible for event greening, leading to starting up Steadfast Greening to promote sustainability with a focus on the events industry.
Q. AS A SUSTAINABILITY CONSULTANT, WHAT ARE YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGES? AND WHAT’S YOUR SECRET WEAPON TO OVERCOME THEM?
The biggest challenge I find is that people agree what needs to be done, but simply don’t do it. I find that by making it personal and helping people to understand what they can do, and why, it encourages people to do things differently. The second big challenge is that the small number of people who are driving sustainability often get “burnt out” because they are constantly swimming against the stream. A big portion of my time is simply spent on encouraging people to keep fighting the good fight, as I am seeing the difference and believe that we are making an impact.
The biggest challenge I find is that people agree what needs to be done, but simply don’t do it.
Q. WHAT KEEPS YOU MOTIVATED AND OPTIMISTIC ABOUT THE WORK YOU DO, IN SPITE OF THE SCALE OF MANY OF THE SUSTAINABILITY PROBLEMS WE ARE FACING (LIKE CLIMATE CHANGE)?
I believe we can and do make a difference and that keeps me motivated. It is the small wins that help to keep me on track, while I am also very aware of the bigger threats that face us. Ironically the Eskom blackouts or current severe drought are levers that we can use to push people to change their habits. It is only when we face severe problems that we really change the way we do things and understand why it is critical.
Ironically the Eskom blackouts or current severe drought are levers that we can use to push people to change their habits. It is only when we face severe problems that we really change the way we do things and understand why it is critical.
Q. WHAT WAS THE REASON THAT YOU TEAMED UP WITH JUSTIN HAWES MORE THAN TEN YEARS AGO TO ESTABLISH THE EVENT GREENING FORUM?
I had already established Steadfast Greening and was working as a sustainability practitioner in Cape Town trying to engage with the events industry. Although I knew I could add value, I found it difficult to convince the industry of the value-add of event greening. Justin, on the other hand, had knowledge of the event industry and could see what I was trying to achieve, so we decided to join forces in getting an industry body off the ground that could drive change. We started by engaging with the different associations and eventually managed to get enough buy-in to establish the EGF and the rest is history, as they say.
Q. WHAT ONE PIECE OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO BUSINESSES IN THE EVENTS INDUSTRY?
If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. It is essential to understand what the impact of your actions are, as this will help to determine if you need to continue or revise your strategy. Through measuring your successes (and failures) you will be able to make an informed decision about your next steps based on facts, and it helps with target setting.
Q. WHAT IS THE MOST USEFUL TOOL (NETWORK/APP/DEVICE/EQUIPMENT) THAT HELPS YOU EVERY DAY?
Google. Well, I have changed over to use Ecosia as a search engine because they use ad revenue from searchers to plant trees, but I do use the internet as a quick and easy tool for all kinds of information.
To find out more about Grace, you can view her LinkedIn Profile here.
To learn more about Steadfast Greening, you can view its EGF member profile here.