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Green Leader Q&A #28: Selina Donald, founder of Sustainability Consultancy The Bulb

Selina founded The Bulb in 2015 to champion sustainability and legacy in the Live Events Industry. Selina has been part of high-profile projects including the London Olympics 2012 opening and closing ceremonies, England 2018 World Cup Bid, COP, the Rio Olympics 2016, #March4Women, and in 2022 she led the sustainability strategy for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies achieving truly ambitious sustainability policy and performance goals. Read her answers to our monthly Green Leader Q&A below:

1. What is the proudest sustainability achievement or moment of your career?

Developing and implementing the sustainability and social values strategy for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies.  A dream project that I’m really proud of!

2.  What was your worst ever sustainability-related decision, project or initiative and why?

Working hard with a design and creative team to build a brand activation from recyclable and recycled materials, only for the supplier to deliver it wrapped in plastic shrink wrap. One of those moments when you realise your communications when you realised you forgot to properly brief everyone involved!

3.  What are you excited about implementing this year?

We’re working with a global agency to create their sustainability strategy from scratch and it’s exciting a blank piece of paper and a client who is ready to be bold!

4.  Which environmental issue do you most care about?

Circular Economy models – there’s too much consumption and resource inefficiency in our industry and I want to see that change.

5.  What sustainable change have you made in your personal life that you are most proud of?

My goddaughter asked for a litter picker for Christmas! She’s 5 and definitely a little Greta in the making!

6.  What do you read to stay in touch with green issues?

The Guardian, Circularity Weekly, Sustainability Magazine and edie.

 7.  What is the most memorable live performance in your life?

In 2014 (or thereabouts) I saw Prince at the Manchester Arena and he was every bit as incredible as I imagined!

8.  Was there a moment you committed to taking action on climate change?

Aged 5 asking my Mum what meat was made from.  In true Irish fashion of not beating around the bush, she replied ‘animals’ and I refused to eat meat from then on.  Never looked back!

9.  What are the most important issues to tackle at your event?

How can we use the event to educate the attendees on sustainability, whether consciously through the content or sub-consciously through our own procurement decisions such as waste management, menu choices, materials used.  We operate in an industry of influence and shouldn’t waste opportunities to showcase sustainability best practice to large audiences.

10. What do you think is the most significant challenge for the events industry becoming more sustainable?

The challenge is availability of more sustainable options in areas such as transport – having available biofuel or electric large vehicles to reduce emissions.  Another challenge is moving designers/producers away from using vinyl and printing direct onto more sustainable substrates.

11. Can you share something sustainable from another artist or event or company that inspired you to make a change?

I’m not a fan, but I was impressed by Coldplay’s sustainability strategy for the Music  of the Sphere’s tour.  Not only did it have some impressive changes for the environment but the team took into consideration accessibility, thinking about how they could reach audience members with different requirements.  They had a BSL interpreter on stage and Subpac vests for Deaf/Hard of hearing attendees.  I thought that showed thought and consideration for everyone, which doesn’t often happen.

12. What is the secret to your sustainable success?

I am genuinely passionate about what I do – and I feel grateful/amazed that people pay me to do it!!  

13. Tell us something you feel positive about right now that relates to the environment?

That the UK have just announced the ban on single-use plastic cutlery and plates.  I want to see the tide turn on single use plastics – and reusables become the norm.

14. Tell us a book, film or recent article about positive change you feel others should watch or read and why?

The Climate Book by Greta Thunberg which brings together essays from environmental leaders across the globe on various sustainability topics.  It’s very informative and fascinating to read.  I highly recommend it.

15. Can you give people new to sustainability in events a top tip?

Everything starts at the design stage.  Challenge the creative and think about how you can design out waste risks, unnecessary add-ons or swap out materials for more sustainable alternatives (or rentals!)

16. What is the favourite festival moment of your career?

Not a festival but my favourite outdoor event was producing #March4Women gig in Trafalgar Square for International Women’s Day.  We had 10,000 people, inspirational content and music – the atmosphere was amazing!

17. What habit or practice has helped you most in your personal journey in life?

Not giving up when the going gets tough and looking for solutions with a positive head on!

18. Is there anything new or exciting you are planning or changing for the future that you can tell us about? Even a hint!

My word for 2023 is GROW.  Personal growth, business growth – we’ve got some great projects on the horizon!

19. Will we save the world?

Yes, innovation and the sustainable revolution will take over and we’ll see more Millennials and Gen Z in power who want to see the change.  The world will be a different place by 2050.

20. What would your sustainable superpower be?

The power to change mindsets so everyone is on the same path to fight the climate crisis!

Follow Selina Donald on Linkedin

This Q&A originally appeared in our Jan 2023 Vision: 2025 newsletter. Sign up to receive monthly event sustainability news, case studies and guest blogs direct to your inbox.