project manager, meetings and events, McDonald’s Corp.
Oak Brook, Ill.
Julie Larson began her career at the Hyatt Lodge connected to the McDonald’s corporate headquarters. “I was lucky to have the opportunity to ‘cross the pond,’” she says, “and join the meetings and events department,” where she has spent the past 16 years. In 2007, she turned her focus to making the company’s meetings environmentally friendly, reducing waste, and finding ways to enrich the communities where they’re held. The 2008 Worldwide Convention, held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, is held up as a model for the industry.
“That was when we jumped into the deep end and tackled every opportunity that came our way. We diverted 70 percent of the waste coming off a 750,000-square-foot exhibit floor. Our contribution to the Orange County Environmental Protection Division to provide a rebate to local Orange County homeowners who install solar water-heaters benefited the local citizens and also helped us offset our carbon.” Her focus grew to include community involvement after she had the chance to distribute products and saw the heartfelt response. “Having a member of the charity jump off the truck, hug me, and proclaim ‘You are an answer to a prayer’ was heart-wrenching.”
Looking forward, Larson wants to lead the green evolution within McDonald’s as well as within the meetings industry. To that end, she is one of the four founding members of the Chicago Chapter of the Green Meeting Industry Council.
“It’s about working with the cities where we hold our events and striving to create a sustainable legacy,” she says. “I fully recognize that we cannot predict the future, but I intend to help shape it.”