In August 2023, we hosted a party for people implementing climate solutions in Indiana. It was the largest event of its kind in Indiana history.
Why? Indiana is one of ten states emitting half of US carbon pollution. Yet people working on climate here aren’t connected with one another well. Many burn out and give up.
- What We Did
- The Party
- Accounting & Benchmarking
First, Indiana represents a low cost opportunity to reduce carbon emissions. Our state is one of just ten producing half of US carbon pollution. A little investment here will go along way.
Second, Hoosiers care and are ready to implement climate solutions. Researchers at Yale University found that over 50% of us are “worried” about climate. And it’s not just the left. Indiana’s conservatives want to participate, too, when its framed correctly. Indiana’s Senator Mike Braun co-founded the bipartisan climate caucus. He passed the Growing Climate Solutions Act. And 75% of Republicans under 40 support a price on carbon. Up until now, climate hasn’t been framed properly, and these people haven’t been connected in a meaningful way.
And finally, by championing realistic climate solutions, we can rescue young people from environmental anxiety which is causing real harm. Students at Purdue University are having more and more mental health issues. A recent survey found that, of all the engineering disciplines, students studying Environmental and Ecological Engineering (EEE) had the worst mental health. Between 2007 and 2018, the rate of suicide among people aged 10 to 24 increased 60%, fueled in part by climate anxiety.
“[We] are not just dealing with the stress of [earning an engineering degree at Purdue]… [We are also] dealing with the pressure of solving the climate crisis and protecting the health of the Earth.” -Sarah Niednagel, Purdue student studying Environmental and Ecological Engineering
Hoosiers are tired of feeling overwhelmed with no sense of control. They are waiting for us to convene them together, thereby releasing their latent energy to implement climate solutions.
What We Did
A lot goes into hosting an event, but here are the five most critical things we did:
1. Formed Event Committee
We made a list of people who’ve participated the most with Carbon Neutral Indiana in the past. Then we reached out to ones representing diverse experiences and industries.
2. Invited Diverse Attendees
Then we made a list of 800 people representing Project Drawdown sectors like:
- Carbon Sinks
- Food, Agriculture & Land Use
And representing job functions like:
We created a website (HoosierClimateParty.com) and invited these people one at a time by email and text, often following up two to three times.
3. Secured Venue
This was tricky. We toured many options, and one local college offered their space as a venue. Then they backed out with little time remaining until the event. Then another offered their space as a venue. Later they said we couldn’t use the event as a fundraiser so we had to find a third option. Finally, with just a few days to the event, High Alpha offered their space.
4. Secured Sponsors
Then we made a list of 250 values aligned organizations and asked them if they’d like to engage the party’s audience as a sponsor.
5. Created Interactive Exhibits
Name tags. Each attendee received a name tag, and on each was the Project Drawdown sector in which they work as well as a QR code to their LinkedIn profile. This increased the likelihood attendees would connect after the party and develop new relationships.
We found the party caused 150+ new relationships as measured by new LinkedIn connections.
Bingo card networking. Upon entry, attendees received a bingo card. It had silly activities like, “Challenge someone to a thumb war” and other activities like, “Find someone who works in regenerative agriculture.” They could win $1,000+ in prizes after finishing the bingo card. This helped even introverts network.
Systems. Systems thinking is a way to find creative ways to change a system. We projected a systems map of Indiana’s carbon emissions on the wall. People added ways to change the system with sticky notes.
Climate tree. Inspired by The Climate Ribbon, this exhibit asked people: “What do you love that you don’t want to lose to environmental change?” Why? We are motivated most strongly to protect what we love. People wrote their answer on a ribbon, tied it to the tree, and took someone else’s ribbon as a memento.
Measure carbon footprint. Attendees could use kiosks to measure their personal carbon emissions and become carbon neutral.
Over 150 people attended from diverse organizations throughout Indiana. Below are some examples. Inclusion in this list does not imply sponsorship or endorsement.
Photos by Aubry Miller:
We gave free tickets to a few people in exchange for them writing about their experiences. Here are two of those writings:
“As an Environmental and Ecological Engineer, I have had to work hard to balance school and my passion for the environment with taking time to care for my mental health. The most helpful thing for me within this journey has been community…
Carbon Neutral Indiana is creating [that] community… Although I entered the Hoosier Climate Party knowing only a handful of people, I felt so much comfort from the gathering of people who attended.”
“How do you get a hundred people to talk to each other, when their skills range from worm farming to proposal development and their passions vary from Indy’s best vegan restaurants to Russian literature? …
But as the light turned golden and the Bingo winners were drawn (I was, alas, not one), we were reminded of mentorship and meet-ups ahead. The party is just getting started.”
20 New Climate Mentorship Pairs
Attendees could opt-in as a mentee or mentee. Twenty people wanted a mentor, and 50 people wanted to be mentor.
So after the party, we introduced 20 pairs to get coffee together. The social capital is incredible. Two nuclear engineers. An executive at a Fortune 500 company. A former State Senator. Two nuclear engineers. And more. These relationships could change the mentee’s careers forever.
150+ New Relationships
A few days before the party, we downloaded the LinkedIn connections of just 75 of the people who bought tickets. (We issued 188 tickets in total.) Then we visualized which party attendees already knew one another:
Then a few weeks after the party, we downloaded those LinkedIn connections again. The party helped form at least 78 new relationships within this sample of 75 people. Since 150+ people attended, we think the party caused about 150 new relationships.
“It was the best networking event I’ve ever been to. It really was. The bingo sheets were brilliant. Recognizing that many people aren’t great at approaching and initiating conversation. People with the sheets could comfortably approach others with the sheet. You hit a leverage point right there.” –Nick Sorg, Owner, Back to Earth Works Vermicastings
“What a great event! It’s not the easiest finding my people, but that event was fantastic for meeting like-minded folks.” –Andrew Horwath, Principal, Civil & Environmental Consultants, Inc.
“Great party! I met some old colleagues and some new friends.” -Dr. Peter Schubert, CEO, Green Fortress Engineering, Inc., Director, Richard G. Lugar Center for Renewable Energy, and Prof. of ECE, IUPUI
“Great work on the Hoosier Climate Party. I was impressed by the turn out and the wealth of knowledge in the room.” –Brijesh Krishnan, Director, Environmental Center of Excellence at Cummins Inc.
“Thank you also for hosting a gathering – great idea! Nice job on the venue and the activities. Being very new to the job and the network of climate professionals… [I met] a few people that I needed to meet, and it was nice to put faces to names.” –Lauren Norvell, Climate Action Director, City of Evansville-Vanderburgh County
“I am so grateful to [Carbon Neutral Indiana] and your team of collaborators for the event you put on last Thursday. I loved the facilitative approach… it was so fun to interact with new folks and some familiar faces within that container. I was delighted by the network mapping and visioning station you set up…” –Laura Yates, Strategy + Operations at Mobius Method
“Carbon Neutral Indiana is doing such important work. I know I can speak for our entire AIA-IN [American Institute of Architects Indiana chapter] leadership team when I say that [CNI’s] leadership is greatly appreciated!” –Daniel Overbey, Director of Sustainability and Associate Principal at Browning Day, Assistant Professor at Ball State University
“That was a great event last week. Just thought I’d share that I heard a bunch of people talking about how well put together it was. Great job. Looking forward to the next one!” –Nida Ansari, CEO, karmic partners
“The party was fantastic! It was lovely to see so many people come together for such a wonderful cause, and I loved the energy of the community it brought together. Thanks again for including me in this wonderful event. I look forward to keeping in touch with you and all the people you brought together.” –Sarah Niednagel, Purdue student, Ecological and Environmental Engineering
“It exceeded expectations and I got to meet many people! Thank you for putting this together, it was well run.” –Gabriel D. Donnelly, Legislative Assistant, Indiana House of Representatives
Accounting & Benchmarking