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Natural Awakenings Fairfield Cty/Housatonic Valley, CT

GREEN DRINKS : Cheers to Making Eco-Conscious Connections

Feb 22, 2011 11:12AM ● By Judith Fertig

Whether attendees at a typical Green Drinks gathering choose to sip a fine wine or organic lemonade, the emphasis is on socializing and networking for a “greener” world, one community at a time.

 Founded by friends Edwin Datschefski and Paul Scott at a London pub in 1989, Green Drinks currently includes more than 700 chapters worldwide. The first and largest North American group, Green Drinks New York City, was launched by Margaret Lydecker in 2002 and currently counts 14,000 members.

 After moving to the Big Apple, “I was having a hard time finding a community of like-minded people,” confesses Lydecker, a sustainability advisor who helps companies find greener options in the way they source products and services. She adds, “When you have an active dialogue with other environmentally conscious people in business or government, you begin to find answers and solutions.”

 Typically, groups around the country partner with a community sports bar, restaurant, or other food and drink establishment to host a Green Drinks event in a private room. The word goes out via email, Facebook, phone calls or postcards, and people come to meet other environmentally conscious people. Although these soirées sometimes include short talks by sustainability experts, they’re essentially casual. Yet in this setting, attendees can make connections that benefit the environment, businesses, the community—and themselves.

John O’Neill reports that at one recent Green Drinks social hour in Port St. Lucie, Florida, the owner of a local environmental service business struck up a conversation with a restaurant owner. “The business agreed to take the leftover grease from the restaurant and use it on their farm,” reports O’Neill. “That’s exactly the kind of thing we want to see happen.”

 Jim Horlacher, the founder of Kansas City’s Green Drinks, admits, “I primarily do Green Drinks because I like it.” Although the relationship-building is definitely there, he adds, “It’s hard for me to quantify.” Horlacher is a financial planner for First Affirmative Financial Network, a group that helps individual investors put their money where their socially and environmentally responsible values are. “People get to know me at Green Drinks events as someone who walks the walk and talks the talk,” he says.

Although Green Drinks’ environmental mission is deliberately simple—attend, engage, connect—some groups take it further. The Seattle Green Drinks chapter also offers a host of more narrowly targeted member groups, including those who want to hear speakers on innovation in sustainability,support Native Americans or conserve wildlife.

 GreenDrinks-Denver.com offers an It’s Your Business listing on its Web pages for green businesses and products, building public awareness for greener options, including tips for cleanup and recycling during and after public events. Likewise, Green Drinks of Victoria, British Columbia, has a work and career forum that continues to encourage the forging of the links that people make at face-to-face gatherings.

Says Seattle Drinks founder Gabriel Scheer, “I’m immensely proud of how the organization has taken a central role in growing our local environmental community.” A founding partner in Re-Vision Labs, which helps business and organizations incorporate social media and community organizing into their business models, Scheer concludes, “Green Drinks events are helping each community see itself.”

For more information visit GreenDrinks.org.

Judith Fertig is a freelance writer in Overland Park, KS; see AlfrescoFoodAndLifestyle.blogspot.com.

A Toast To GREEN DRINKS

What happens at a Green Drinks gathering? Attendees like these attest to the power of networking in support of a common goal- and to some surprising outcomes.

"One guy found his girlfriend, his job and his roommate at Green Drinks. I love that!"
Margaret Lydecker, founder, New York City chapter

"The best compliment so far came from Gina Gould, Curator of Science at the Bruce Museum. She said after months of living and working in Greenwich, there were still three people she felt she needed to meet: she came to Green Drinks Greenwich in December and met all three of them!"
Jessica Brockington, founder, Greenwich chapter

"I think the strangest thing about Green Drinks is that the goals are vague and the benefits hard to quantify- but they are undoubtedly there."
Edwin Datschefski, international coordinator, Green Drinks, London, England

"I came away with seven business cards, five new facebook friends and information about green building, green certifications and some really cool new green products."
Maria Booker, Tampa.CreativeLoafing.come blogger, Green Drinks event, Tampa

"It's an amazing group of people that gather at Green Drinks, who come to learn and share, make friends and business contacts. There's nothing else like it."
Daphne Dixon, founder, Fairfield Green Drinks, co-founder Stamford Green Drinks