Dear EarthTalk: A friend of mine in Connecticut raves about the “Green Drinks” events she attends there every month to meet up with other eco-interested locals. How can I find out if there are any such gatherings in my area?
-- Janet McIntosh, Dubuque, Iowa

Every month green-minded people in 460-plus cities around the world meet up at informal social gatherings called Green Drinks. Started in 1989 in London by Edwin Datschefski and friends, the concept has spread like wildfire, with some 350 different Green Drinks chapters worldwide today. The events are designed to be low-key, unstructured and welcoming of all viewpoints on environmental topics. Many participants have found jobs, made friends, developed new ideas, done deals and had moments of serendipity and inspiration at various Green Drinks events.

In the U.S. alone, different Green Drinks events are held in 223 cities every month. The New York City chapter is the biggest in the world, with an invite list topping 10,000 people and typical attendance in the hundreds. Green Drinks events are also popular in the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Poland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Japan, New Zealand, Chile, Puerto Rico and Australia. Melbourne, Australia currently holds the record for the world’s biggest Green Drinks event, with more than 1,700 participants showing up on the first night of the city’s February 2007 Sustainable Living Festival.

“People from different fields come together with a mutual interest in environmental issues and cross-pollinate and drink in a very low-key social atmosphere,” says Margaret Lydecker, who started New York City’s Green Drinks chapter in 2002 and currently serves as the U.S. point-person for the events. Lydecker—who has personally helped start upwards of 100 different chapters, including one in Kabul, Afghanistan—says the events have been a big catalyst for connectivity, community, collaboration and change in the environmental sector in New York and beyond.

In the U.S. and Canada, most mid-sized and large cities already have thriving Green Drinks chapters. You can likely find one somewhere near you, wherever you live, by searching under the “Find City” link on the GreenDrinks.org website, and clicking through until you get a schedule of upcoming events in your particular city. If there isn’t yet a Green Drinks chapter in your region, by all means start a new one.

Heather Burns-DeMelo, who had started a local/green happenings website for Connecticut called CTgreenscene.com, was inspired by Lydecker in 2007 to start a Green Drinks chapter where she lives in Connecticut’s Fairfield County so that green-minded people in the area could connect in person. “The web is great,” she says, “but face-to-face is key to growing the movement.”

According to Burns-DeMelo, setting up the chapter was easy—she just emailed Green Drinks founder Datschefski from the greendrinks.org website with a request to start a new chapter—but getting people to come to the initial events was more challenging. She and friends set up sign-up tables at local community events, found a restaurant willing to host, sent a press release to local papers, hung fliers and posted notices on her website and others. The hard work paid off: 65 people showed up at the first event on a gloomy Wednesday night, and the chapter has been growing by leaps and bounds ever since.

CONTACT: Green Drinks, www.greendrinks.org.

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