David Holloway is a freelance writer and a media consultant based in New York City. A native Australian, David is passionate about a range of environmental causes, in particular the ocean, climate change and endangered wildlife, and about developing and deepening the environmentally-conscious community.
Music from a jazz trio. Drinks served under Oak trees in the summer gloaming. Organic gluten-free Hors d’oeuvres, savories, cheeses and desserts. “Talk tables” dedicated to discussion of topics like “Greening your office”, “Building green” and “Eco travel.” Two minute pitches from environmental entrepreneurs. A person walking around with an illuminated light bulb hanging from his neck.
It must be Green Drinks.
Each month, Green Drinks NYC – the largest of 540 Green Drinks groups throughout the world – brings together about 500 environmental enthusiasts in New York to mingle and to advance the shared cause of ecology and environmental awareness. But this Green Drinks – the “Midsummer Night Soiree” at Tavern on the Green in Central Park on July 15 – is a special one. It’s a celebration of the 8th anniversary of the New York chapter, the big green plant that grew out of a tiny seed planted in 2002. That’s 96 events in eight years! And my, how it’s grown.
In terms of environmental issues, I’m unremarkable. I don’t work in an environmental field, I have no extraordinary knowledge on the topic and I probably have an embarrassingly large carbon footprint. But I’ve been coming to Green Drinks on and off now for about six months because I’m curious and because it’s fun and welcoming. I learn a lot too. Even as the first sips of Cabernet are drying on my lips, I’m learning about the ConEd Solutions Wind Energy Program (www.newwindenergy.com/), in which any customer can promote the development of wind farms in New York State (I had no idea they even had them here). Then about Green Maps (www.greenmap.org), the user-generated social mapping platform that identifies green locations throughout the world. And as I have these conversations, I start to understand who comes to Green Drinks, and why.
Some have specific purposes in mind. “Green Drinks is THE place in town where I can find a community of people who are actually sharing a lot of my concerns.” says Chris Wangro, founder of Greenow (www.greenow.com), an event production company running biofuel generators at their entertainment events. And Chris Gravagna, CEO of PrintResponsibly.com, the print sponsor of the event, says that Green Drinks is one of the premier eco-friendly marketing organizations known to him, a great source of contacts and referrals for his business. The two Chrises know exactly why they are here. But others come with less specific goals in mind. They are aware of green issues, mostly, but want more exposure to them, want to understand more about what is going on in this field. And they come from all disciplines. Within a five minute period, I’ve met an investment banker, an opera singer and a jeweler. What is this? An American Idol audition?
And eight years of Green Drinks. How has it changed over that time? The consensus is that it had become larger, more diverse and much more sophisticated.
“You see a lot more people these days who are looking for ideas; many different walks of life here”, says one attendee. Another notes that it has become an informal market place for those seeking to hire or be hired in the green field. Clearly, it seems to have become more explicitly a networking event, while remaining a social event. As the Green movement has matured, people seem to be recognizing that they need to collaborate with others to realize the opportunities. The sense of sharing at the event is almost palpable.
The two minute pitches begin. Margaret Lydecker, the founder of Green Drinks’ New York chapter, leads a celebration to mark the 8th anniversary, before handing over to a series of presenters, each of whom have a unique product or service to offer and 120 seconds to tell everyone about it. We learn more about Greenow. We hear from the organizers of the Roosevelt Live Free Performances. And the intriguing Green Maps too. I have to ask more about this one.
“It’s been around for 14 years,” says Wendy Brawer, the founding director. Wendy tells me that her company has over 400 unique locally-made maps identifying specific green resources and sustainable developments throughout the world, and a new technology platform that simplifies the map-creation and sharing process – in any language. It’s a service that can help you to find a Vegan restaurant in Adelaide or a green power facility in China. It’s this kind of service, it seems to me, that the world is going to need more and more of as we more fully realize the interdependencies between us and our natural environment.
The light bulb guy walks past us again. Now is it appropriate at a smart outdoor drinks event for one man to grab another man’s light bulb while it’s hanging from his neck? I can’t give you a definitive answer, but I got away with it this time. Despite being on all night, the bulb is slightly warm, not hot. It looks just like an old school light bulb. But it’s filled with some sort of fluid.
“This is the world’s first liquid-cooled LED light bulb,” says Jason Chan from Eternaleds (www.eternaleds.com), the one who has chosen to accessorize thus this evening. “And the liquid surrounding the filament is mineral oil.” Jason then explains that the bulb itself is twice as energy-efficient as the compact fluorescent bulbs (the curly ones) we are all trying to use now. It has a 35,000 hour life span. Flicking it on and off won’t wear it out. And, unlike CFCs which can contain mercury, the bulb can be safely disposed of when its job is done. Wow.
Apart from some challenges with audience noise which made the two minute pitches very hard to hear, to me, the evening is highly successful. But how can Green Drinks as an event improve and change? Some say it should become even more explicitly a business networking event, perhaps with a segmented roster of attendees – to make it easier for you to find what you seek. There was a suggestion that the other New York City Green Drinks (in Brooklyn and Queens) should combine with the Manhattan version periodically to form an uber-Green Drinks. And what about a solar-themed event, or an event specifically oriented to employment?
Whatever else happens, one thing about it must not change: its openness. Green Drinks is a big, welcoming house with room for all kinds of people. You don’t need to work in an environment-related field or to be a World Series recycler to attend. And come alone if you wish. The people here are approachable and welcoming. Come listen and learn and contribute. A light bulb around your neck is desirable, but not essential.