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August 11, 2009 @ Hudson Terrace

Green Drinks @ Hudson Terrace, August 11, 2009 Blog Entry By David Holloway

What is the state of the environmental movement? How sophisticated has it become, and into what is it evolving?

Discuss.

Enjoying the cooler temperatures in the lounge at Hudson Terrace, I consider these questions as the room fills with Green Drinkers. It’s a searing August afternoon – hazy, humid and hot. Like an Atlantic Hurricane, the summer that took a long time to arrive has apparently gathered strength along the way, and is now beating down upon the people sitting on the outdoor patio that overlooks the river. But I’m indoors, running an experiment. I’m shaking a test tube filled with Green Drinks to see what I can learn from it about the state of the wider environmental cause.

The first sample in my experiment is an environmentally-themed TV pilot called Life Without Green (http://www.openmediaboston.org/node/333.) Abby Phon developed and stars in the pilot, which is now being shopped to TV networks.

“It’s about a woman in an environmental policy department trying to make Boston go completely green. The show combines drama, mystery, politics and the environment, and moves from the back alleys of Boston to the casinos of Vegas.” Ah. And I thought it might be a Weeds spinoff. “We’ve never seen this combination before. TV shows aren’t really doing much about the environment,” Abby concludes, with superb acuity.

That comment hits me like a hammer-blow. Why are environmental issues not being aired in this way? And what an original idea for elevating these themes into popular consciousness. Abby says that she is using Green Drinks and the show’s Facebook page to build a groundswell for the pilot before the New York City premier in September, and then, hopefully, to turn it into a series.

Witness, then, online dating. Specifically, an online dating service for the socially-conscious single that donates money from its activities to local charities. More specifically, a service in which you have to make a donation to one of the specified charities BEFORE you can begin your moves. Mmm.

GiveAndDate.com (www.giveanddate.com). So, do you come here often?

Katherine Bilby, one of the founders, explains that GiveAndDate.com hopes to do three things. It aims to connect like-minded single people to each other, to lower the stigma of online dating (thus making it more accessible to hesitant online-dating newbies) and to provide money to needy causes. A synthesis of flirting and philanthropy, you might say.

“We’re looking for local charities that are doing things for the community here in New York”, Bilby explains. “Our current partners include Animal Haven, Solar1, Williamsburg Collegiate Charter School and Council on the Environment of NYC. And we’re interested in other organizations that are doing good things in different areas of the community.”

For a company that was launched only in May, GiveAndDate.com seems extremely active. They are hosting a range of new introduction events for singles, including some approaching “Single Mingle” events for Green Drinks. I wish I was allowed to go along to one of these. And I wish I’d asked who writes their slogans:

The glass slipper may not fit, but you helped the world a wee bit

Find love and save the world, all before lunch

Chemistry + Match ≠ Harmony, but GivingAndDating does!

Green Drinks has yet more introductory opportunities to offer. Just outside on the magnificent terrace, there is a long table where people are undertaking four minute environmental speed networking. The person in position one has just four minutes to get her conversation partner to help her find new ideas on waste recycling for a paper she is writing. He is asking her about work opportunities in sustainable retail and environmental consulting, hurrying to summarize his questions before the next rotation. Eavesdropping on other conversations, I hear shreds and fibers of other things of interest to a group such as this one – energy conservation, paper and plastic bags, food irradiation, wireless electricity and more. And doesn’t it piss you off when men run water from the faucet all the time while they’re shaving?? This is where the salad of Green Drinks is being tossed.

Not enough for you? Feeling vigorous and outdoorsy, in spite of the heat? There’s a tent pitched right there on the terrace, next to the speed networking table, to remind you to take an outdoor guided trip this summer with Gear to Go Outfitters (http://www.geartogooutfitters.com/). During his two minute pitch, Kevin Rosenberg from Gear to Go even tells us what they cook you for dinner during the trips (and you don’t have to do the dishes either). Prefer the five boroughs? Well, bid for charity on the custom single speed bike from Brooklyn Bike and Board (http://brooklynbikeandboard.com/).

As always, there’s an array of really interesting companies at Green Drinks offering an astonishing – and growing – array of services. And, back to the original question, the ways in which these companies are developing green products and services and marketing them seems to me to be growing in sophistication. It’s fun to be an observer of this. In the ultimate pantheon of the environmental movement, I’d like to think that all this small stuff we are seeing now is going to be very significant.

But it’s the people who make Green Drinks what it is. Even on this lazy August day, when this wild city is half empty, its pulse slowed to the fastest pace of an ordinary city, green enthusiasts, job seekers, the curious and the thirsty convene. I spoke to a lot of different people, including many who were attending for the first time. But I’ll close with the words of just one person I met. It was one of those moments where two people are waiting to pass a particular place in the crowd, delayed by a drinks waiter or a knot of people, and they strike up a conversation. I didn’t ask her name and I don’t remember what I question I asked – some generic stranger-to-stranger question. This is what she said:

“I don’t usually do things for just one reason, so I’m here for a variety of reasons. I consider this event to be a grass roots-type event, unlike many other events I’ve attended elsewhere in the past, where you are lost in a maze of people and stuff and things. In this vast industrial city, where everything is big and flashy and fancy, the only way to develop an alternative is to be alternative. The grass roots approach is the only one that will work. The medium is the message, and I hope that Green Drinks continues to be, fundamentally, a one-to-one interaction forum. I come here because I care about issues and people and I don’t want to care alone. That won’t work for anyone.”

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