Green Partying

In 1989, at a pub called the Slug and Lettuce in Northern London, Edwin Datschefski was sitting with several of his green design colleagues when he noticed an enviro-minded acquaintance at a nearby table. As it turned out, the friend was sitting with a few of his eco-conscious mates, so they pulled some tables together. And so a movement was born.

A New York City Green Drink event: great networking, and dates, too.© Margaret Lydecker

Fifteen years later, the concept has evolved into "Green Drinks," and now it’s global. In 2001, Datschefski created an official website and 36 cities in seven countries have their own so-called "nodes," which offer contact information for each city’s coordinator. The coordinator arranges meetings in bars and restaurants (often with organic or vegetarian food), relays information via e-mail and facilitates discussions.

Margaret Lydecker, a natural at networking, organizes the New York City Green Drinks. After she moved from San Francisco two years ago, she missed the green community feel of the Bay Area. The first Green Drinks in the Big Apple event she organized in 2002 attracted three people; the second brought in seven; the third, 20. The December 2003 Green Drinks holiday party attracted more than 150 people. "It just snowballed," says Lydecker.

Not only has the New York Green Drinks drawn people who work at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Sierra Club and the Green Party, it has also brought in people from Comedy Central, Conde Nast and the American Turkish Society. Tim Keating, the executive director for the advocacy group Rainforest Relief, is a regular. He’s cultivated valuable connections through Green Drinks, met people who have since attended his fundraising dinners, and has even gone on a couple of dates. "My experience is that environmentalists are just as big partiers as anyone else," he says.

Chicago’s Green Drinks began just over a year ago, and the Second City takes a more structured approach. After an initial hour and a half of socializing and networking, a panel discussion focuses on a particular topic, such as clean energy or green economics. Chicago’s Peter Nicholson says a recent event turned up 80 people on "the coldest night of the year."

Lydecker recently traveled to Germany and attended Green Drinks in Munich, which took place in a bowling alley. As the New York City coordinator, she says she was "treated like a celebrity." She was especially impressed with the Germans" "hard-core committment" to the monthly event, as well as by the tall German beers.

According to organizer Adam Bedkowski, Warsaw, Poland’s Green Drinks is "more tea than beer." The Polish contingent meets at one of the few non-smoking vegetarian restaurants in the city, where guests chat about things like personnel changes at the Ministry of the Environment as they eat pierogies, fried onions and cabbage.

Datschefski estimates that at least 10,000 people have shown up for different Green Drinks events around the world. While different cities spawn different types of meetings, the common thread is fun. "This," according to Datschefski’s guidelines, "is compulsory."