Margaret Hester photo
From left: Heather Rayburn, Valerie Hope, Buncombe County Commissioner Holly Jones and Bridget Nelson discuss the local watershed at a February Green Drinks meeting.
It was a Green Drinks night at Posana Café in Asheville, N.C., and the crowd started gathering early. The program on tap was the hot topic for now in the city—the future of Asheville’s water system—and folks coming in clearly want to make sure they had seats and places to both see and hear; and in turn, be seen and heard.
Green Drinks is much more than simply another forum to highlight environmental issues. It’s a two-way street, a way for like-minded individuals to connect on issues they care passionately about and to carry on conversations about those issues. It’s the ultimate think-global, act-local forum, a social networking opportunity for the eco-conscious and green among us.
“I come here to keep educated and current,” said Philip J. Bisesi of Black Mountain, who is an engineer by profession and a regular at Green Drinks events in Asheville. “It’s a weekly educational opportunity.”
Bisesi, like others attending, said he enjoys the informality of Green Drinks and the opportunity to simply chat with like-minded people about those things he holds dear: taking care of the planet and improving this world for future generations.
On this night, there are people here from all walks of life—from regular citizens and politicians to activists and business owners. Without Green Drinks, it’s unlikely they’d ever meet and mingle.
This event in Asheville, like all Green Drinks happenings, has roots in a pub called the Slug and Lettuce in north London. As the story goes, a fellow named Edwin Datschefski in 1989 was sitting with his green-design colleagues Yorick Benjamin and Paul Scott when he noticed an enviro-minded acquaintance at a nearby table.
“As it turned out, the friend was sitting with a few of his own eco-conscious mates, so they pulled some tables together,” Green Drinks international site notes. “And so a movement was born.”
The concept went global. It is not totally without form: each city has an organizer who arranges meetings in bars and restaurants and relays information via email and facilitates discussions.
“Green Drinks provides opportunities to network,” said Anna Jane Joyner, a co-organizer of this particular Asheville event and the community organizer for the environmental group Western North Carolina Alliance. “It’s just a great opportunity to connect with other people.”
Some drink and dine in the informal atmosphere, but Green Drinks is more a mental concept than an actual physical one.
In Asheville, Green Drinks has been taking place since 2006. Buncombe County Commissioner Holly Jones, a former city council member, was on hand to proselytize to the crowd of 30 or so who were gathered there on the need for Asheville to controls its own water system.
“This is a created, conjured up problem,” she told the appreciative crowd, who worried that Asheville losing control of the water system could ultimately result in privatization.
Later, Jones described the Green Drinks events in Asheville as providing “a great service to the citizens—and this one, especially, was on an incredibly timely and important topic.”
In most cities where Green Drinks takes place, the event is scheduled for one night each month. Asheville being a city where environmental issues and concerns are taken very, very seriously, the event is held weekly and generally features a speaker.
“We like in Asheville to drill that information into your head,” said Julie Mayfield, executive director of WNC Alliance, in explanation.
A steering committee, led by the WNC Alliance, includes Transition Town Asheville, Just Economics WNC, Western North Carolina Building Alliance, Blue Ridge Sustainability Institute and the Western North Carolina Chapter of the Sierra Club.
A version of Green Drinks also has started recently in Franklin, N.C., also through the auspices of WNC Alliance. That event takes place on the third Tuesday of every month at Rathskellar in downtown. Often, as in Asheville, Green Drinks in Franklin features information on either specific happenings or issues. One recent program was about efforts to rid the town’s greenway of invasive plants.
George Hasara, owner of Rathskellar Coffee House, said he’s been impressed and gratified by the wide diversity of people attending Green Drinks.
“It’s not just environmentalists,” Hasara said. “It’s people who are concerned about the environment, and that can be Democrats or Republicans—really, anyone. This is a good program.”
The Green Drinks event in Asheville was slightly different than usual. There were the typical explanations about the issue at hand, and a provided opportunity for folks attending to chat and network. But, in the spirit of Mayfield’s call “for a night of action,” there were also computers setup so that people there could actively get involved with sending emails and more.
Jones, looking at the crowd of 50 or so attending Green Drinks, smiled and said, “It is so good and makes me so proud to represent such smart, informed and hell-raising citizens.”