Drinking for the environment

I just thought, what’s stopping me from setting it up in Vancouver?

When Rika Saha read an article about Green Drinks London – an informal monthly gathering of green-minded individuals – the environmental lawyer and London expat wanted to get involved. “I just thought, what’s stopping me from setting it up in Vancouver? Nothing,” says Saha.

She sent out an email to 10 people, including fellow organizer Lyda Salatian, and set the plan in motion. All 10 turned up for the first get-together, and the group grew to 30 the following month.

“I used to go to the London Green Drinks, the original one,” says Christina Olsen, who joined the group at its second meeting. “For four years it was my monthly ritual, so when I moved back here, I was in desperate need of a Green Drinks.”

The Vancouver chapter of Green Drinks is Canada’s first. Today, 23 cities, most in B.C. and Ontario, host their own monthly meetings.

At Green Drinks Vancouver’s March gathering, which commemorated its second anniversary, many first-time green drinkers turned up and the crowd topped the average monthly attendance of 60 to 90. A diverse group of women and men, ranging from spirited 20-somethings to silver-haired seniors in a smattering of fields (including an environmental engineering student, biologist, author, and even a fellow from the oil and gas industry who’s trying to go green) mingled in the
laid-back atmosphere, chatting casually and making new acquaintances.

There was the expected appearance from a couple of politicians, such as Canada Green Party deputy leader Adriane Carr, but nary a Birkenstock in sight. The gatherings are deliberately unstructured, and Salatian says that the informal pub venue allows people to exchange ideas and join in on projects.

And, to her knowledge, at least one love connection has blossomed from a Green Drinks meeting.
“Green Drinks in essence is an information hub for what is going on in the environmental community,” says Salatian, who notes that since its inception, Green Drinks has joined with other environmental organizations to raise money for local non-profit groups, including BEST, Farm Folk/City Folk and local food banks.

“I think it really drives home how easy it to kick-start something on an individual level,” says Saha. ”We think that to effect change you have to do something extraordinary or dramatic,” she adds. “Actually you don’t.”