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Happy hours with a green twist to resume in 2018

The Post and Courier
By David Quick

The metropolitan Charleston area has dozens of environmentally focused nonprofits and businesses, though arguably few collaborate because they end up working within their own silos.

Starting this month, an effort to revive Green Drinks, monthly happy hours with an environmental twist, seeks to be a thread connecting organizations in their complementary efforts to foster a more sustainable, healthier community.

Carolee Williams, the Lowcountry field director for the Conservation Voters of South Carolina, decided to kick-start Charleston’s long-inactive chapter after attending a Green Drinks event in Beaufort, which drew about 100 people.

“It was powerful,” Williams recalled of the event featuring drinks and a short talk by a speaker. “It inspired me to see what we could do in Charleston.”

The first Green Drinks Charleston event in the new year will feature East Cooper Land Trust’s board member Sarah Hays and be held 5:30-7 p.m. Jan. 16 at Water’s Edge, located on Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant.

Green Drinks will be held at the same time every third Tuesday of the month at different locations around the Charleston area. Due to Thanksgiving, the Green Drinks Charleston event in November will be held on the second Tuesday of the month.

Green Drinks is far from being new, especially from an international standpoint.

Its origins are traced back to a North London pub, the Slug and Lettuce, in 1989 when green designers and their friends pulled some tables together and started talking about environmental matters. It grew organically, of course, over the next decade until the concept of Green Drinks hit the web in 2000.

Hundreds of chapters exist across the globe, though some listed on the website are inactive. None listed in South Carolina, other than Beaufort, appear to have been active in 2017.

Paul Nurnberg, founder and steering committee member of Greendrinks Beaufort, said the gatherings, which always feature a speaker, draw between 60 and 130 people every month. The meetings are held 5:30-7 p.m. on the third Tuesday of the month at various locations around Beaufort. Speakers usually start at 6:15 p.m. and talk for 10 to 20 minutes.

Nurnberg said he started one in Beaufort in 2008 after going to a Green Drinks event in Savannah that drew more than 200 people. However, the Savannah events didn’t feature a speaker and attendance eventually dropped off. The last one he attended there had about 25 people.

So he’s a believer in making the events topical.

In Charleston, Williams and the other Green Drinks committee members have already mapped out monthly meetings through February 2019, designating the gatherings to an array of local groups dedicated to sustainability, conservation and health.

Some of the other organizations and initiatives lined up with specific months include Plastic Free Lowcountry, the Coastal Conservation League, the South Carolina Aquarium, Conservation Voters of South Carolina, the Charleston chapter of the Surfrider Foundation and the Sustainability Institute.

East Cooper Land Trust Executive Director Catherine Main said the Green Drinks effort could foster collaboration, noting that “Everybody’s mission is different, but I think there’s room for working together.”

Katie Zimmerman, executive director of Charleston Moves, said the need to come together as a community on a regular basis is important because the groups and businesses are working on so many initiatives that “no one knows everything.”

She pointed to the fact that Plastic Free Lowcountry initiative came about a result that several groups were working on a campaign to curb the amount of plastic ending up in waterways, even though they were working on different aspects of it. The Coastal Conservation League was working on policy, Charleston Waterkeeper on water quality, the Aquarium was working on education and the impact on sea turtles, and Surfrider was doing litter pick-ups.

The collaboration, Zimmerman added, has resulted in an array of successes, from plastic bag bans to the #StrawlessSummer initiative. Building the network between groups can lead to more joint efforts.

“All of these groups are working toward the good of the community. Every group is focused on making it, or keeping it, a wonderful place for wildlife, people, natural resources and health,” she said, adding that most environmental progress is happening at the local level in the United States these days.

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