Greendrinks: Good for the community, good for Earth

Posted April 05, 2011, at 10:24 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Meeting people isn’t always easy. You’d think in the age of Facebook, in a small city like Bangor, that it would be simple to suss out who is doing interesting things — but that’s not always the case. Which is why the Bangor chapter of the global phenomenon of Greendrinks has been such a rousing success in the year since it started.

Greendrinks began in 1989 in a pub in London, when a group of environmentally minded designers got together to chat about what they were doing and how they could make their communities more ecoconscious. More than 20 years later, there are more than 600 chapters of Greendrinks in 62 countries — from Lahore, Pakistan to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and in every state in the United States. Greendrinks chapters exist in Portland, Mount Desert Island and Rockport; Bangor’s chapter started in May 2010.

Bangor Greendrinks founders Johann Sabbath, who works for Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce, and Melanie Brooks, editor of Bangor Metro Magazine, think it’s one of the best ways for anyone with a “green” bent to meet and connect.

“It’s the best model of community building that I’ve come across,” said Sabbath. “I think Bangor in particular really fits well with Greendrinks, because I think most people that live here really appreciate the outdoors and nature, and are conscious in their daily lives about protecting it. If you live in Maine, you probably love the Earth.”

“I started it originally in Orono, but Johann came on board, and we kind of fused Orono into Bangor,” said Brooks. “It has only grown since then. The word has spread quickly.”

The next Bangor Greendrinks is set for 5-8 p.m. Tuesday, April 12, at Sweetest Things Weddings on Columbia Street in downtown Bangor. Past events have been held at the Maine Discovery Museum, Central Street Farmhouse in Bangor, ReVision Heat in Brewer, Verve Burritos in Orono and WBRC Architects in Bangor.

Bangor Greendrinks takes place on the second Tuesday of the month. A local business or nonprofit hosts the event and a local bar, restaurant or brewery offers tastings of beer and wine — Black Bear Brewery in Orono has offered its many different brews to Greendrinks on a number of occasions. There’s usually a presentation by an individual or organization, as well as snacks.

At the April 12 Greendrinks, Amber Small of Sweetest Things Weddings will give a presentation on a green wedding she designed last year. At the WBRC event last month, executives from the architecture firm spoke about its many LEED-certified buildings.

Perhaps most importantly, it’s an open, accessible way for anyone — non- or for-profit, farmer or CEO, college student or retiree — to connect with like-minded individuals and potentially make more interesting things happen in the community. Where an organization like Bangor Fusion is more specifically geared toward business and nonprofit networking, Greendrinks is open to any and all.

“Where else are you going to see a hard-core labor activist and a Republican staffer chatting together?” said Sabbath. “That actually happens at Greendrinks. I think people are more interested in finding solutions and creating things than they are about disagreeing.”

“Every time I go to Greendrinks, I see people that I haven’t seen at other events,” said Brooks. “Each place we have it brings its own fans out, which in turn brings new people into the mix. I teach at NESCOM, and some of my students had heard about it and asked me about it. It appeals to a wide variety of people.”

Business owners that have hosted Greendrinks report new customers, new friends and an increased awareness of green concerns in the general community. Zeth Lundy is the co-owner of Central Street Farmhouse in Bangor, a DIY emporium for beer, wine and cheese-making, baby care and home care. When he hosted Greendrinks in December 2010, he not only got to show off the homemade beers he makes — he got to spread the word about his ecofriendly business.

“It was an awesome way for us to get the word out to people that didn’t know we existed, and we’ve gotten a ton of residual business,” said Lundy. “We still have people come in months afterwards, saying they saw us. It was a perfect match.”

Lee Landry, who runs ReVision Heat in Brewer, opted to host a Greendrinks because being green is what he’s all about. He sells and installs wood, pellet and gas boilers in houses across Maine, and he’s devoted to getting Mainers off oil and onto more sustainable forms of heat and energy.

“For us, it was about letting people know that we’re a green business, with our heart and soul in trying to get people off oil,” said Landry. “I try not to miss one. People ask me what I do, and I love to tell him, and then they ask why, and I really love to tell them. Greendrinks is exactly the kind of thing we want to be a part of.”

The next Bangor Greendrinks is set for 5-8 p.m. Tuesday, April 12, at Sweetest Things Weddings at 48 Columbia St. in Bangor. A $5 donation helps defray the costs of refreshments and planning for the host. The first 75 attendees get a limited edition Bangor Greendrinks pint glass. For information, visit http://www.facebook.com/BangorGreendrinks.

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