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Event recap: Green Drinks April 2008 April 16, 2008

Posted by Raul in blogosphere, environment, epic08, epic2008, random thoughts, social networking, sustainability, upcoming events, Vancouver.

I love having a chance to meet a bunch of enviro-geeks, and well, a beer is not so bad either, so I have tried to be a loyal fan of Green Drinks Vancouver. However, I have to say that tonight I was VERY disappointed. As in, REALLY disappointed. There are several elements that were highlights and a number that were the low points. So, I’ll briefly summarize them here.

* Meeting Sarah Marchildon, her friend Paul, and other enviro-folks (I may miss some, but I had a chance to meet the folks at Projecting Change – Lindsay and Brady, Lynn, Tim, Kim – who just completed a North Shore program to find their career path – Heather and Will, of course, Jeremy, James, Sean, Jeff, Pam, and a bunch of other folks). But seriously, meeting Sarah Marchildon was AWESOME. She is as sweet and genuine and wholesome and beautiful in person as she is online.

* Having a chance to just be immersed in environmental issues. Since I have been working from home lately, I have had very little interaction with enviro-folks. Which will be quickly remedied since I’ll be blogging about EPIC 2008 and I will also be cross-posting with HappyFrog‘s FrogBlog. Check our live feed, I’m joined by an outstanding group of Vancouver bloggers! Tips of the hat to DaveO for inviting and EPIC ’08 for making this possible.


* Super expensive beer. I’m sorry, but $ 6.00 for a beer doesn’t cut it for me. First of all, I’m on a budget here. Second of all, the beer was an awful lager that didn’t really taste good for me. Third of all, I can get beer and a burger at The Five Point on Main and 16th for $ 10. Thanks, but no thanks. I’m getting turned off with Steamworks. Which leads me to the second point…

* Pretentious location. I am definitely not very impressed lately. Would this change if my paycheck was heftier? I don’t think so. I find this bar kind of pretentious. And I’ve had this issue for a long time. My brother loves it, my colleagues organize gatherings here all the time, and I come all the time, not because I’m a fan of the place, but because that’s where gatherings are organized. But really unhappy with the place, the beer. The saving grace? The staff. Waiters, waitresses, hostesses, and bartenders are all very, very nice and prompt.

* Lack of a steady crowd. I mentioned this to Christina (one of the super able organizers, with an unbelievably sweet smile and gorgeous eyes). I’ve been to MANY GDV events. I have a photographic memory, so I can tell you who has been there repeatedly and who hasn’t. The degree to which people attend GDV repeatedly is VERY LOW. As in, really low. What are the implications for [UPDATE – Clearly I was exhausted last night, so here is the rest of that sentence] community building? Well, this sequence of events…

– Why are we, environmentally-minded folks, not patronizing a more organic, enviro-friendly place like Rhizome?
– Why aren’t folks returning?


(a) Get Green Greeter Volunteers. This is a big issue I have with GDV. I am a super outgoing, ultra social guy. But when I’m at GDV, I freeze. I don’t feel comfortably approaching people, not because I am shy, but because I find it hard. Groups are quickly formed, and yeah you can tell me that I can break into them (I did, and I have always done it), but can you imagine? I freeze, and I’m an extrovert! Can you imagine if I wasn’t? The organizes could help by recruiting a few volunteers who could go around the room greeting people and helping bring others to already-formed small groups.

(b) Change the venue. Seriously. I love Christina, Rika and Lyda, and I know all this work is 100% volunteer (and if you didn’t know, YES they have day jobs and NO they’re not getting paid to organize Green Drinks Vancouver!). But Steamworks feels to me pretentious and it makes me feel part of a group of Green Yuppies. Considering the state of the debate on whether you need to make enough money to be sustainable, we are seriously contributing to fuelling the idea that we are Green Yuppies. I for one, am not. And I refuse to be identified that way. I prefer to be a Hippie than a Yuppie. So, I vote for Rhizome or some other enviro-minded venue.

(c) Do a survey. Why aren’t people coming back? What is it that they are NOT getting at GDV? Heck, if you need the web support, I am even willing to create the survey and post a link on my blog. And I’ll even throw in the statistical analysis for free.

(d) Create a sense of a community. Right now, GDV looks like a room full of enviro folks who don’t know each other, who don’t really relate to each other, and who don’t seem to be very connected to each other. Maybe organize “ice-breakers”, give a shout-out in public to the participants, etc. There’s plenty of ways to do this.

I *know* about this issue (community building). Come on, I’ve moved to four different countries in the past 15 years, I know exactly what I am talking about. If members of a group are always transient and never steady, no sense of community is built. Now that I have been in two local Vancouver teams, and have been playing regularly, I NOW feel part of the teams. Look at my current activities in the blogosphere. I have attended many social media gatherings, and now people start to recognize me and have begun to make great friends who are also bloggers. I am now part of the Vancouver blogging and social media community. THAT is how you build community. You interact with them in REAL LIFE, REPEATEDLY.

WHILE position_in_community IS EQUAL TO not_established

Again, I am trying not to be overly critical, particularly because I fully endorse and support Green Drinks Vancouver. I am just making suggestions, in hopes that they will help the organizers make a better event.



1. Sarah - April 17, 2008

I’m flattered, Raul. It was great to meet you too. By the way, I think you’re the first person who has ever described me as “wholesome.” My parents would be so pround.

Last night was my first time at Green Drinks and I share some of your feelings. Overall, I thought all of the people I met were awesome. My main complaint was that everyone was talking about environmental issues! I guess that’s the point of the evening, though. It’s just a little draining when you work for an environmental organization and your entire working life is spent talking about environmental issues. I guess I just like to talk about other things after work!

2. nancy (aka money coach) - April 17, 2008

Hey Raul – I plan to attend regularly for the foreseeable future. Maybe you and I could be kind of intentional about community building. I don’t know exactly what that looks like, but I’d commit if you would!

I suspect Steamworks is as much about location as anything. It also may be to continue pushing ‘green’ increasingly into mainstream (I’m still blown away by the numbers of people, even in Vancouver, who don’t really take environmental initiatives seriously – eg. still drive cars instead of use transit!!) So steamworks may be more strategic that you’d think. or maybe not.

3. Reflecting on the future of my blog « Random Thoughts of a Student of the Environment - April 19, 2008

[…] had a very, very, very intense work/socializing week. I attended Third Tuesday on Tuesday night, Green Drinks on Wednesday night, Vancouver Tweetup on Thursday night, and had the pleasure of going for drinks […]

4. Christina - April 21, 2008

Well howdy Raul, I so glad I’ve found your blog! Thanks for your feedback on Green Drinks, both in person last week and here on your site. Nancy is correct in that the venue is primarily due to location (note to Nancy: we’ve missed you lately!). And Sarah, feel free to talk about other stuff with me anytime!

When we looked for new venue a couple of years back we asked our modest mailing list for suggestions and did a straw poll in the pub about location – for whatever reason, most indicated they wouldn’t even go up to Main or Commercial and wanted to stay as central as possible with good transit links. We spent a lot of time hunting for a locally run small business that served organics, all in a free space for up to 100 people. But we just couldn’t find anything that also fit the location criteria. Maybe that place exists but we needed to move asap so kind of ran out of time. When we decided to move to Steamworks we actually heard many positive comments about how accessible it had become, from the transportation side of things. We even started getting people from North Van, Surrey and Bowen Island coming. So yeah, I hear you about Rhizome but we’d have to know people would go before uprooting. I feel we can overcome the inclusion issues in the current venue, maybe even accepting that we’re heading mainstream as Nancy puts it….or am I naïve in thinking that we can avoid the yuppie-hippie divide in this town?

As for social accessibility, we have struggled to get people to be more inclusive/welcoming and take more ownership of the event but it can be hard getting the message across. I used to be a regular at the Green Drinks mothership (London, England) and people there seem to have more of a natural inclination to chat to strangers, partly due to the GDs being so well established but mostly due to the pub culture in the UK. We don’t have that working for (or against!) us here and are also often dealing with the chilly social climate of Vancouver that is unlike most places I’ve seen. No excuses though – bringing people together is the whole point of Green Drinks so it’s something we’ve been working on. Using name tags has really helped and we’ve done some simple ice breakers a couple of times, and shall do again. We’ve also started experimenting with outdoor events and hope to do that again. Once someone finds the time…

Your suggestion of green greeters is a good one…let me know how you envision this working and we can give it a go. I’d also love to explore the survey thing with you and any community building stuff that might work. And improving communication among Green Drinkers without having to spam their email.

Rika’s working in Victoria for a year so it’s down to Lyda and I officially for the time being…but we’ve got so many like you with fabulous energy to tap into and turn Green Drinks into the vision as all have. Let me know! If you email our GDs yahoo account you’ll get Lyda but I assume you can get my email address through this rather lovely blog of yours.


ps.. the May GDs event possibly will be a Green Drinks/30 Days of Sustainability wrap up party…hope to have details soon. Sadly I won’t be there…

pps…you say the sweetest things…charmer!

5. Raul - April 21, 2008

@ Nancy – I’m totally game. Let’s get started on the Green Greeters!

@ Christina – I am glad you found my blog! I told you, it *is* really easy to find (and soon enough, it’ll become even EASIER!). Nancy and I will be pro-active in greeting new GDs 🙂

@ Sarah – I think you would be an awesome Green Greeter if you wanted to join 🙂

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