This article by Jacob Barker appeared in the April 20, 2007, edition of the Webster-Kirkwood Times newspaper. The photo is by Diane Linsley.
Green Drinks: Cold Beer, Cool Talk About the Environment
by Jacob Barker
When Kirkwood resident Walt Jaschek walked up to the house that was hosting Green Drinks, an environmental organization he heard about through friends, he couldn’t get inside.
“I walked over from my then apartment and approached this house crawling with people,” he said. “It looked more like an event I’d see in my advertising life, with a lot of young professionals arriving in their cool cars.”
Jaschek stood at the front door along with a half-dozen other people, none of whom could get into the crowded house.
Jaschek has attended two meetings held by Green Drinks, a group that holds monthly meetings of “green” thinking individuals who network and share ideas. The organization began in an English pub and now has chapters in over 150 different cities throughout the world.
“I think they’re really on to something,” Jaschek said. “You can sense the enthusiasm, you can sense that they’re on the front wave of something. I wouldn’t doubt if in the near future there would be Green Drinks Kirkwood or Green Drinks Webster.”
South City resident Terry Winkelmann joined the St. Louis chapter shortly after it began in 2005.
“The whole point of Green Drinks is to connect and provide a way for people to meet other like-minded people in St. Louis so that we realize we’re not alone in our interest in the environment and sustainability issues,” she said.
Green Drinks is not really a membership-based organization, Winkelmann said. But more than 300 people attended the last meeting and many regulars have asked her if meetings could be held weekly, she said.
Winkelmann was initially attracted to the organization when she was preparing to open her store. At her first meeting she talked to other environmentally conscious individuals and tested her ideas. This is a big part of Green Drinks meetings now, she said, to talk with a diverse group of people about global and local environmental issues.
“It’s kind of like a chamber of commerce meeting, except it’s for people who are not in any way related except for their interest and concern for the environment,” Winkelmann said. “There are business people, there are civics people, non-profits, teachers, people who work in the environmental field, people who want to volunteer in the environmental field.
“We have found that people have found jobs by coming to Green Drinks, people have started businesses going to Green Drinks and testing out ideas,” she continued. “The only real common element is that people are concerned about the way we’ve been doing things for so long and they are aware that there are better ways of working, of shopping of building, of everything.”
Winkelmann said that monthly meetings usually occur in a bar, with the next meeting to include a panel of speakers who give a presentation on a specific topic. March’s Green Drinks meeting featured a talk on handling natural areas in homeowner’s yards. Jeff Depew, professor of biology and environmental studies at Webster University and owner of Earth Designs in Webster Groves, was one of the speakers at the meeting.
“It’s a great organization,” Depew said. “The fact that it’s in little St. Louis, which is largely an un-environmental city, is great. It’s a testament to the fact that people are trying in St. Louis to make more of an environmental impact, an environmental statement, and change our ways in St. Louis, which is pretty remarkable.”
Jaschek was particularly impressed with the discussion on native plants and natural areas in yards.
“The topic at the last meeting, how to handle natural areas (in your yard), was actually one of the most interesting conversations I’ve heard,” he said. “I learned a lot. I think any homeowner with a yard would have been fascinated by the topic and the points of views. You don’t have to be ‘green’ to get useful information about how our environments fit in with the environment.”
Depew also learned from the meeting.
“There’s no one who knows all the answers, it’s just not that type of environmental problem that we’re into,” he said. “Everyone is learning something all the time. There is no one who knows all the answers.”
Last month was Depew’s first time attending a Green Drinks meeting. He said he plans to continue attending. He said the organization is a valuable informational resource and a testament to rising environmental consciousness among more and more people.
“People are hungry for this information, and they don’t know exactly where to go other than the Internet,” Depew said. “Here is a little organization that is presenting environmental topics and environmental solutions and environmental connections within the city in a comfortable social atmosphere.”
Jaschek hopes more and more people from outside St. Louis City begin attending Green Drinks. Although he has always thought of himself as “green,” Jaschek is now more enthusiastic and educated about environmental issues because of Green Drinks.
“Now is the time to be much more so (environmentally conscious),” he said. “The clock is ticking, the environment locally and globally is in peril. It’s not a political construct. We all have to do more, and sometimes that just starts with learning and talking…and drinking.”
Green Drinks held a meeting on Tuesday, April 17, to help celebrate its second anniversary as a St. Louis chapter. Representatives from a dozen environmental groups in the greater St. Louis area were be attendance.