Free beer! Saving the world one keg at a time

Free photos by Emile are at Portland Greendrinks events.

A few of us attended the Greendrinks Portland event at The Inn on Peaks Island last night. Since its local chapter founding in 2008, Greendrinks events have grown in popularity. The Portland, Maine chapter is part of the international Greendrinks network — an informal, volunteer-managed social networking group built around a common interest in the natural environment. The goal of Greendrinks is pretty simple, they say: good times shared among people working in, or interested in, environmental and sustainability issues.

It’s a great idea. What began in 1989 in a pub in Northern London has now spread to over 488 cities in 49 countries. It’s true what they say about themselves: Greendrinks brings together a lively mix of people from all walks of life: academics, NGOs, local businesses and government agencies. The goal is to create an organic, self-organizing network where everyone is welcome. It’s a great way to catch up with people you already know, as well as an opportunity to meet new people and make new connections.

And let’s not forget the beer. Last night’s sponsor was Shipyard Brewing Company, owner of the Inn on Peaks. Other events featured sponsors Allagash Brewing, Sebago Brewing, Peak Organic and more. The fee to attend is modest- just two dollars if you provide your own drinking vessel (read cup) and five dollars if you don’t. Proceeds benefit a local non-profit. Most recent non profits were Portland Trails, Appalachian Mountain Club, Goodwill Industries and the Portland Music Foundation.

Last night we got to learn about the good work under way by the Island Institute, a non-profit working with Maine’s year round islands and remote coastal communities, to ensure that they remain vibrant places to live, work and educate children.

We met Celia, one of the Island Institute fellows who will be leading a sustainable community agriculture project on Chebeague Island. We all know about the lobstering that takes place there, but who knew the Island is home to two farms? The goal is to integrate healthy local food into every day island life, and to also engage the school children there in planting and harvesting their own produce. They’ve already got nice onion bounty. So what to do when the snow flies? Celia says they’ll have a combination of classroom curriculum and maybe access to a root cellar.

The project is admittedly small. But it also fits a change model that has proven success among non profits and in business – focus on doing a great job in a small community, get results, build advocates, then take it on the road. Scalability for good deeds will come and growth can be managed one step at a time. Simply stated, it’s pilot programming, 1.0, beta – whatever your label. Starting in a small community allows room for mistakes, for taking risks, for deeper conversations and changes in direction. We wish them much luck and hope they have a fun farmers market exchange with the mainland next summer.



About christengraham

President of Giving Strong, Inc. Christen advises businesses, foundations and families for how to make a greater social impact.