Sunday, June 22, 2008

Gaining Ground

Over the last few weeks, I've done a lot of talking (okay, writing). I've argued that the environmental movement must provide opportunities for those interested to establish non-political connections with one another, feel that they belong to something larger than themselves. I've posited that environmental organizations must open the door for people to get invested. It's time to put my money where my mouth is.

After listening to me wax passionately about this topic for the better part of an hour (oops!), my city's Green Task Force is now looking to move in this direction. Among other things, we would like to set up social opportunities for our growing list of members to get to know one another, establish relationships, and enjoy themselves.

I would love to get your input - no matter where you live or whether you have any type of green group in your vicinity. If you had an environmental group in your area and wanted to get involved, what type of event would you be interested in? For background, my group is a city group so it includes all city citizens - all ages, all genders, some parents, some not, etc.

I've listed several of the options our task force kicked around. Please vote for all options that appeal to you. If you have any other suggestions, please leave your thoughts or ideas in the comments. I have a feeling many of you are better party planners than I!

Thank you so much for your thoughts!


Joyce said...

I voted, even though I don't live near you. I just thought the picnic after a project would be a really fun thing.

Green Bean said...

Joyce: Thank you for voting. I guess I need to clarify in the post that I want ideas from people no matter they live. The blogosphere has turned out to be such an amazing resource of ideas, that I thought I'd tap into your collective brains for this. Thanks!

Jennifer said...

Those are some great ideas... I would tend to go family friendly so as to attract the greatest number of participants. So, I vote for ice cream social or picnic for starters... and build up to an annual street fair/expo. I would skip the wine bar idea for an initial meeting, as there are certain groups (including those with young children who might only come if they can tag along) who might not join you. For a later meeting, sure... for the first big one I wouldn't.

eco 'burban mom said...

I voted! We had a green street fair here locally, the Plymouth Green Street Fair and it was connected to the local farmer's market. From what I hear, the event was very well received. I attended and was impressed with some vendors, disapointed in others. Tupperware? I mean, come on! If you do this, I think the key is to have a juried entry process. Certain criteria must be met, in order to exhibit. I was annoyed by the greenwashing, mostly because - hate to toot my own horn here - I feel somewhat educated on the green movement. I don't think others noticed it as much, we are a bit behind here in Detroit. Though, Toyota brought an entire interactive exhibit featuring the Prius and it was executed nicely. So, you win some, you lose some! I will email you the website for the fair, Each street had a theme - fashion, food, home etc. Well done, I thought.

For my idea - what about partnering with local museums and a zoo? What if you ran a summer long program with a special event each month at a zoo, children's museum, history museum, science center etc. Each month's theme could be on how green, global warming, recycling etc. affects different parts of our culture, environment and history? Bonus, each of these venues will see a spike in attendance and revenue and green groups get a chance to meet. I would love it if one event, such as the zoo, was for families and then to have a nice strolling dinner at a history museum for grown ups only etc.

Sorry, I'm rambling... Can you tell I work in the marketing and corporate development field?!? Such a dork, I am!

lauren said...

This would be hard to pull off on a large scale, but I would love to attend an event that teaches a skill (I'm thinking mostly about canning here). I'm a hands-on learner, so while I try to read up on a lot of how-to stuff, nothing beats being shown by an expert.

Maybe a different person could host a small group at their house every week for a month for such skills-based classes.

I'll keep thinking!

Heather @ SGF said...

Something we've dreamed about doing here is having a recipe/cooking contest with farmers market foods and then of course, everyone gets to eat afterwards!

innercitygarden said...

I'd go for the picnic/farmer's market with extras type ideas because they don't have an entry fee (some of the others have an implied entry fee of a glass of wine or an icecream). If you want a community feel you don't want it to come across as a thing you only go to if you're going to buy stuff.

If you go with a picnic idea you need some sort of activity that is voluntary, but where people can meet each other and discuss ideas. Perhaps a picnic-conference combo? Wanna talk canning? Go over by that big tree. Wanna talk recycling? You're friends are over there by the pond. Otherwise people end up going with their partner/family/friends and only talking to them.

Jennifer (of Veg*n Cooking) said...

These are all great ideas and I would love something like this near me.

Another thing I would be looking for would be practical advice and help. People who get together to help each other retrofit their homes, the homes of the elderly. People teaching others to garden, opening up public lands for urban gardening, etc. Basically, a place where people can go to get advice and help on exactly how they can live more sustainably, and then once they are on board, there are more people to help any 'newbies' that come. What I like are community based solutions, not political ones.

Katy said...

I voted. I really liked the idea of the picnic and something connected with the farmer's market. It seems like great ways to get people together in a family friendly enviroment and allow for some great conversations and exchange of ideas.

Natalie said...

I would echo the comments made about not having the kick-off event at a wine bar or ice creamery, for reasons already stated. I really like either the picnic or farmer's market ideas.

Could you possibly get local green-minded companies to give you free products or gift certificates as give aways? People love free stuff. I'm not sure if this would work since this is a municipal organization. Our co-op (non profit) preschool has been the recipient of all sorts of goodies from our community - but it's generally a write-off for the donors. Anyway, you wouldn't need to get much "stuff" to give away. Your target crowd probably isn't all the stuff-oriented. And, you'd be amazed at what people will do to win one small prize. (We're a nation of competitors. Winning at random chance is still WINNING, after all!)

lamarguerite said...

Green Bean, since I live in your general area, I am just curious, which city are you referring to?

I like that you are starting your initiative at the local level.

marguerite at

Verde said...

Thank you for the borage! It arrived today, yea!

I was thinking of a judged cooking contest using alt. cooking methods.

Green Bean said...

Jennifer: Great point. Why as a parent didn't I think of that? Hmmm, maybe because I was thinking I can escape the kids at the wine bar. ;-) Would never have worked though.

EcoBurbs: Thank you so much for the inside scoop on your local green faire. Super helpful. I love the idea of a zoo or museum. I can think of a couple of the latter than are close.

Lauren: That is a great idea. We do that in my green book club - which is pretty small. You are right that people absolutely want to learn some of those skills and why not offer a free class in them from time to time. I attended a class last weekend on keeping backyard chickens and at the end of the class, particpants were bombarding the instructor with requests for classes like that.

Heather: Now that sounds FUN! I'd totally be into that. And I like that we could wrap it into the green faire idea.

InnerCity: Good point. I hadn't thought of that. And you are so right. We'd need something interesting but not hokey to get people to mix it up.

Jennifer (Vegan Cooking): Thanks for your ideas. You make a really great point. Don't we all want to learn from each other, gain more knowledge and then pass that on. Thank you.

Katy: thank you for your input. We've had some people sign up and say I want to get involved as a family. You are right. Those events would be perfect fit.

La Marguerite: I'll email ya.

Verde: Yea! Glad you got your seeds. Heather mentioned a cooking contest too. That sounds super fun.

Wild Orchids for Trotsky said...

Nice ideas! I agree with others who liked the picnic/farmer's market one. As a variant, what about a harvest dinner at a local community-supported-agriculture farm? The sister of one of my friends runs a CSA farm, and they host a harvest dinner every year for the people who subscribe to their produce. I think they make lots of nice food from the harvest (duh), and also have some live music and dancing, sort of hoe-down style, with local fiddlers etc. I bet a farm like that would welcome the publicity if a green group wanted to partner with them for this kind of event.
Cheers, Rachel

Melinda said...

Awesome, GB! You're doing amazing things! I would go to any of the venues for the gathering. However, it seems to me they would all be very different kinds of meetings based on the venue. Probably couldn't do a whole lot of serious work and planning in the ice cream parlor or the wine bar, but those would be good places to get to know one another.

The gathering at the local community center seems like a necessity, though, as people are more apt to participate if they feel a part of the planning process. Just make sure it's fun, there's food, and there are things the kids can do while the parents are putting their brains toward sustainability! (Might want to hire a local babysitter or 2 to take care of the kids during the meeting.)

Next month Matt and I are going to a Sustainability Fair followed by a Bike-In Movie. I'm so excited!

They don't have much about it, but in case it's useful, here are the posts:

Beany said...

I'll try to stick to the topic instead of excessively complaining.

I got involved with many organizations over the years and I have really one major complaint about all of them: they tend to cater too much to the car owning types. Maybe its because the car owning types have more money/connections and ability to haul lots of stuff. But putting these meetings in areas that were either inaccessible to bikers or inconvenient or far away (like a suburb) to bike to really didn't make me want to join. Perhaps that was their intent? There is an ongoing sustainable workshop going on that I would love to attend. But its 2 miles from the nearest train station that has a train running once an hour.

Anyway. The sort of group I would be interested in includes everything you mentioned a bit of everything with a main focus every meeting. I like the documentaries, I like potlucks. I do not like green washing. I really have huge problems with environmental events that sell stuff. I know funding is a problem, but I'd rather buy a cookie than a teeshirt.

I'm so impressed you're doing this. I am still a follower more than a leader but you are inspiring me.


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