There’s a lot to know and consider when you’re trying to be more environmentally friendly. It’s easy to be overwhelmed and give up before you even really begin, especially if you’re going at it alone.
Green Drinks was born in London in 1990 when eco-minded friends casually started meeting up for a beer once a month to share ideas and make new connections — a get-together that made space for people to ask questions, air grievances, and seek guidance. It took over a decade, but the idea started catching on in other cities and countries. Today, there are hundreds of chapters across the globe, all dedicated simply to organizing space for people to get together and talk about the environment.
Chrissy Cooley, who has dedicated her career to environmental activism, has been the organizer of Tacoma Green Drinks since she moved to Washington almost 10 years ago. She had been heavily involved as a college student in the Columbus, Ohio chapter, and was instrumental in building out the Tacoma chapter when she first arrived.
“When I came here, I didn’t have any family or friends around, and I wanted to meet people,” said Cooley. “In Columbus, Green Drinks is really what welcomed me into the environmental movement, so I looked for a Tacoma chapter.”
There was one, though it was on the smaller side at the time. When she went to her first meet-up, she expressed interest in helping out. By the end of the night, the organizer stood up and announced that Cooley would be the new organizer.
“That’s how I took over,” she laughed.
Cooley’s position and the entire concept of Green Drinks is volunteer-based — there’s no title, no money, no 501c3, no merchandise. Each month, Cooley sets up a meeting space at a Tacoma bar and organizes for a local environmental organization to speak about what they do and how people could get involved. It’s not formal at all — speakers don’t talk for long, and the evening is dominated by conversation with whoever happens to be sitting at your table.
“I would encourage anyone to just show up to meet people,” Cooley said. “It’s kind of the lowest barrier possible to get involved in the environmental movement. And with how divided the country can feel right now, it’s just a good place where we can all come and feel supported by one another.”
Cooley’s efforts as the organizer of Tacoma Green Drinks pale in comparison to her involvement in local environmental efforts: She pushed for the Bring Your Own Bag ordinance, was on the Sustainable Tacoma Commission for six years, serves on the Tacoma Public Utilities board, and has been a manager, coordinator, and partner for numerous sustainable projects in Washington state.
While Cooley has dedicated her life to environmental sustainability, she recognizes that not everyone is in the position to do the same. And that’s where Green Drinks comes in — as an event through which people can easily get involved, no matter what point they are at in their eco-friendly lifestyle.
“I think the conversation around sustainability has swelled,” said Cooley. “It went from apathy to everyone caring to people getting a bit burned out. That’s one of the reasons I think Green Drinks is important: If we’re always calling people to action and never calling people to just have a drink, they get tired.”
For Cooley, who is constantly saturated in discussions around sustainable practices and fighting climate change, the casual and fun nature of the group also serves as a refreshing outlet.
“It’s a place where you’re with your community,” she said. “Even though things can feel tough, we’re in it together.”