A line of people circled a New York City block in December 2006. Over the course of the night, eight hundred crammed themselves into a downtown bar for a holiday party. The guests did not attend the same school, work for a common company, or belong to any analogous unifying force that normally determines the list of invitees to such events. In fact, many were strangers united only by a shared interest for environmental ethics and the social network organization, Green Drinks, of which they are devoted members.
Investment consultants traded tips for conserving energy while actors, politicians and teachers exchanged business cards and their favorite hiking routes. At the center of the party stood Green Drinks organizer and NOLS alumna Margaret Lydecker. The success of the fifth annual Green Drinks holiday party was a paragon of initiative and ingenuity and a deep concern for the wilderness that began eighteen years ago on a Fall Semester in the Rockies.
Margaret enrolled in her NOLS Semester after childhood summers in the Adirondacks inspired her to pursue her love of the backcountry; it did the trick. “My Fall Semester in the Rockies made a permanent mark on me,” Margaret says. “It changed my view of the world.”
Her NOLS course and developing interest in the environment posed a puzzling dilemma though: can a self-proclaimed city girl balance her passion for the outdoors with her passion for a cosmopolitan lifestyle? Margaret struggled with what seemed like a conflict of interest for years. “I wanted the best of both worlds,” she explains, but accomplishing that proved difficult.
After graduating from college in 1991, Margaret searched for a way to satisfy her disparate curiosities. She worked in New York City for four years before cycling across the country to Portland, then moved to San Francisco, where she started ETV, a cable channel “for companies and people finding creative solutions to environmental issues.” In 2000 she enrolled in Vermont Law School, spent a summer in Alaska with her former NOLS instructor Dori McDannold, then moved back to New York City to rekindle her love affair with the Big Apple on September 9, 2001. Two days later, as the World Trade Center towers and, ostensibly, Manhattan crashed to the ground, Margaret resolved to stay in her beloved city and work to unite her professional interests and, ultimately, her fellow, resolute New Yorkers.
Margaret worked to educate urban designers about sustainable materials as a green materials consultant, then co-founded NICHE Design, a green interior design company that boasted its own furniture collection. Despite her efforts to prioritize environmental initiatives, however, Margaret worried that if she “didn’t know anyone in the environmental field,” then the community she had vowed to support needed more. She decided to start the social networking organization Green Mixer, but after discovering the successful UK-based Green Drinks, asked to found its first stateside chapter. “It picked me,” she says of her environmental path, ultimately, and her ambitious venture, “and it all started because of NOLS.” 6,000 members and countless events later, Green Drinks New York is the largest of the organization’s 190 branches.
Although Green Drinks has been a success, Margaret is anxious to expand. With healthy, active members who love to explore the outdoors, Green Drinks is poised to venture beyond bars and into the city’s parks. Lace up, Green Drinkers. Your calendar is about to get full.
There are Green Drinks chapters in Europe, North America, and now South America with a new chapter in Santiago, Chile. Find your local chapter at www.green-links.org.