Envisioning an 'eco-village'

On several fronts, Annapolis business people go for green

June 18, 2008|By Susan Gvozdas | Susan Gvozdas,Special to The Sun

The seeds for a green revolution in Annapolis are being planted in a city coffee shop.

Linnea Boagades runs Raising Pickles, a company that can pick up recycled waste from businesses, a service the city doesn't provide. Stephanie Duncan of the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitors Bureau is launching an initiative to get its member hotels and businesses to conserve more water and energy. Helen Loughrey is trying to spread the word about Annapolis Community Food Gardens to encourage neighborhoods to use empty lots to grow their own vegetables.

The three joined a half-dozen others around a table last Wednesday morning at BB Bistro for what they call Green Caffeine. The organization formed in November with a self-described mission of making Annapolis a more Earth-friendly city. They want more recycling, less stormwater runoff and more environmental planning between the city and Anne Arundel County. They haven't decided how they're going to do it - whether they are going to lobby politicians for change or become a nonprofit and educate the public - but the group has big plans.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in Wednesday's Anne Arundel County section about the Annapolis-based Green Drinks group incorrectly stated who had won a grant from banking company HSBC to train professionals in a workshop this fall on green practices they can introduce into their workplaces.
The Earthwatch Institute secured the grant. The Sun regrets the error.

"We're trying to make Annapolis an eco-village," said co-founder Elvia Thompson.

Green Caffeine plans to set up an information table Saturday at the Eastport a Rockin' festival. Next month, the group will speak to the Annapolis and Eastport business associations about green business practices.

Green Caffeine is the non-alcoholic partner of Green Drinks, a monthly happy hour at local restaurants where as many as 90 people have shown up to trade business cards and information about environmentally friendly business practices and activities. Lynne Forsman started Green Drinks locally two years ago. She expanded it in recent months as the result of a collaboration with Thompson, a local Web designer. The pair teamed up in October and has created a Web site, AnnapolisGreen.com, and now the so-called practical version of Green Drinks, where the real work of greening Annapolis is going to take place.

Thompson, president of Stellar Presentations, said she started going to Green Drinks because she couldn't seem to find information about green activities in Annapolis. She said she found that many organizations did things on their own, but no one seemed to talk to one another.

"I was frustrated because I couldn't find out who was doing what," said Thompson, who is a board member of the Spa Creek Conservancy.

Thompson approached Forsman about creating a Web site last fall. At the time, Forsman was using a link to Web site of the international Green Drinks organization. The grassroots network started in 1989 in northern London with locals getting together over a few pints at the pub. With the help of a Web site in 2001, word spread and the number of Green Drinks cities worldwide more than doubled in the past year and a half to 376. A New York City Green Drinks holiday party attracted 900 people in December.

The philosophy is that like-minded professionals can connect and make doing business green affordable and workable. Thompson and Forsman are exploring ways to take that to the next level.

"People are coming to us because we seem to be the focus of what is going on," Thompson said.

Forsman, the former owner of the yacht charter company Nautical Destinations, said she was attracted to the concept of Green Drinks because it is a fun way to hear environmental tips - no boring lectures to attend and no membership fees.

"That's why we've been so successful so far," Forsman said.

Sometimes Green Drinks invites a speaker, but normally it is informal with just an information table set up. People are allowed to give a brief introduction. Then the mingling begins.

On Friday, Green Drinks took over South River Golf Links in Edgewater in conjunction with Yappy Hour, an annual event in which club members can show off their canines and raise money for the SPCA. A table featured information about organic dog food and links to Web sites about composting dog waste and natural ways to control fleas.

Rebecca Wadler of Earth Watch searched for possible candidates for a fellowship this fall. She and her husband have a grant to train professionals on green practices they can establish at their companies. Wadler, who moved from New York City to Edgewater in April, went looking for events similar to the Green Drinks events she went to in New York.

"I didn't think Annapolis would have it," she said. "They're very welcoming and helpful in helping me tap into stakeholders."

The eco-minded businesses are also finding ways to make green by reaching new customers. Rita Calvert passed out bumper stickers for the local chapter of "Buy Fresh, Buy Local" and promoted her business, Chesapeake Food Farm Tours. She said she didn't know what to make of Green Drinks when she heard about it last year. Now she's hooked.

"I didn't think it sounded very serious," Calvert said. "It's fabulous for networking."

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