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Green Drinks brings together anyone interested in the environment, from the head of the vegan society to the green banker, the green mechanical engineer, and everyone between.
CONCERN for the environment is coming out of greenie conventions and into the social mainstream. Now you can meet and mingle with like-minded people over cocktails, thanks to the Green Drinks initiative.

Green Drinks is a global project active in approximately 768 cities. “The motivation behind Green Drinks, which is an international, self-organising network, is really to bring people together to discuss all things green, (to) find themselves in a network that brings people together with similar convictions, so to speak,” says Jutta Berns-Mumbi, the organiser of the Johannesburg chapter.

It first came to the city of gold in 2007, introduced by Irvan Damon, one of the contestants in the first Big Brother South Africa reality show in 2001. He is an entrepreneur and the co-founder of Carbon d’Afreeque, a specialist eco-entrepreneurship company that focuses on recycling reclaimed advertising billboards into high-end eco-accessories.

They were big events, with celebrities, music and talks, explains Berns-Mumbi, but his busy work schedule meant that Green Drinks fell by the wayside in 2008.

She resuscitated the idea in August 2009, and has been running it ever since. The gatherings take place once a month, usually on the first Thursday of the month at Il Giardino at 44 on Stanley, in Milpark.

“Up to now, I have kept [it] really informal and casual, just people getting together to talk green. But I want to give Green Drinks a new kick, which is something we started with the first speaker on 7 July.”

The number of people who turns up varies from month to month, with Berns-Mumbi reporting that there have been as many as 50 at some, yet only a handful at others. The first invited speaker was set up for the July meeting. The topic generated a lot of interest and drew a really good crowd, she says.

Justin Bowen, the development director of Menlyn Maine, was the speaker. Menlyn Maine is the first true green precinct in Africa, and is located in the eastern suburbs of Pretoria. It will contain commercial, retail and residential space in an effort to foster integration and the idea of people living where they play and work.

Built on sustainability principles, the buildings will incorporate energy efficient systems such as high efficiency lighting and fixtures, and storm water harvesting systems. Building materials contain recycled content such as cast in-situ concrete and pre-cast concrete systems.

“We really want to get a speaker at every Green Drinks going forward,” Berns-Mumbi says. There will be a speaker in August, who will talk about green cleaning products that really work, and Food and Trees for Africa will do a presentation in September.

Most of the gatherings are hosted at 44 on Stanley. “We just like 44 Stanley – it’s central, easily accessible, is an urban regeneration project and has a vibe,” she says.

But meetings may also take place in other venues, such as Arts on Main and in the new venues in Braamfontein.

Green Drinks International says on its website: “These events are very simple and unstructured, but many people have found employment, made friends, developed new ideas, done deals and had moments of serendipity. It’s a force for the good.”

Berns-Mumbi concurs, point out that the exchange of ideas occurs not within just one sphere or profession of environmental interest. “We get people from across the spectrum – the head of the vegan society to the green banker, the solar caravan organiser to the green mechanical engineer, from the green building consultant to the smallholder on the East Rand.

“Because the forum is casual and fluid, there is an enormous space for new ideas to be generated; and we see it happening,” she says.

For more information or to get involved, visit the Green Drinks Johannesburg Facebook page or the Green Drinks website. Alternatively, email Berns-Mumbi on to be added to the mailing list.

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