PORTLAND – Over 450 people filled the three vintage and retro treasure-filled floors of the Portland Flea-for-All at 125 Kennebec Street in Portland last Tuesday evening. While the draw of stacks of vinyl records and a rather creepy talking clown contraption is enough to fill the market each weekend, a promise of local brews and a message of sustainability fueled the crowd this weeknight. Over the loudspeaker, the voice of Kimberly Ballard, Membership Coordinator and Office Manager for GrowSmart Maine, could barely be heard above the hundreds of conversations. "It truly bodes well for the future of sustainability in Maine to see so many people out at Greendrinks events like tonight – and free beer doesn't hurt either!"
Since 2010, the folks at Portland Greendrinks have been bringing together people working in, or interested in, environmental and sustainability issues over free locally brewed beer, mead and soda on the second Tuesday of every month. Each event features a local nonprofit and a local venue – this month featured GrowSmart Maine and the Portland Flea-for-All. And usually there's something relevant and timely where attendees can take action – a petition to sign, a letter-writing campaign or a cause to join. For a $2 entry fee if you BYOV (bring your own vessel) or $5 if not, local breweries such as Allagash, Sebago, Peak and Rising Tide keep the taps flowing to the 21+ crowd. Mostly unstructured, these events lend themselves perfectly to networking, information gathering, brainstorming and simply relaxing after work.
For GrowSmart Maine, a statewide, non-partisan, membership-based nonprofit focused on sustainable prosperity in Maine, this Greendrinks was a first. "It's been a wonderful success", stated Ballard. "We've had over 90 people send letters to our Senators supporting the reauthorization of the EPA's Brownfields program, and many more really interested in what we're doing as an organization. We're really glad we've had this kind of opportunity to reach out to people who ordinarily wouldn't have heard about us."
The beer often runs out before the doors close at 8, but the connections made during these evenings last a lifetime.