Loose and Local: NYC’s Niche Green Networks

December 3, 2007

By Adam Brock

At Just Food’s Good Food Now! summit on Saturday, I attended a workshop session held by members of the Green Edge Collaborative, a newish organization that facilitates potlucks and eco-eatery tours around the city. Listening to the participants brainstorm ideas for future events, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit of deja vu – Green Edge seemed to be aiming for a cross between Green Drinks and Green Arch, with a little bit of Green Maps thrown in.

The experience keyed me into a trend in the New York environmental movement that seems both entirely obvious and completely novel: thanks in large part to the adhesive powers of the internet, the regeneration is creating a proliferation of loose, local communities centered around increasingly specific themes. These mini-networks exist half online, half in the real world, and are usually managed by one or two people in their free time. They’re multiplying at a dizzying pace, but it would be silly to think of them as competing with each other: as Annie noted the other day, maintaining diversity in the movement is key. Here’s a rundown of the NYCentric green collectives I’m hip to (it’s by no means comprehensive – please add your own in the comments):

Perhaps the best known verdy social networks in NYC are the two local chapters of Green Drinks, which host monthly gatherings at bars in both Manhattan and Brooklyn. Each meetup usually brings a few hundred young greensters to eco-conscious locales around town, though I can’t say they’re really my scene: the crowd tends towards the lime and profesh.

Another network that’s been getting some hype of a different stripe is freegan.info. These folks are best known for their propensity to dumpster dive, but there’s far more to the freegan philosophy than that: drawing wealth from the abundance of other peoples’ waste is just one strategy in their fight to extract themselves from the global capitalist system. On the freegan.info site, you’ll find the scoop on upcoming bike workshops, wild food foraging walks – and, yes, trash tours.

On a slightly more entertaining tip is nonsense, a weekly email of hipster happenings curated by Williamsurg resident Jeff Stark (also a co-host of the biweekly freegan feast grub). While many of the nonsense events don’t have a lick of greenness about them, the ones that do make it well worth the occasional read – this week’s email included a benefit auction for food security in Nicaragua, a gathering of the “trash worship society” and a holiday fair of local crafts.

Eating Liberally is an NYC sustainable food network run by Greenwich Village residents Kerry Trueman and Matthew Rosenberg. Eating Liberally hosts and promotes potlucks, food-related parties, and movie screenings, and the site’s got a terrific blog on sustainable ag.

The NYC chapter of the Peak Oil Meetup group has been hosting some thought-provoking talks as of late: see my posts on recent lectures by peak oilers Albert Bates and Daniel Lerch.

Finally, there’s the Green Arch Initiative, a google group managed by yours truly that promotes verdy activities around NYU and NYC at large. Green Arch was founded a few years ago as a student club, but is now largely an online presence that caters to NYU students and New Yorkers alike.

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5 Responses to “Loose and Local: NYC’s Niche Green Networks”


  1. O2 NYC would be another one. A network of professionals in the field of environmental design, which hosts some good events.

    http://www.o2nyc.org/


  2. [...] skimming a roundup of the New York City green scene, which includes a bunch of food-related events and organizations, I couldn’t help but wonder [...]


  3. [...] awareness of the benefits of Real Food. We have our own organizations, at our own schools. And as Adam pointed out last week, the last thing we need is another organization, demanding more of our time, [...]

  4. Ryan Wood Says:

    In 1995, a firm called TeleGeography published a detailed “map” of the architecture of the internet – simply a visual representation of bandwidth density between geographic locations. It was (seemingly) a giant purple line between the East coast of America and Europe. So telling.

    But lo! this map was interactive, and you could whittle down the giant purple mess using a variety of metrics – the mechanism for applying any “social” metric is very roundabout, as you would imagine. Researchers started mapping the internet “footprints” of niche social groups, sub-cultures, and affinity networks and stumbled upon a recurring and particular geometry; a relatively small number of key locations act as points of connection for loosely associated entities spread out across the binary landscape.

    TeleGeography called these patterns “hubs and spokes”. Each hub had many spokes, and spokes could have more than one hub. Autonomy and interconnectedness. Redundancy (for better and worse) is a fact of existence in this digital domain, and it will be a feature of any social organization that springs from it.

    Though, there’s something appealing about the richness that comes with complexity, the endurance that comes with decentralization. It’s hard to imagine a more democratic model for a social movement.

    Of course, there’s the question of effectiveness. . .

  5. greenfreak Says:

    PrintResponsibly.com launched their website today (Earth Day)…and they’re offering free eco-friendly business cards for a limited time: http://www.printresponsibly.com/web/index.aspx?option=content&id=75


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