When Cory Schnaible started going to Portland Greendrinks events in 2008, 30 was a good crowd. Today Greendrinks hosts up to 600 people mingling, drinking whatever the beverage of the evening is and talking about sustainability and environmental issues (and maybe a few more trivial things, too). We called board member Schnaible to find out just how and why this all-volunteer group works and what drives him – beyond fun – to help throw a monthly party.

PARTY ON: Schnaible is one of a core group of about seven who plan Greendrinks’ monthly events. (He was anxious to make sure it was clear that it is very much a joint effort, so let’s get that on the record.) But when Portland Greendrinks, an offshoot of an international group, was first getting going, Schnaible was just a partygoer drawn to the concept. Then around 2010, “You could see the thing starting to scale.” That’s when he enthusiastically signed on to help – just organizing the events takes about 10 hours monthly – and even though he’s now a dad with 3-year-old twins, he still shows up to most events. “Out of the 12 we do a year I probably go to 11. I love the events.”

BYOV: Entry to Greendrink events costs $5 and a glass, as in, bring your own vessel. (The fee gets you two drink tickets, too.) The first $1,000 goes directly to whatever nonprofit the group is featuring that night. This month, on Tuesday, that would be Allagash Wilderness Waterway Foundation and the venue will be Portland Community Squash. “We don’t have really hard and fast rules,” about the nonprofits. “The only one we have is that sustainability has to work within their mission in some form. It doesn’t have to be environmental, it can be community.” The Allagash Wilderness Waterway Foundation supports the historical and cultural aspect of the region and supports youth trips there. Local brewers and beverage makers, including Allagash Brewing Company, Green Bee Craft Beverages, Peaks Organic Brewing, Sebago Brewing Company and Urban Farm Fermentory, supply the drinks. “Then we have a guest tap that will come in.” This month that will be Rising Tide Brewing Company. “We see new faces every month, but our crowd is just consistently really cool people. You can turn around and talk to any of them.”

NO LECTURES: Portland Greendrinks gets about 50 applications annually from nonprofits interested in being featured. The board picks 12 and promises them a minimum $1,000 contribution at the event, with additional money going into a kitty to be divided evenly at the end of the year. That’s Greendrinks’ means of making sure that bad weather or other mitigating factors don’t make for unfair advantages in distribution. Does someone stand up and speechify? “There is no lecture. It is not like a timeshare thing where we give you this really cool thing but make you sit down for 20 minutes first.” Representatives from nonprofit of the evening stands at the door, taking that $5 ($10 if you buy a “Rad” pint glass, found by Greendrinks at local thrift stores). That way, “they get one-on-one time with everyone.”

THE SOCIAL NETWORK: Do attendees tend to be job-seeking sorts, trying to line up gigs? Not really, Schnaible says. “I am not crazy about the word networking because it feels like you are just using somebody for something.” Greendrinks is more about connecting, and while it could be a chance to meet a future co-worker, it could also be a chance to find friends, or even romantic partners. A former board member met her husband at a Greendrinks event. “We have heard a lot of stories,” Schnaible says. “If you’re single, you’ll meet people.”

NOSH AND NIBBLES? There’s no set rule on having food be part of the events, but when Maine Grain Alliance was the featured nonprofit in October, they brought along some nibbles. “Bread and cookies. There was a lot of food moaning going on.”

PORTLAND CALLING: One slot was left open when this year’s nonprofits were selected, and Schnaible says that December’s Greendrinks is likely to be a fundraiser for the group’s counterpart in Puerto Rico. “There is a Greendrinks in San Juan we’ve been trying to connect with. We put in several phone calls but lines are down.”

DAY JOB: Schnaible is a senior copywriter at Ethos, a marketing and design agency in Westbrook. He’s been there three years and says the company is highly supportive of community involvement. “On our time sheets, we actually have a block that says, board service.”

TRASH TALK: What set him on a path toward environmental awareness and civic engagement? As a child growing up in Cape Cod he had a baby sitter who used to take his sister and him to the beach to pick up trash. The lesson stuck; he walks Willard Beach with his 13-year-old husky-setter mix every morning, picking up trash. Schnaible never leaves empty-handed. “It is a terrible thing, because that means there is always garbage on the beach.” Sometimes it’s really gross stuff. Like condoms. Or used tampons. “It is not like that has happened once either. It has happened a lot of times.” There’s a lot of plastic, too, and he feels seriously obligated to pick that up. “In my head, anyway, I know that plastic is going to end up in the water if I don’t.”

WE ARE FAMILY: There was another lesson he took from childhood. His family went regularly to church when he was little, and while he and his wife and twins don’t attend religious services, he sees a parallel in volunteering with Portland Greendrinks. “One of the things I really liked about going to church as a kid was the sense of community. Having that outlet. For me, anyway, Greendrinks is sort of that outlet. It’s an extended family. We have been together for years.”

Mary Pols can be contacted at 791-6456 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: MaryPols

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