Our Bay:

A toast to the bay: Our glasses are half full

By LYNNE FORSMAN and ELVIA THOMPSON
The Capital, December 20, 2008

Colleen Dugan - The Capital
Lynne Forsman, founder of Green Drinks Annapolis, works for the Greener Results consulting firm. Elvia Thompson, founder of AnnapolisGreen.com, is president of Stellar Presentations, a Web and print design firm.

Chesapeake Bay Health Fatigue is all around us - from doom and gloom about dead zones to reports about failing to meet improvement targets set 25 years ago.

It's enough to make you feel hopeless and depressed. We believe that by working together we can turn things around. We see the proverbial glass not as half empty, but as half full.

Our ancestors came here by water. Many of us live here because of the water. Who, then, has a greater stake in the health of the Chesapeake Bay than we who live in the Sailing Capital?

If you sail, kayak, row, windsurf, water ski, drive a power boat, or just float on an air mattress or "chicken-neck" on our rivers and creeks, how can you not care about the health of the waters that surround us? Of course you care.

So here's what you can do. Take that doom and gloom and stand it on its head - turn it into outrage and turn that outrage into action. How? First, make the bay a priority in your everyday life. As individuals we can all do our part to live in a more sustainable and environmentally friendly way. It's not a chore … it's just another way of living. We can show you how.

Second, join others, through the organization of your choice, to raise such a fuss with our elected officials that the big, difficult issues that only government can address will finally be addressed.

And let us add that tough economic times do not have to cause the environment to be squeezed out of your life nor out of government budgets. What we're talking about is investing in our future by acting today.

How to start?

About three years ago we formed Green Drinks Annapolis - what we call "the fun side of environmental awareness." Yes, in "a drinking town with a sailing problem" it seemed perfect. Green Drinks is an international organization with events all around the world. Its purpose is to bring people who are passionate about the environment together in a relaxed, informal way - over cocktails - to meet, exchange ideas, and network for the greater good.

Green Drinks Annapolis began with a group of about 30 people from all walks of life. Some worked in the environmental arena in places like the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and the Department of Natural Resources. Some were just citizens passionate about the cause. When we added a Web site, AnnapolisGreen.com, and an e-mail communication system a year ago, interest skyrocketed and our gatherings now routinely attract over 100 people - professional environmentalists, green business owners, green product specialists, activists, educators, moms and dads, scientists, elected officials and more.

People are hungry for a way to connect and they do at Green Drinks. Business cards fly, people learn about environmental problems and meet those who are working on solutions.

We started the AnnapolisGreen.com Web site originally because there was no one place where you could go to untangle the maze of organizations working on bay issues. How does the Chesapeake Bay Trust differ from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation? How is the Severn River Association different from the Severn River Commission? And what do they all do? We address those questions and more on our Web site.

We also offer lots of other information such as: which food establishments in town are taking steps to be green, how to be a green boater, how to wash your car in an environmentally responsible way, and even how to green your holiday celebrations! Since you can only solve global problems by acting locally, we focus on information that is local in nature.

Annapolis Green & Green Drinks Annapolis work in tandem. Go online to AnnapolisGreen.com to find out what's going on. Come to Green Drinks Annapolis events to make personal connections. There's no membership required and no fee to attend.

We're amazed that our network now routinely communicates with almost 1,000 people and organizations. Our goal in 2009 is to reach out to the other Green Drinks groups in the huge Chesapeake Bay watershed that includes parts of New York State, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, Maryland and the District of Columbia. If we can get several thousand people working together and demanding action to improve the health of the bay, we can accomplish great things.

A recent article in The Capital on the State of the Severn report issued in October included a statement by environmentalist Gerald Winegrad. It was summarized as follows: "It's up to those who already care about the river to get others engaged. And more people need to lobby elected officials to pass tougher pollution laws and better enforce the ones already on the books, he said. 'The answer lies right within all the folks here.' "

A former elected official himself, Mr. Winegrad knows that only relentless public demand will move the status quo. "There's not enough pressure, there's not enough support, there's not enough movement by citizens themselves," he said.

So let's get going. The bay needs us. It needs the help and care of waterfront property owners AND those who live far from a creek or shoreline. We all live in the Chesapeake watershed. Educate yourself, your friends and your family. Make living with the bay in mind a priority. We can show you how to take individual actions that are simple or more involved. It's up to you.

Start toting those reusable bags to the grocery store. Turn down the plastic bags offered by retailers. Recycle or compost much more than you throw away. Use simple, Earth-friendly products rather than those more expensive ones loaded with chemicals. And support local green businesses and buy local, fresh food.

Join an environmental monitoring group such as the riverkeepers and local watershed organizations, or one that works in the political arena, such as the Maryland League of Conservation Voters. Join your local civic group and plant trees. Replace bulkheads with living shorelines. Install rain barrels. Build rain gardens. Drive less. Get involved. Persuade others to join you.

Make it a priority to leave a cleaner, healthier bay for our kids and generations to come, and consider yourself a steward of this national treasure, the "Great Shellfish Bay."

Join us in 2009 for a Green Drinks toast to a Healthy Chesapeake!

Lynne Forsman, founder of Green Drinks Annapolis, works for the Greener Results consulting firm. Elvia Thompson, founder of AnnapolisGreen.com, is president of Stellar Presentations, a Web and print design firm. Green Drinks Annapolis meets on Jan. 13 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Purple Tooth, 114 West St. in Annapolis.

(Revised December 2008)