When you think of the Georgia Conservancy do you imagine a group of young, vibrant leaders? Not likely…But their initiative Generation Green is just that. For the past 20 years, Generation Green has amassed emerging leaders who are passionate about the environment, sustainability, and of course, conservation. With events like Green Eggs & Ham (no, it’s not a quarterly reading of Dr. Seuss’ beloved book) to Next South, these planeteers are fighting together for a greener Georgia.
We recently caught up with Ben Stowers, the current board chair of Generation Green, to hear how they’re different from your grandfather’s environmental group and why collaboration – even when you’re competing for funding – works.
You’re currently the board chair of Generation Green. Can you talk about your experiences and why you decided to join Generation Green?
I was born and raised in Georgia and have always loved the outdoors. It was a big part of my childhood. Another part of me has always been interested in public policy and government and I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to combine those passions working with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. It was during my time at DNR where I first came across the Georgia Conservancy and Generation Green. I came to have a real appreciation for the respect they commanded from almost any environmental perspective as a collaborator and consensus builder. When I was asked to join their young professionals board about 3 years ago, I jumped at the chance.
This is not your grandfather’s environmental group – you have some really awesome events like Green Eggs & Ham. Can you about what Generation Green does?
No, we’re certainly not your grandfather’s environmental group. In fact, Generation Green started around 20 years ago in response to a realization by the Georgia Conservancy that in order for their mission to continue, they needed to incorporate a younger and more diverse audience into their message. Today, Generation Green is an elected board of directors, currently 22 strong, working to spread the message of the state’s oldest conservation organization to a broader, more inclusive Georgia, while also fostering the growth of the next generation of environmental leaders.
We host a quarterly discussion series called “Green Eggs & Ham” which typically involves a panel discussion on a topic developed by the Generation Green Board. In the past, we’ve talked transportation, parks, and environmental policy and regulation. We even hosted a gubernatorial candidate forum. Our next Green Eggs & Ham will take place in June at Manuel’s Tavern and will highlight the work being done on Buford Highway by We Love BuHi in making that community a more livable, inclusive, sustainable Buford Highway.
We are looking forward to growing Green Eggs & Ham as a place for people to come and feel comfortable to discuss anything that is pertinent to their lives.
We also host a summer soiree called “Verde” where we present the Longleaf Award, given annually to an emerging leader in the environmental or sustainability world. This year our winner is Marian Liou, founder of We Love BuHi.
In addition to that, we host a conference and career expo called “Next South,” which highlights careers in the sustainability and environmental industries. This year’s event was held at Georgia State and featured students and recent grads looking for a conscious career in a related field. Attendees heard from professionals in a variety of disciplines and had the opportunity to gain insight on trends and topics in an industry that is gaining traction in nearly every sector.
People within the social sector can sometimes be guarded, especially when it comes to bringing folks together within the same industry. Can you speak on that a little bit and how it’s worked out for Generation Green?
We have a number of people on the Generation Green board who compete for some of the same dollars that the Georgia Conservancy competes for. I think it’s a good thing to have all these people in a room, whereas in the past people have shied away from collaboration. I think it’s only strengthened all of the organizations working with us as a result of that willingness to work together.
All of our organizations are guilty of mission creep and I think the success of a nonprofit has to do with how specific they can be in their messaging, how relatable they can be with their own crowd and donors. General fundraising is a tough thing to do so the more specific you can be, the better.
It’s been a great way to bring together young folks who are interested in having a conscious career and meeting other like-minded folks and organizations that they might not have had the opportunity to meet had it not been for an organization like Generation Green.
We are so fortunate with Generation Green to have great individuals on our board who are all rockstars in their own right. They are all creative, motivated, and passionate about a number of things, not just the environment, so it’s been a beautiful thing to see collaboration outside of what we specifically do. Friends meeting new friends, learning about new topics, networking, and all these organic things that you can’t begin to describe until you see them.
Who is a good fit for Generation Green?
Anyone who cares about the world that they live, work and play in. We look for young professionals seeking to make a difference and looking to get their hands dirty, rather than just talk about it. We are a working board because together we are the new south, the next south and in the words of Andre 3000, “the south got something to say.”
How can the community support you?
The community can support us in a variety of ways, either by attending one of our events, becoming a member of the Georgia Conservancy, or looking for ways in your daily life to make small changes which aid in preserving and protecting our precious natural resources.
Don’t miss the next Green Eggs & Ham with Marian Liou of We Love BuHi. Learn how you can get involved with Generation Green here. Keep up with the ongoings of Georgia Conservancy and Generation Green by following them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Photos are property of Generation Green.