Inside the Urban Green Gala

On November 19th, I had the pleasure of attending my first Urban Green Gala. Having worked in the nonprofit field before joining the Communications team here in April, I thought I knew what to expect: a roomful of sharply dressed men and women, trays of hors d’oeuvres flitting by, and then an hour or two of sitting quietly over dinner, listening to speakers and honorees. Not this year. We’d been promising a new format with “a few surprises,” and I ended up being as surprised as anyone.

2014 Urban Green Gala

This year we scrapped the seated dinner in favor of an event that truly celebrated the guests. Attendees mingled over dishes from gourmet food stations throughout the venue, and thanks to a networking game built around the night’s signature cocktail—the “New Fashioned,” a blood-orange and rye concoction that was worth the effort of playing—I had a great excuse to strike up conversation with a range of people in the green building community.

2014 Urban Green Gala

At 8 pm the DJ ushered us into the dining room, where we found plates of desserts and fruit, plus smallish green envelopes labeled “CONFIDENTIAL.” Silda Wall Spitzer, Co-Vice Chair of our Board of Directors, welcomed us from the stage and invited us to open the envelopes. Inside was a page of green trivia questions designed to stump the many sustainability leaders gathered together that evening. We had five brief minutes to complete the quiz, after which Urban Green Executive Director Russell Unger stepped up to the podium to help us score the results. “Good luck,” Russell said as we passed our quizzes to the person on our right, “if you are about to grade your boss.”

2014 Urban Green Gala

The questions were tough and there were no perfect scores. But as he went over the answers, Russell covered what was accomplished in 2014 and what was on the horizon for our community in 2015. “We need to keep doing all that we have been doing, but at a pace that will make the last 10 years seem like a warm-up,” he said. “Today,” he said in closing, “our challenge is one word: scale.” Scott Frank, also Co-Vice Chair of our Board of Directors, then offered closing remarks that were as unpredictable and hilarious as they were thought-provoking.

2014 Urban Green Gala

After desserts were finished and raffle prizes were awarded to the winners of our networking and trivia games, guests enjoyed a final round or two of drinks before heading home (or hitting the dance floor).  For me, the night was a fantastic immersion into New York City’s vibrant green building community. Guests were the inspiration behind the event this year, and the new format allowed plenty of time to see old friends and meet new people.

See photos from our Gala over on our Flickr page.

Think you have what it takes to beat our trivia game? Try it here—winners will be entered to win an Urban Green Tote bag.

About the authors

Jonathan Walsh
Jonathan Walsh is Communications Manager at Urban Green Council. He lives in Greenpoint.