You know what they say, Drink Tanks are like hops: No two are the same. (Ok fine, no one says that, but feel free to start.) Last week's gathering of movers/shakers/drinkers/thinkers for "Sustainability & Storytelling" in Oakland was pretty special, and extraordinarily insightful. 

Drink Tank is a “recreational think tank” that takes a unique approach to solving problems. We bring people together to apply design thinking in creative ways to unlock insights, ideas, and impact (and enjoy good beer in the process). This season we’ve teamed up with the Goose Island Migration team to export Chicago’s spirit of collaboration to cities across the country. Whether we’re designing products and apparel to improve the lives of Chicago cyclists, or prototyping lobster traps in Portland Maine, Goose Island has helped fuel community conversations that matter. Our recent Drink Tank to discuss green infrastructure with The Trust for Public Land was no exception. 

The Trust for Public Land

What does The Trust for Public Land have in common with Goose Island beer? More than you’d guess. Goose Island has supported The Trust for Public Land since 2013. Today, thanks to the Green Goose Project, a portion of the proceeds from the company's Green Line Pale Ale goes to The Trust for Public Land and helps to support its mission to provide a walkable park within 10 minutes of every American. When it came time to plan our visit to the Bay we knew this would be the perfect community pairing. (To read more about Goose Island and The Trust for Public Land partnership visit our blog post here.)


An impressive group of storytellers, developers, outdoor enthusiasts, nonprofit leaders, community managers, environmentalists, and passionate Oakland neighbors joined us to learn about green infrastructure and help brainstorm ways to communicate its importance. Thank you to everyone who joined us at Drink Tank to contribute insights, ideas, and inspiration to amplify and advance the work that The Trust for Public Land is doing in the Bay Area.

And a special thanks to two contributors: Fernando Cazares, who explained the scientific, environmental, and social impact behind green infrastructure, and Madalyn Law for sharing her inspiring story about bringing 600 people together to build a park in a single day. 

  Our Bay Area collaborators came from some amazing places, including the ones featured above. 

Our Bay Area collaborators came from some amazing places, including the ones featured above. 

 From left to right: Fernando Cazares, California Manager, Climate-Smart Cities and Madalyn Law, Richmond Community Organizer explain the importance of green infrastructure to communities in the Bay Area. 

From left to right: Fernando Cazares, California Manager, Climate-Smart Cities and Madalyn Law, Richmond Community Organizer explain the importance of green infrastructure to communities in the Bay Area. 

On Community

"My favorite part of the Drink Tank was definitely the people – being able to talk to so many different people from a variety of backgrounds and working toward solving a sustainability problem. Plus, learning more about the work The Trust for Public Land is doing nationally is amazing. Tonight I learned more about specific problems facing Oakland (like the fact that Oakland’s airport could eventually be flooded) and what the city is doing to address that in cost efficient ways." – Anne Martin, National Brand Activation Coordinator, Goose Island Beer Company

On Collaboration

“I work for a conservation organization – as with all organizations we have our own well established perspective – our own language and way of presenting opportunities and issues and problems. It’s very rare for us to actually engage with people who might give us a new language, a new way of collaborating with people to address universal problems. Tonight was an incredible gift.”   – Karen Macdonald, Marketing Director, The Trust for Public Land


On Creativity

“VSCO’s motto is to create, discover and connect and that’s exactly what we did here tonight: we created stories, we discovered new ideas and we connected with individuals in our community specifically in trying to create solutions to issues here in the Bay Area.”  
– Jen Schmitz, Editor and Program Manager, VSCO Artist Initiative

Drink Tank developed “story starters” to provide creative direction (and useful constraints). Teams had one hour to generate a persuasive story explaining why green infrastructure matters to their protagonist. All eight teams came up with some pretty creative and insightful solutions. See below for our recap: 

STORY STARTER: Blake, Age 23, recently moved to SF from NYC after accepting a job with Google. He lives in the Mission and commutes by private corporate bus. At work Blake grinds out code, and has been known to sleep at the office on several occasions. But when he plays, Blake plays hard. He loves the outdoors and is an avid skier (he rented a house in Tahoe with some college buddies last winter), and on the weekends he’s not working he and his girlfriend go hiking in Muir woods. Whether he’s headed up or down the hills, Blake’s never far from his phone and a wifi connection (he created his own ski hashtag, #SnoBlake, and documents virtually all his outdoor adventures).

CHALLENGE: How do you make green infrastructure more personal and relevant to recent arrivals to the Bay Area whose lives and personal geographies are compartmentalized?

SOLUTION: “Park Ups”,  or“pop up parks”. These temporary installments at bus locations would inform new residents about the parks in their neighborhood, and help them identify with their local neighborhood resources.


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STORY STARTER: Toni, Age 60, has run “Butter & Jelly,” a small (but well-optimized) neighborhood corner store where you can pick up a gallon of milk, a breakfast sandwich and a week's worth of gossip in a single visit. Toni has run the place for past 30 years, she inherited the store when her father passed away, and since then she’s doubled the store’s revenue (and still sits behind the counter). She’s no slouch. Toni knows everyone in town, and as much as she wants them to spend money in her store, she also knows that having a healthy community helps her business. Behind Butter & Jelly there’s a vacant parking lot that does nothing but attract trouble after dark, and she wishes someone would take care of this already. Toni isn’t a rich woman, but her influence has a way of making things happen for people and things she believes in.

CHALLENGE: How would you help Toni communicate to other local business owners that supporting green infrastructure will help their businesses in the long run?

SOLUTION: This team called a neighborhood meeting of small business owners to discuss the vacant lot and opportunities to reimagine the space. They proposed hosting a farmer’s market one weekend and a pop up bbq restaurant the next, and planned to use some of the proceeds to install some lights. Once they could make the parking lot a safer community space they planned to invite neighbors to plant a small community vegetable garden, and ask local artists to create murals.

STORY FORMAT: Neighborhood meeting

STORY STARTER: Angela, Age 45, teaches math, science, social studies and loves to pull in real-world examples when possible. She also runs the middle school’s art club. Angela has been having trouble getting her 6th grade students off their phones and excited by the things around them. This year her students are more apathetic than years past. At recess, lunch, and in between classes, students seem dazed in snapchat, text messages and Yik Yak. Angela wants to use nature to capture their imagination and curiosity, help them reconnect their physical space, and teach them about their environment.

CHALLENGE How might you help Angela use nature and green infrastructure to teach and inspire her 6th graders?

SOLUTION: The team used the technology platforms the kids were already using to find creative ways to explore and connect with nature. Their curriculum used Snapchat to document the interconnectedness of nature (wildflowers, butterflies, bees and trees). Next they encouraged Angela’s class of 6th graders to take what they learned into their own neighborhoods and repeat the exercise to discover and connect with their environment. If something was missing that they studied in class they could engage with civic leaders or create an action plan as a class to advocate on behalf of their community.

STORY FORMAT: Social media (Snapchat) 

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STORY STARTER: Clint, Age 65, may be retired, but he’s still got it. To keep busy, he’s started using his Prius to drive for Uber/Lyft. He likes the excuse to get out of the house, meet new people, and make money. Clint’s using the extra cash to start a “Disneyland Fund” he plans to cash in next year when his grandson turns six. Clint has been a liberal firebrand since the 60’s when he staged a sit-in at Berkeley protesting the Vietnam war (which is something he’d be glad to tell you about). Clint has always supported progressive policies but hasn’t really considered access to parks and green spaces as a social justice issue in the past. To Clint, climate change is an abstract environmental problem-- it’s not something that immediately threatens his family, or his sense of right and wrong.

CHALLENGE: How would you help Clint better understand that green infrastructure projects have social justice implications?

SOLUTION: This team decided to focus on Clint’s work with Uber/Lyft and the interactions he has with people in his car. They used Earth Day to launch a campaign that would incorporate information about green infrastructure into ride sharing apps, and demoed an analog version of the app that illustrated ways to offer information about information about parks and green destinations along the journey.

STORY FORMAT: User experience story / "Analog App"

STORY STARTER: Jordan, Age 28, is the first Head of Marketing & Strategic Partnerships for a newly-created Bay Area Tourism Bureau. His job is to create campaigns, promotional materials and community partnerships that highlight why the Bay Area is the perfect destination for active, environmentally-inclined tourists. As a native San Franciscan, Jordan takes great pride in his work and city. When he’s not in the office he spends his weekends hiking, surfing, caring for his roof deck herb garden.

CHALLENGE: How do you highlight the environmental design innovations of this region, and present its green infrastructure innovations in a way that is compelling to tourists?

SOLUTION: This team’s insight is to create a City Guide (a pamphlet or app) that examines both conventional and unconventional tourist spots through a lens of environmental innovation and sustainability. For example, this City Guide would highlight green sustainable infrastructure, such as a net zero impact building (the exploratorium), farm to table restaurants, or even foraging at Buena Vista Park.


STORY STARTER: Jane, Age 41, thinks green infrastructure is a luxury her city can’t afford, and frankly doesn’t need. She’s never been convinced that the worst-case-scenario will come to pass (she’s an eternal optimist). Recent community demonstrations have failed to adequately impress upon her what might happen if the city fails to protect itself from rising sea levels.

CHALLENGE: What are some compelling ways to communicate the long-term consequences of inaction?

SOLUTION: Concentrating on the risk of highway flooding in Oakland posed by rising sea levels, this team expressed the “worst case scenario” in terms their (fictional) city planner was already familiar with. For example, the flooding caused by rising sea levels is extremely expensive problem to clean up. This team brought ideas for green spaces into existing infrastructure projects such as planting gardens on highway shoulders.

STORY FORMAT: Play-Doh models and polaroid mockups


STORY STARTER: Dan, Age 40, is a creature of habit, and highly risk averse (he won’t use bikeshares because they don’t provide helmets). His job is intellectually challenging but lonely at times. Dan takes a macro view of almost everything and puts great faith in the laws of supply and demand. (Where dating is concerned, however, there seems to be short supply and even shorter demand.) He’s convinced he’s too busy for a relationship anyway--the real thing to be worried about is the Yen’s performance in the 3rd quarter. Recently Dan’s condo association called a meeting to vote on a roof deck garden which he thinks is a cute idea, but a waste of money when they could be investing these funds in something like a second elevator, instead.

CHALLENGE: How would you position green infrastructure projects as a community investment?

SOLUTION: Not only did this team develop a roofdeck garden, they delivered Dan an environmentally friendly elevator (inspired by Prius technology, and named “The Prelevator”) to get him there. They used the journey to the rooftop garden to demonstrate each of the four pillars: Connect, Cool, Absorb, Protect. They demonstrated long term cost savings to appeal to Dan’s pragmatic side, and featured the social aspect of a roof deck garden as a way to meet people.


STORY STARTER: Zev, Age 33, is a first-time dad and in love with his daughter, Olivia, who just turned two. Zev drops Olivia at daycare in the mornings on his way to work and his wife, Sidney, picks her up on her way home. Evenings are a blur of dinner (often microwaved), bath time and goodnight stories. On weekends Zev and Sidney take turns doing household chores and errands, but on Sundays they always make time to walk the five blocks to the park. At work Zev proudly displays a photo taken at this park. In it Olivia sits on his lap smiling as they descend the slide for the first time. Zev gets a pang in his stomach when he thinks about her getting bigger, and the day she inevitably gets hurt. Suddenly life has a new focus and he’s invested in the future in a way he could have never imaged.

CHALLENGE: How do you link community improvement/green spaces to a parent’s instinct to protect his/her family?

SOLUTION: This team presented a storyboard that showed two vastly different scenarios and played to the empathy of a new parent. In one scenario a child had access to green spaces and safe places to play. The second scenario painted the picture of the child who grew up without safe roads, trees, and places to play.

STORY FORMAT: Masks /artistic visualization