When was the last time climate change led to something good? For Emily Rochon, it brought something she was never expecting: love.
Rochon, a 30-year-old policy coordinator with Greenpeace International, was stationed in Amsterdam on a global coal campaign and volunteered to spend some time in Brussels as a lobbyist. During her first week there, a colleague invited her to attend an organized night out with some “friendly Belgians.”
Over drinks, she struck up a conversation with an environmental activist, 36-year old Bram Claeys. “We actually got into a bit of a fight,” Rochon recalls. “I mentioned that I had used a space heater to keep warm during the winter when I lived in Rhode Island, and he was horrified. I thought he would never want to talk to me again.”
She was wrong. Shortly after their first meeting, Claeys confided to a friend that he thought Rochon was “spectacularly beautiful.” Two months later, they met again for dinner when Rochon returned to Brussels. “The evening never ended,” Rochon says. Claeys proposed last April and the couple is planning a green wedding for next year.
Finding love is never easy— and when one’s list of desired traits for a potential soul mate includes things like “loves composting” or “has a low carbon footprint,” the pool of eligible partners shrinks dramatically. On the other hand, the environmental movement has always lent itself to group volunteerism (e.g. park clean-ups, canvassing, etc.) and coalition building — fertile, if unintentional, ground for budding relationships. And with the advent of eco-networking events like the internationally popular Green Drinks, sustainability-minded individuals are, more than ever, finding opportunities to connect over a shared passion for the Earth.
Like minds on otherwise conservative campus
Take Savannah Smith, 22, who met her boyfriend of three years, 25-year-old Jaban Richards, while they were paired up as water quality testers through an environmental science club at Oklahoma State University. Although Smith was dating someone at the time, she quickly realized that Richards was a better match. “OSU is a really conservative campus and is behind on a lot of green issues,” Smith says. “So it was great to finally find someone who cares about the world in the same ways I do.”
Similarly, love blossomed between 23-year-old Douglas Smith and his fiancée Kathan Teepe, 21, over shared composting duties in the environmental studies house they lived in during college at Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania. “By complete chance we ended up as next-door neighbors in the house,” says Smith, who now calls Teepe the “love of my life.”
A bevy of websites such as Green Passions, Eco Dater, Earth Wise Singles and Planet Earth Singles have attempted to augment the world of eco-romance by offering e-dating services geared toward environmental activists, vegetarians and outdoor enthusiasts.
'Carbon neutral love,' anyone?
Unlike most dating sites, many of these services incorporate green philanthropy into their matchmaking. Green Singles, which began in 1985 as a community newsletter and moved online in 1996, dedicates 5 percent of profits to groups like Greenpeace and PETA. Similarly, the newly formed Green Speed Dating, which bills itself as a site for “carbon neutral love,” donates participants’ $25 entrance fee toward solar energy projects in Nicaragua. And while a quick search on Green Singles for men age 25 to 35 seeking women in New York City yielded a mere six results (four of which had no photograph), the company’s impressive success story testimonials indicate that online eco-love is, indeed, alive and thriving.
So what happens when someone is lucky enough to find a match?
Eli Zigas, 25, had always looked for partners with whom he shared “strong mutual interests.” So when he met Savanna Ferguson, also 25, at a conference for recipients of the Morris K. Udall Environmental Scholarship, he was off to a promising start.
Their first official date, a hike on Teddy Roosevelt Island in Washington, D.C., blossomed into a relationship built around shared sustainable experiences: a six-day research road trip to West Virginia for Savanna’s senior thesis on mountaintop removal coal mining, a cross-country biodiesel bus tour they took with other Udall Scholarship alumni and, most recently, a six-month trip around the world where they hiked and worked on two sustainable farms. “I remember on the bus tour feeling like, at the end of the day, I could be my full self with her,” Zigas says.
Plenty to talk about
Unlike Zigas, Rochon had dated all types of men from corporate attorneys to software engineers — but never an environmentalist. “I was worried that we might never talk about anything else,” she says. While she admits that, these days, green topics tend to “dominate at the dinner table,” she appreciates being with someone who so deeply understands what a stressful day in the climate policy trenches feels like.
Of course, living with a fellow eco-warrior also has its challenges. “The biggest fight Bram and I ever had was over whether or not to buy a fan during the summer,” Rochon says. “He argued it consumed too much electricity. I said that I cannot help save the planet if I don’t get a good night’s sleep.”
In the end, Rochon got the fan — because when it comes to relationships, compromise is often the most sustainable resource of all.
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