Get to know the people who are actively addressing the climate crisis: “If you don’t prioritize caring for the planet, you won’t be my significant other.”
Hud Oberly is a catch. He’s tall, he’s handsome and he loves love. “Being around romance and stuff is fun and exciting,” says the 29-year-old New Yorker, standing in a Manhattan park. “My favorite movies are romantic comedies.”
Oberly has a strong desire for a romantic partner, but his passion for creating a sustainable world is even greater. Therefore, it is crucial that his next girlfriend is also dedicated to addressing the climate crisis. To find someone who shares his environmental values, he has decided to attend Love and Climate, a speed-dating event exclusively for environmentally conscious individuals. He believes this event is more specialized than traditional dating apps, as all participants have common beliefs and principles.
Kristy Drutman, also known as @BrownGirlGreen on Instagram, is the host and filmmaker of the upcoming event. Along with her producer Christa Guzmán, they organize meetups in parks throughout the city with the goal of connecting people and promoting environmental activism. The series, which will be shared on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube, aims to inspire individuals to both find love and make positive changes for the planet.
On a sunny Sunday, I encountered Oberly at Sasaki Garden, a serene green area close to the main campus of New York University, situated within a large housing block. Originally, Drutman had intended to host the event near the famous arch in Washington Square Park, but she was abruptly asked to leave by the parks department for not having a permit. As a result, Drutman and her participants relocated just a short five-minute walk away, choosing to play matchmaker under the shade of trees while a group of children on scooters passed by.
I sat opposite Thasfia, a soft-spoken 25-year-old model wearing Gloria Steinem-ish aviators and croc-printed flare pants. (Thasfia declined to give her last name.) Oberly described his perfect eco-friendly first date: bring a bottle of natural wine to the beach, drink it and then clean up trash together. Thasfia’s revolved around biking to a park and hanging out – natural wine sounded good in that situation, too.
Following their initial meeting, Oberly and Thasfia swapped contact information and made plans for a follow-up date. “I am really interested in getting to know her better,” Oberly remarked as they sat together on a bench in the park. “I appreciate that we can discuss our shared interest in climate without it feeling like a typical speed-dating experience.”
Attempting to locate a companion who shares concerns about the potential demise of the world may seem grim, but Drutman hopes to shift how climate activism is viewed. She conceived the concept of a speed dating event centered around climate change in 2018. “While attending the UN climate talks a few years back, I found the atmosphere to be dull and stifling,” she recalled. “It occurred to me, why not make it more engaging?”
She organized a temporary matchmaking station at the 2021 Cop26 conference in Glasgow, bringing together unknown individuals. She has been hosting impromptu events in New York City parks since August and claims that each one has resulted in subsequent dates, both romantic and platonic.
Drutman expressed appreciation for the fact that individuals visit to form friendships. He believes that it serves as an additional avenue for fostering a sense of community, allowing people to establish connections through their involvement in activism.
The dating scene has taken on a more political tone. According to a recent survey by Tinder, 75% of individuals seeking a partner were interested in finding someone who was socially aware and engaged. As Drutman puts it, “If you’re not concerned about sustainability or the environment, chances are you won’t be the type of partner I’m looking for.”
Maya Nahor, a 23-year-old graduate student at Columbia University, is currently pursuing a degree in climate and society. After residing in Atlanta for a decade, she relocated to New York City. Nahor stated that it was challenging to find a partner in Atlanta because while there were individuals who acknowledged the existence of climate change, they did not share the same level of passion and understanding as her and her friends in the Sunrise Movement.
After Nahor joined Columbia, things became simpler. However, she is not interested in dating her classmates. “That appears to be an issue and I would prefer to socialize with people outside of my class,” she stated.
Fortunately, Nahor stumbled upon a compatible individual at the gathering: Jacob Simon, a 26-year-old who creates content. They connected through their shared appreciation for plant-based Indian cuisine, and Nahor mentioned the possibility of preparing a meal for Simon. Alternatively, they could attend a puppy yoga session – Nahor came across an Instagram ad for it and is eager to give it a try with another animal enthusiast.
“While discussing food, it occurred to me that I could either have Indian cuisine with this person or make them pasta,” Nahor stated.
Close by, Sakshi Regmi, a 29-year-old vocalist, got comfortable with Taylor Sartwell, a hopeful rapper. They playfully considered collaborating on music. “I really want to work together,” Regmi stated. “I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was enjoyable bouncing ideas off of him.”
Regmi has faced challenges in her dating life due to encountering men who belittle her dedication to the climate movement. She has noticed that some individuals can be dismissive of those who have strong passions for causes that benefit society as a whole. In a partner, she desires someone who also values and cares for others, as this trait typically leads to a more positive and fulfilling relationship dynamic.
The real question is: was love in the air? A few days after the event, I spoke to the couples. Two of them had not made plans but wanted to.
Nahor, the graduate student from Columbia University, informed me that she and Simon were currently organizing their second date. The puppy yoga class they wanted to attend was already full, so they were considering attending a personalized perfume-making class in Brooklyn. “Hopefully it’s made with safe ingredients,” she mentioned.